Latin Homographs and Homonyms

I visited the University of Virginia last fall and sat in on a Latin reading (as in reading aloud) group led by Prof. David Kovacs. I think there were something like 25 people there. Latin as performance is very much alive at UVA. It was a great afternoon, and one of the highlights was a handout Prof. Kovacs distributed with his own collection of homographs and homonyms. Here are some examples:

Homographs:

nitor brightness nītor try
nōta well-known < nōtus -a -um nota, mark < nota -ae, f.
nōvī I know < noscō -ere nōvī novī new < novus -a -um

Homonyms:

adeō I approach so, so much
canis dog you sing > cano
equitēs horseman > eques you ride a horse > equito

Solid gold, I thought, and filed it away for future use. Then it occurred to me, the world needs to know about this list. I approached Prof. Kovacs about making it into a Wikipedia page, so others could add to it. Go to, he said, and I did, in my spare moments, editing and reformatting it in Mediawiki. But then, guess what, the gatekeepers of Wikipedia rejected the article. Indeed!

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a dictionary. We cannot accept articles that are little more than definitions of words or abbreviations as entries. A good article should begin with a good definition, but expand on the subject. Please try creating an article at Wiktionary instead.

Hmmpf! We are lucky enough to have our own instance of Mediawiki at Dickinson, so I have taken Prof. Kovacs’ marbles and gone home. You may view the full, edited list here. I would welcome any additions, and can probably get you editing access if you would like to expand it substantially. Hope you enjoy!

–Chris Francese

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2 thoughts on “Latin Homographs and Homonyms

  1. Chris — this list could be expanded using Latin Treebank data of the Perseus Project. Then we could develop a tailored set of exercises focusing on the homonyms and homographs, with examples from a corpus / a text that the group (or a learner) is reading. Thanks for this!

  2. Thank you for that, Neven. I was delighted to hear Francesco Mambrini speak about the Treebanking project at the wonderful Digital Classics Association panel yesterday at the APA conference here in Chicago. Great work being done.

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