Latin Superlative Adjectives

How to Form and Use Them

Most beautiful green bush frog
Philautus pulcherrimus. Pulcherrimus translates as the superlative of beautiful, most beautiful.

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Using a superlative form of an adjective takes the basic sense of the adjective to the extreme, so the superlative of "basic" would be "most basic."

Identifying Superlatives

Latin superlative adjectives are usually easy to identify. Most contain -issim- (e.g., suavissimus, -a, -um 'most charming'). If they don't have -issim-, they will likely have -llim- (difficillimus, -a, -u 'most difficult') or -rrim- (celerrimus, -a, -um 'swiftest') in them. This double consonant + -im- precedes the case ending.

Translation of Superlatives

Superlatives are usually translated into English with -est or "most". They can also be translated with "very" or "extremely". Difficillimus means most difficult or very difficult. Celerrimus means fastest or very fast.

Declension of Superlatives

Superlative adjectives are declined like first and second declension nouns. Superlatives are adjectives and as such must agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number, and case. The endings are added to the base of the adjective. These endings are not new or different, but they're here for convenience:

Singular
case M. F. N.

nom. -us -a -um
gen. -i -ae -i
dat. -o -ae -o
acc. -um -am -um
abl. -o -a -o

Plural
case M. F. N.

nom. -i -ae -a
gen. -orum -arum -orum
dat. -is -is -is
acc. -os -as -a
abl. -is -is -is

Example: Clarus - Clarissimus -a -um
Clear - Clearest

Singular

case M F N
nom. clarissimus clarissima clarissimum
gen. clarissimi clarissimae clarissimi
dat. clarissimo clarissimae clarissimo
acc. clarissimum clarissimam clarissimum
abl. clarissimo clarissima clarissimo

Plural

case M F N
nom. clarissimi clarissimae clarissima
gen. clarissimorum clarissimarum clarissimorum
dat. clarissimis clarissimis clarissimis
acc. clarissimos clarissimas clarissima
abl. clarissimis clarissimis clarissimis

Unusual Superlatives

If an adjective ends in -er for its masculine singular nominative in what is called the "positive" (e.g., for the Latin adjective pulcher 'beautiful,' pulcher is the positive form), its superlative form will end in -errimus, -a, -um. If the masculine singular nominative form of the adjective ends in -ilis (e.g., facilis 'easy'), the superlative form will be -illimus, -a, -um.

Singular

case M F N
nom. pulcherrimus pulcherrima pulcherrimum
gen. pulcherrimi pulcherrimae pulcherrimi
dat. pulcherrimo pulcherrimae pulcherrimo
acc. pulcherrimum pulcherrimam pulcherrimum
abl. pulcherrimo pulcherrima pulcherrimo

Plural

case M F N
nom. pulcherrimi pulcherrimae pulcherrima
gen. pulcherrimorum pulcherrimarum pulcherrimorum
dat. pulcherrimis pulcherrimis pulcherrimis
acc. pulcherrimos pulcherrimas pulcherrima
abl. pulcherrimis pulcherrimis pulcherrimis

Irregular Superlatives

(Translation) Positive -- Comparative -- Superlative

  • (Big, Bigger, Biggest) magnus, -a, -um -- maior, maius -- maximus, -a, -um
  • (Small, Smaller, Smallest) parvus, -a, -um -- minor, minus -- minimus, -a, -um
  • (Good, Better, Best) bonus, -a, -um -- melior, melius -- optimus, -a, -um
  • (Bad, Worse, Worst) malus, -a, -um -- peior, peius -- pessimus, -a, -um