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Etymology 1[edit]

From Old Latin sacros, sakros, from Proto-Italic *sakros (sacred), from Proto-Indo-European *seh₂k- (to sanctify, to make a treaty).



sacer (feminine sacra, neuter sacrum, superlative sacerrimus); first/second-declension adjective (nominative masculine singular in -er)

  1. sacred, holy, dedicated (to a divinity), consecrated, hallowed (translating Greek ἱερός)
    • c. 200 BCE, Plautus, Menaechmi V.5.38:
      at ego te sacram coronam surrupuisse Iovi scio
      And I know that you stole the sacred crown of Jupiter.
  2. devoted (to a divinity for sacrifice), fated (to destruction), forfeited, accursed
    • 29 BCE – 19 BCE, Virgil, Aeneid III.56:
      quid non mortalia pectora cogis / auri sacra fames
      Accursed hunger for gold, what do you not compel the hearts of men to do!
  3. divine, celestial
    • 29 BCE – 19 BCE, Virgil, Aeneid VIII.591:
      extulit os sacrum caelo tenebrasque resoluit
      lifts to the skies his countenance divine, and melts the shadows of the night away.
    • early 7th c. CE, Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae sive Origines 9.1:
      Tres sunt autem linguae sacrae: Hebraea, Graeca, Latina, quae toto orbe maxime excellunt.
      Three are the sacred languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin, all of which distinguish themselves in the whole world.
  4. (only poetic and in post-Augustan prose) execrable, detestable, horrible, infamous; criminal, impious, wicked, abominable, cursed
    • c. 190 BCE, Plautus, Bacchides 4.6.14:
      ego sum malus ego sum sacer scelestus
      I am a bad one, I am a cursed one—a wicked one.
Usage notes[edit]

The comparative form *sacrior and its inflected variants are not attested, even though the superlative sacerrimus is attested.


First/second-declension adjective (nominative masculine singular in -er).

Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative sacer sacra sacrum sacrī sacrae sacra
Genitive sacrī sacrae sacrī sacrōrum sacrārum sacrōrum
Dative sacrō sacrō sacrīs
Accusative sacrum sacram sacrum sacrōs sacrās sacra
Ablative sacrō sacrā sacrō sacrīs
Vocative sacer sacra sacrum sacrī sacrae sacra
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
  • Galician: sagro
  • Italian: sacro, sagro
  • Sicilian: sacru
  • Asturian: sacru
  • Catalan: sacre
  • Galician: sacro
  • Portuguese: sacro
  • Spanish: sacro

Etymology 2[edit]

From Proto-Indo-European *seh₂k- (to sanctify, to make a treaty).


Generally cited with a long vowel by etymological sources. Per Nishimura (2014), citing Timpanaro (1965), the only evidence of the long vowel in the first syllable is the scansion in Plautus's Rudens (below). Syllables containing short vowels before a plosive-liquid cluster such as /kr/ are not usually treated as heavy in Plautine poetry.[1]


sācer (feminine sācris, neuter sācre); third-declension three-termination adjective

  1. sacred, holy, suitable to be sacrificed (found especially as an adjective applying to the noun porcus)

Third-declension three-termination adjective.

Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative sācer sācris sācre sācrēs sācria
Genitive sācris sācrium
Dative sācrī sācribus
Accusative sācrem sācre sācrēs sācria
Ablative sācrī sācribus
Vocative sācer sācris sācre sācrēs sācria


  1. ^ Nishimura, Kanehiro (2014). "Vowel Lengthening in the Latin Nominal Lexicon: Innovation and Inheritance." Historische Sprachforschung / Historical Linguistics, 127, 228–248., page 232

Further reading[edit]

  • sacer”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • sacer”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • sacer in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette
  • Carl Meißner; Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[1], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • (ambiguous) ritual; ceremonial: sacra, res divinae, religiones, caerimoniae
    • (ambiguous) to sacrifice: sacra, sacrificium facere (ἱερὰ ῥέζειν), sacrificare
    • (ambiguous) to profane sacred rites: sacra polluere et violare
  • De Vaan, Michiel (2008) Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 7), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 532