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Borrowed from Latin pilum


pilum (plural pila or pilums)

  1. (historical) A Roman military javelin.
    • 1776, Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin 2000, p. 21:
      Besides a lighter spear, the Roman legionary grasped in his right hand the formidable pilum, a ponderous javelin whose utmost length was about six feet and which was terminated by a massy triangular point of steel of about eighteen inches.
    • 2011, Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London, Gollancz 2011, p. 371:
      Verica plucked a pilum from the hands of the nearest legionary – the soldier didn't react – and handed it to me.
  2. (botany) The columella on the surface of a pollen grain




pīlum (throwing spear)

Etymology 1[edit]

From Proto-Italic *pistlom, from Proto-Indo-European *pis-tlo-, from *peys- (to crush). See pistillum and pīla.



pīlum n (genitive pīlī); second declension

  1. a pounder, pestle
  2. a javelin, throwing spear

Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative pīlum pīla
Genitive pīlī pīlōrum
Dative pīlō pīlīs
Accusative pīlum pīla
Ablative pīlō pīlīs
Vocative pīlum pīla
Related terms[edit]
  • Dutch: pijl
  • English: pile
  • French: pile
  • German: Pfeil

Etymology 2[edit]



  1. accusative singular of pilus (hair)


  • pilum in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • pilum in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • pilum in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition, 1883–1887)
  • Carl Meissner; Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[1], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • (ambiguous) to throw down the javelins (pila) and fight with the sword: omissis pilis gladiis rem gerere
  • pilum in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898) Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • pilum in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin