Learning the Forms of Seven Common but Irregular Latin Comparative Adjectives

By John Garger

There are few ways around straight memorization for irregular Latin comparative adjectives. Here are some tips for you to read and explore!

In the first article of this series, the irregular forms of seven common but irregular comparative and superlative adjectives were introduced and discussed. We determined that the forms of these adjectives could only be memorized because even with their irregularity, some other irregularities exist.

Memorizing these comparative and superlative adjectives can be difficult for the Latin student because the stems of these words bear no resemblance to their positive forms and because the superlative forms do not have the familiar –issimus ending.

Luckily, these comparative and superlative adjectives bear a striking resemblance to modern English words making memorization much easier than a rote method such as flash cards. Read on to learn how to easily memorize the forms of seven common but irregular Latin comparative and superlative adjective forms.

How to Memorize Seven Common but Irregular Comparative and Superlative Latin Adjective Forms

For review from the first article in this series, here again are the seven irregular comparative and superlative adjectives that are the subject of this lesson:

Bonus –a –um (positive), Melior –ius (comparative), Optimus –a –um (superlative)

Magnus –a –um, Maior –ius, Maximus –a –um

Malus –a –um, Peior –ius, Pessimus –a –um

Multus –a –um, (––) Plus, Plurimus –a –um

Parvus –a –um, Minor (Minus), Minimus –a –um

(Prae, Pro), Prior, –ius Primus –a –um

Superus –a –um, Superior –ius, Summus –a –um (or Supremus –a –um)

The positive forms of these adjectives should be well familiar to the Latin student by the time he/she is introduced to comparative and superlative adjectives. The memorization of the irregular comparative and superlative forms is the focus here.

First off, notice that the comparative and superlative forms of the irregular adjectives above bear a striking resemblance to common modern English words. For example, notice that the comparative form of “parvus" is “minor" which is an exact replication of English “minor." Also, notice that the superlative form of “parvus" is “minimus" which bears a striking resemblance to “minimal."

This is the key to memorizing these irregular comparative and superlative forms. All of them have similar forms to English words with which the Latin student is likely familiar. Below is a list of the irregular forms as well as several words in English that are similar in form and meaning to the comparative and superlative forms given above.


Melior: ameliorate

Optimus: optimum, optimist


Maior: major, majority

Maximus: maximum


Peior: pejorative

Pessimus: pessimist


Plus: plus, plural


Minor: minor, minority, minus, minute

Minimus: minimum, minimize

Prae (Pro)

Prior: prior, priority

Primus: prime, primary


Superior: superior superiority

Summus: summit, sum, summation

Supremus: supreme, supremacy

In each of the cases above, there is a clear and direct relationship between the comparative and superlative Latin adjectives and a common, modern English word. In this way, the Latin student need not learn these comparative and superlative forms by rote or obscure memorization. In fact, in most of the cases above, the adjective’s form is so similar to an English form that no memorization may be necessary at all.

One of the Few Times Latin is Simple

All of the seven common but irregular adjectives discussed in the previous article of this series have very recognizable forms in their comparative and superlative forms. This makes it all the easier for the Latin student to memorize, or in some cases, removes the need to memorize the forms of these comparative adjectives. This is one of the few times that Latin provides a simple solution to an otherwise difficult situation.