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Alternative forms[edit]


From Proto-Indo-European *speḱ-.


specus m or f or n (genitive specūs); fourth declension

  1. cave, grotto
    • c. 84 BCE – 54 BCE, Catullus, Carmina 61.26–30:
      Quārē age hūc aditum ferēns
      perge linquere Thespiae
      rūpis Āoniōs specūs,
      nympha quōs super irrigat
           frīgerāns Aganippe.
      So come here approaching,
      proceed to leave the Aonian
      caves of the Thespian rock,
      which the cooling nymph Aganippe
           showers from above.
    • 29 BCE – 19 BCE, Virgil, Aeneid 7.568–571:
      Hīc specus horrendum et saevī spīracula Dītis
      mōnstrantur, ruptōque ingēns Acherōnte vorāgō
      pestiferās aperit faucēs, quīs condita Erīnȳs,
      invīsum nūmen, terrās caelumque levābat.
      Here the horrible cave and the breathing hole of the cruel Dis
      is shown, and a giant whirlpool, with the Acheron burst forth,
      opens its pestilential jaws, in which Erinys,
      hated god, relieved the Earth and the heavens by hiding.
    • 8th C. CE, Paulus Diaconus (author), Karl Otfried Müller (editor), Excerpta ex libris Pompeii Festi De significatione verborum (1839), page 343, line 28:
      Specūs fēminīnō genere prōnūntiābant antīquī, ut metus et nepos; [] Pācuvius in Chrȳsē: 'Est ibi sub eō saxō penitus strāta harēnā ingēns specus.'
      The old writers said specus in the feminine gender, as they did metus and nepos; [] Pacuvius in Chryses: 'There's a huge cave paved with sand deep within under that rock.'
  2. ditch, canal, drain
    • 116 BCE – 27 BCE, Marcus Terentius Varro, De Re Rustica 3.17.9:
      In Baiānō autem aedificāns tantā ardēbat cūrā, ut architectō permīserit vel ut suam pecūniam consūmeret, dummodo perdūceret specūs ē piscīnīs in mare obiectā mōle, quā aestus bis cotīdiē ab exortā lūnā ad proximam novam introīre ac redīre rūrsus in mare posset ac refrīgerāre piscīnās.
      But while building in Baiae he burned with such an enthusiasm that he allowed the architect to spend money as if his own, if he would run canals from the ponds, with the boulder thrown away in the sea, so that the tide could enter and exit back into the sea twice a day from the appareance of the moon until the next new moon and cool the ponds.
  3. (mining) pit
  4. chasm, abyss
  5. (poetic) cavity
    • 29 BCE – 19 BCE, Virgil, Aeneid 9.700–701:
      [] reddit specus ātri vulneris undam
      spūmantem, et fīxō ferrum in pulmōne tepēscit.
      [] the cavity of the dark wound gives back a foaming
      flow, and the iron grows warm inside the punctured lung.

Usage notes[edit]

While this word can be used in all three genders, as illustrated above, the masculine is by far the most common. The feminine was used ante-classically and in the Silver Age of Latin, with its archaising tendencies; the neuter is mostly poetic.


Fourth-declension noun (dative/ablative plural in -ubus).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative specus specūs
Genitive specūs specuum
Dative specuī specubus
Accusative specum specūs
Ablative specū specubus
Vocative specus specūs


  • specus”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • specus”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • specus in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette
  • specus”, in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin