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Humanities Libertexts

6.4: §48. The Latin suffix -ITIA (> E -ice)

  • Page ID
    8365
  • This very small category of abstract nouns contains words formed by attaching the suffix -itia to Latin adjectives. Whenever the English derivative has evolved in a normal and regular fashion, it will have an ending in -ice. However, there are perhaps as many exceptions to that rule as there are regular examples. Here are three that run true to form:

    L malus (“bad”) > malitia (“badness”) > E malice
    justus (“righteous”) > justitia (“righteousness”) > justice
    avarus (“greedy”) > avaritia (“greediness”) > avarice

    The historical reason for the -ice spelling is to be found in the confusion of -itia and -icia during the late Latin period (cf. §12 and see §14.3.b). Within the French language, Latin nouns that had ended in -itia could also evolve into forms in -esse. Accordingly, English has largess(e) < largitia < largus (“abundant,” “bountiful”) and caress < *caritia < carus (“dear). The word caress is closely related in form, if not in meaning, to charity (§45), since the hypothetical *caritia must have been a late Latin variant for caritas. But we have entered an exotic realm of historical morphology, and you certainly shouldn’t worry about remembering these unusual forms.

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