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Latin Nouns              

In Latin, nouns are inflected based on their number (singular or plural), gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter/neutral), and case (how they are used in the sentence. See “Latin Noun Cases” below).

When Latin nouns are inflected, the first part of the word (the stem), stays the same, and the endings change.

Example: filia (“daughter”) changes to filiam, filiae, etc.

fili- is the stem; -a, -am, and -ae are the endings.

Latin Noun Cases

Noun cases describe how a noun is used in a sentence. In Latin, there are five main cases: Nominative, Genitive, Accusative, Dative, and Ablative.

Nominative:

The subject of the sentence; the noun that does the action. For example:

I baptized Jacob.

“I” is in the nominative case.

If the verb in the sentence is passive instead of active (e.g. “was baptized” instead of “baptized”), the nominative still acts as the subject of the sentence and pairs with the being verb (e.g. was, were). For example:

Jacob was baptized by me.

“Jacob” is in the nominative case.

Generius and Magdalena were joined in marriage.

“Generius” and “Magdalena” are in the nominative case.

Any noun in the sentence that further identifies the noun subject is also nominative. For example:

I, Joseph, priest of this church, baptized Jacob.

“I” is the subject. “Joseph” and “priest” are nouns further identifying the subject. They are all in the nominative case.

The godparents were Jacob and Maria.

“godparents” is the subject. “Jacob” and “Maria” are nouns further identifying the subject. They are all in the nominative case.

This is also the main case form that is used when referring to the noun in dictionaries. For example, you will most often find the word for “son” in its nominative singular form: filius.

Genitive:

A noun that is possessive or descriptive. The genitive has several different uses, but it can be reliably translated as “of ____”

Legitimate son of Jacob.

“Jacob” is in the genitive case.

The fourth day of the month.

“month” is in the genitive case.

Franciscus, farm laborer of the place of Seva.

“place” and “Seva” are in the genitive case.

In Latin there is no word for “of.” Instead, it expressed completely within the genitive. For example, the genitive filii is translated “of the son.”

Accusative:

The direct object; the noun that is acted upon in the sentence.

I baptized Jacob.

“Jacob” is in the accusative case.

With neuter nouns, the accusative form is always the same as the nominative form. Remember that the nominative is the subject of the sentence and the accusative is the direct object when you are translating them.

Dative:

A noun that receives, usually with a verb of giving, translated as “to ______”

A burial was given to the body of Franciscus.

“body” is in the dative case.

Since the dative usually accompanies a verb of giving, you may expect to find a noun in the dative case if you find any form of do, dare, the Latin verb “give.” The most common forms of this verb that you may find are dedi (“I gave”), dedit (“he/she gave”), and datus/-a/-um est (“it was given”).

Ablative:

Appears with prepositions like “in” or “on”; usually appears as dates and places in genealogical documents.

They were married on Sunday.

“Sunday” is in the ablative case.

Franciscus was buried in the cemetery.

“cemetery” is in the ablative case.

There is also the ablative of agent, which shows that something was done by somebody; it usually accompanies a passive verb and follows the Latin preposition a or ab (“by”).

He was baptized by me.

“me” is in the ablative case.

If you see the words in ("in, on") or a/ab ("by") in a document, the following word or phrase will most likely include an ablative.

Common Latin Noun Endings

Besides being divided by case, number, and gender, Latin nouns are divided into broader categories called declensions. There are five declensions total, but the first declension, second declension, and third declension are the most common. Noun endings vary based on the declension. Here are the endings for these nouns:

First and Second Declension Endings

  Masculine Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural

Nominative

-us

-i

-a

-ae

-um

-a

Genitive

-i

-orum

-ae

-arum

-i

-orum

Accusative

-um

-os

-am

-as

-um

-a

Dative

-o

 -is

-ae

-is

-o

-is

Ablative

-o

-is

-a

-is

-o

-is

Third Declension Endings

  Masculine and Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative

Various*

-es

Various*

-a/-ia

Genitive

-is

-um/-ium

-is

-um/-ium

Accusative

-em

-es/-is

Same as the nominative

-a/-ia

Dative

-i

-ibus

-i

-ibus

Ablative

-e

-ibus

-e/-i

-ibus

*Various endings. Many third declension nouns have the ending -or/-er in the nominative, but there are also many that don’t, like civis (“citizen”). Some common examples of these third declension nouns: soror (“sister”), frater (“brother”), parens (“parent”), civis (“citizen”), caput (“head”), nomen (“nomen”).

Some Latin dictionaries will tell you the declension of the noun, which helps with identifying the endings and how the word is being used.

Uncommon Latin Noun Endings

Fourth declension and fifth declension nouns in Latin are less common. But they may show up in Latin documents. They have some endings that are different from the more common ones:

Fourth Declension Endings

  Masculine
Singular Plural
Nominative

-us

-us

Genitive

-us

-uum

Accusative

-um

-us

Dative

-ui

-ibus/-ubus

Ablative

-u

-ibus/-ubus

Fifth Declension Endings

  Masculine and Feminine
Singular Plural
Nominative

-es

-es

Genitive

-ei/-e

-erum

Accusative

-em

-es

Dative

-ei/-e

-ebus

Ablative

-e

-ebus

If you look a word up in a dictionary, and it says that the word is fourth or fifth declension, the word will use these endings.

A fifth declension word that you will see in Latin documents is dies (pronounced “dee-ays,” translated “day”). It is used in dates, most often in the ablative singular case.

For example: Die quarta mensis Septembris. “On the fourth day of the month of September.”

Die is in the ablative singular case, with the ending -e.