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Borrowing from Latin pilum


pilum (plural pila or pilums)

  1. (historical) A Roman military javelin.
    • 1776, Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin 2000, p. 21:
      Besides a lighter spear, the Roman legionary grasped in his right hand the formidable pilum, a ponderous javelin whose utmost length was about six feet and which was terminated by a massy triangular point of steel of about eighteen inches.
    • 2011, Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London, Gollancz 2011, p. 371:
      Verica plucked a pilum from the hands of the nearest legionary – the soldier didn't react – and handed it to me.




pīlum (throwing spear)


From Proto-Italic *pistlom, from Proto-Indo-European *pis-tlo-, from *peys- (to crush). See pīla.



pīlum n (genitive pīlī); second declension

  1. a javelin, throwing spear


Second declension.

Case Singular Plural
nominative pīlum pīla
genitive pīlī pīlōrum
dative pīlō pīlīs
accusative pīlum pīla
ablative pīlō pīlīs
vocative pīlum pīla



  • pilum in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • pilum in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • du Cange, Charles (1883), “pilum”, in G. A. Louis Henschel, Pierre Carpentier, Léopold Favre, editors, Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (in Latin), Niort: L. Favre
  • Carl Meissner; Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[1], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • (ambiguous) to throw down the javelins (pila) and fight with the sword: omissis pilis gladiis rem gerere
  • pilum in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898) Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • pilum in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin