Commonly Confused Latin Words (CCLW)

This section of my blog is devoted to words that may be commonly confused with another with sometimes humorous results. Obviously by using the context of the latin sentence and the person, number, and case one can avoid these misunderstandings, but nonetheless, I  will keep a running list as I come across them. The section is dedicated to my freshman English teacher, Danielle McAuliffe, who made sure  that I never confused my theirs and tos.

cacabo, cacabare, cacabavi, cacabatus

caco, cacare, cacavi, cacatus

The first is the verb for “cackle” and also “the natural cry of a partridge.” However, when declined in the first person plural, present active indicative, cacabamus, “we were cackling,” it is identical to the second verb for “defecate; defecate upon; defile with excrement; (rude).” In this second case the word cacabamus would be declined in the first person plural, imperfect active indicative, “we defecate upon.”

coelum, coeli

coleus, colei

These confusion that could result from these nouns is the similarity in the spelling. Where the placement of the “e” before the “l” is pertinent to its meaning. The first is a second declension neuter noun meaning “sky, heaven, heavens; space; air, climate, weather; universe, world; Jehovah.” The second word is a second declension masculine noun meaning “leather sack; testicles (usually plural) or scrotum: (rude).”

ille, demonstrative pronoun

ile, ilis 

Where as one is the masciline form for the demonstrative pronoun ille, illa, illud the other is a term referring to the groin as in Catullus.

cum suis vivat valeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
ilia rumpens… (Cat. 11.17-20)

uerba, uerbae

uerpa, uerpae also uerpus, uerpa, uerpum

These are two very different words. The letters “b” and “p” are the only letters that make these words different phonetically. Definition wise, the first word uerba  you may recognize as the Latin word for, “word or proverb,” and is a first declension feminine noun. While uerpa, which also a first declension feminine noun, is one of many words in Latin that means penis. More specifically it is “penis (as protruded from foreskin); erect penis; (rude).” This word is very specific and you may read a fuller discussion of uerpa here. The second is the adjectival form and simply means “circumcised” and is not seen as rude as far as I am aware.


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