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Two scenes from the historical panel of the so-called “Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus” (c. 122–115 B.C.E.).[n 1] The upper image (left side of the panel) shows the Roman census being carried out, while the lower image (centre of the panel) shows the lustrum (sense 1).

Borrowed from Latin lūstrum (purificatory sacrifice performed every five years by the censor; lustration; period of five years).



lustrum (plural lustra or lustrums)

  1. (Ancient Rome, religion, historical) A ceremonial purification of all the people, performed every five years after the taking of the census; a lustration. [from late 16th c.]
    • 1746 February 28, “A Treatise on the Roman Senate, in Two Parts. By Conyers Middleton, D.D. Principal Library-keeper of the University of Cambridge. Printed for R. Manby, and H. S. Cox, 1747. Octavo. 169 Pages.”, in The Museum: Or, The Literary and Historical Register, volume II, number XXV, London: Printed for R[obert] Dodsley [], OCLC 931328825, page 409:
      [A]ll theſe Magiſtrates were elected by, and from, the whole promiſcuous Body of the People in their public Aſſemblies; that after the Inſtitution of Cenſors, it was look'd upon as a Matter of Form only, that they should enroll the new Senators at the next general Luſtrum, or Survey of the Commonwealth; []
    • 1854, Edward Greswell, “Dissertation X. On the Lustral Cycle of the Romans and on the Initia Censoria”, in Origines Kalendariæ Italicæ, Nundinal Calendars of Ancient Italy, Nundinal Calendar of Romulus, Calendar of Numa Pompilius, Calendar of the Decemvirs, Irregular Roman Calendar, and Julian Correction. Tables of the Roman Calendar, from U.C. 4 of Varro B.C. 750 to U.C. 1108 A.D. 355. [...] In Four Volumes, volume II, Oxford: At the University Press, OCLC 265494088, chapter I, section II (On the Proper Measure of the Lustral Cycle), page 248:
      The interval of time supposed to have been denoted by the Roman Lustrum has been made the subject of controversy. No one however as far as we know has ever assumed it at less than four years or as more than five; so that the status quæstionis may so far be considered as fixed and agreed upon: and all that we have to do at present is to begin with inquiring whether the Roman Lustrum was more properly a period of five years or one of four.
  2. (by extension, literary) A period of five years.
    Synonyms: luster, lustre, quinquennium
    • 1742–1745, [Edward Young], “Night the Second. On Time, Death, Friendship. Humbly Inscrib’d to the Right Honourable the Earl of Wilmington.”, in The Complaint: Or, Night-thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality, London: Printed for A[ndrew] Millar [], and R[obert] Dodsley [], published 1750, OCLC 3536108, lines 172–174, page 29:
      We puſh Time from us, and we wiſh Him back; / Laviſh of Luſtrums, and yet fond of Life; / Life we think long, and ſhort; Death ſeek, and ſhun; []
    • 1835 April, Edgar Allan Poe, “Morella”, in The Southern Literary Messenger: Devoted to Every Department of Literature, and the Fine Arts, Richmond, Va.: T. W. White, OCLC 7370817; republished in The Works of Edgar Allan Poe: In Four Volumes, volume I, New York, N.Y.: W. J. Widdleton, publisher, 1849, OCLC 38115823, page 473:
      Thus passed away two lustra of her life, and, as yet, my daughter remained nameless upon the earth. "My child," and "my love," were the designations usually prompted by a father's affection, and the rigid seclusion of her days precluded all other intercourse. Morella's name died with her at her death. Of the mother I had never spoken to the daughter;—it was impossible to speak.
    • 1852, Adadus Calpe [pseudonym; Antonio Diodoro de Pascual]; Henry Edgar, transl., chapter XIV, in The Two Fathers. An Unpublished Original Spanish Work. [...] Translated into the English Language by the Author, and Henry Edgar. Part Second: Hector Alone, New York, N.Y.: Stringer & Townsend, publishers, []; George P[almer] Putnam, [], OCLC 37611275, page 189:
      I am hardly, if I do not deceive myself, twenty years old, and already, dearest Rosamunda, there weigh upon my existence twenty lustrums, and of these twenty lustrums I have drunk the bitterness of intranquility even to the dregs, without having done more than touched with my lips the joy of the first days of my childhood beside you.
    • 1985, John Fowles, A Maggot, London: Jonathan Cape, →ISBN:
      Q. Now, sir, if you would be so kind as to guess upon his age. / A. Forty five years are certain. I would guess a lustrum more.

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ From the collection of the Louvre in Paris, France.

Further reading[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]

Alteration from earlier *dustrum, from Ancient Greek *δύστρον (*dústron) from δύω (dúō, to plunge).


lustrum n (genitive lustrī); second declension

  1. bog, morass, place where boars and swine wallow
  2. (usually in the plural) den or lair of wild beasts; wood, forest
  3. (usually in the plural) (a place of) debauchery

Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative lustrum lustra
Genitive lustrī lustrōrum
Dative lustrō lustrīs
Accusative lustrum lustra
Ablative lustrō lustrīs
Vocative lustrum lustra

Etymology 2[edit]

From Old Latin *loustrom,


lūstrum n (genitive lūstrī); second declension

  1. a purificatory sacrifice or lustration performed every five years by the censor
    1. a period of five years

Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative lūstrum lūstra
Genitive lūstrī lūstrōrum
Dative lūstrō lūstrīs
Accusative lūstrum lūstra
Ablative lūstrō lūstrīs
Vocative lūstrum lūstra
Derived terms[edit]
  • Catalan: lustre, llustre
  • English: lustrum
  • Italian: lustro
  • Spanish: lustro
  • Portuguese: lustro


  • lustrum in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • lustrum in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • lustrum in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition with additions by D. P. Carpenterius, Adelungius and others, edited by Léopold Favre, 1883–1887)
  • lustrum in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré Latin-Français, Hachette
  • Carl Meißner; Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[1], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • to complete the censorship (by certain formal purificatory ceremonies = lustro faciendo): lustrum condere (Liv. 1. 44. 2)
  • lustrum in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898) Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • lustrum in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin
  • Sihler, Andrew L. (1995) New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, →ISBN
  • Pokorny, Julius (1959) Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch [Indo-European Etymological Dictionary] (in German), Bern, München: Francke Verlag
  1. ^ Pokorny, Julius (1959) Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch [Indo-European Etymological Dictionary] (in German), volume II, Bern, München: Francke Verlag, page 688
  2. ^ lustrum in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  3. ^ “lustro 3” in: Alberto Nocentini, Alessandro Parenti, “l'Etimologico — Vocabolario della lingua italiana”, Le Monnier, 2010, →ISBN
  4. ^ lustrum in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press