summum bonum

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From medieval philosophy; Latin, meaning “the highest good”.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈsʌməm ˈbəʊnəm/, /ˈsʊməm ˈbɒnəm/


summum bonum (plural summa bona)

  1. (philosophy) The greatest good; the ultimate importance, the singular end which human beings ought to pursue.
    • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069; The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd corrected and augmented edition, Oxford: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, 1624, OCLC 54573970:
      , New York Review of Books, 2001, p.65:
      Our summum bonum is commodity, and the goddess we adore Dea Moneta, Queen Money, to whom we daily offer sacrifice […].

Usage notes[edit]

The term is used particularly in, or in reference to, medieval philosophy.

See also[edit]



From summus (superlative of superus) + bonum (a moral good)


summum bonum n (genitive summī bonī); second declension

  1. (medieval, philosophy) The highest good; an ultimate goal of human existence.


Second-declension adjective with a second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative summum bonum summa bona
Genitive summī bonī summōrum bonōrum
Dative summō bonō summīs bonīs
Accusative summum bonum summa bona
Ablative summō bonō summīs bonīs
Vocative summum bonum summa bona