Latin numbers (edit)
[a], [b] ←  3 IV
5  → 
    Cardinal: quattuor
    Ordinal: quārtus
    Adverbial: quater
    Multiplier: quadruplex, quadruplus
    Distributive: quaternus, quadrīnus
    Collective: quaterniō
    Fractional: quadrāns, teruncius



From quater (four times) +‎ -nus.





quaternus (feminine quaterna, neuter quaternum); first/second-declension numeral

  1. (chiefly plural) four each; four at a time
    • 86 CE – 103 CE, Martial, Epigrammata 12.76.1:
      A͞mphŏră vīge͞s[s]i͞s, mŏdĭu͞s dătŭr a͞erĕ quăte͞rnō. / Ebrius et crudus, nil habet agricola.
      An amphora [of wine] sells for a twenty-as piece; a peck [of grain] for four coppers. Drunk and suffering from indigestion, the farmer has nothing.
  2. four (collective), fourfold
    • c. 405 CE, Prudentius, Liber Peristephanon 12:
      bratteolas trabibus sublevit, ut omnis aurulenta
      lux esset intus, ceu iubar sub ortu.
      subdidit et Parias fulvis laquearibus columnas,
      distinguit illic quas quaternus ordo.
      • 1953 translation by H. J. Thomson
        He laid plates on the beams so as to make all the light within golden like the sun’s radiance at its rising, and supported the gold-panelled ceiling on pillars of Parian marble set out there in four rows.
    • c. 1450 – 1500, Ludovico Lazzarelli, De gentilium deorum imaginibus 225:
      O͞mnĭă cu͞i su͞bsi͞nt cu͞i su͞bsi͞t mōbĭlĕ prīmu͞m
      O͞ctŏ quŏque a͞ssĭdŭā mōbĭlĭtātĕ glŏbī
      A͞tque ĕlĕme͞ntōru͞m cu͞i su͞bsĭdĕt ōrdŏ quăte͞rnu͞s
      Que͞m tōtō qu͞icqu͞id spīrăt ĭn o͞rbĕ cŏli͞t.
      To whom all are under, to whom is subject the Primum Mobile
      As well as eight globes in perpetual motion
      And to whom subsides the fourfold rank of the elements
      Whom anything that breathes in the entire world worships.

Usage notes


This is part of the Latin series of distributive numerals. These numerals are inflected as first/second-declension adjectives; in Classical Latin, they typically accompany plural nouns (with which they agree in case and gender) and have the following functions:

  • to express the sense “[numeral] [noun]s each/apiece”, as in hominis digiti ternos articulos habent, “a man’s fingers have three joints each” (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 11.244.3).
  • to express multiplication after a numeral adverb,[1] as in Gallinaciis enim pullis bis deni dies opus sunt, pavoninis ter noveni "hens' [eggs] need twice ten days, peahens' thrice nine" (Marcus Terentius Varro, Res Rusticae 3.9.10)
  • to express the sense of cardinal numerals when used with pluralia tantum (plural-only nouns) such as castra "camp":[1] for example, "twelve camps" is expressed by duodēna castra (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.105.5). Distributive forms are regularly used in this context for the number 2 and for all numbers greater than 4. For 1, plural-only nouns are used with plural inflected forms of the cardinal ūnus (one), as in ūnae scālae "one flight of stairs" (rather than with forms of the distributive numeral singulus). For 3 and 4, plural-only nouns are used with the plural inflected forms of trīnus[2] and quadrīnus, as in trīna castra "three camps" (rather than with forms of ternus and quaternus, which tend to be used in distributive function[3]).

These adjectives do not normally occur in the singular.[4] Because of this, many grammars and dictionaries treat them as plural-only words and refer to them using the nominative masculine plural form in , rather than the nominative masculine singular form in -us (which is often unattested in Classical Latin). However, some of these adjectives are attested in the singular in Classical Latin poetry[1] (e.g. Sed neque Centauri fuerunt, nec tempore in ullo / esse queunt duplici natura et corpore bino..., Titus Lucretius Carus, De Rerum Natura 5.879, and Sic tu bis fueris consul, bis consul et ille, / inque domo binus conspicietur honor, Publius Ovidius Naso, Epistulae ex Ponto 4.9.64; "corpore bino" here seems to have the sense of "twofold body", and "binus ... honor" the sense of "double/dual/twofold honor"). Singular forms are also attested in postclassical Latin, where these adjectives sometimes have non-distributive meanings (taking an ordinal, cardinal, or collective sense instead). These alternative senses are sometimes continued by Romance descendants (e.g. Spanish noveno (ninth) from Latin novēnus).

The genitive plural of singulus is usually singulōrum/singulārum, but distributive numerals greater than one commonly use short genitive plural forms ending in -um rather than the longer forms ending in -ōrum and -ārum.[4][2]



First/second-declension adjective (distributive, normally plural-only; short genitive plurals in -num preferred).

Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative quaternus quaterna quaternum quaternī quaternae quaterna
Genitive quaternī quaternae quaternī quaternum
Dative quaternō quaternō quaternīs
Accusative quaternum quaternam quaternum quaternōs quaternās quaterna
Ablative quaternō quaternā quaternō quaternīs
Vocative quaterne quaterna quaternum quaternī quaternae quaterna

Derived terms




See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Henry John Roby (1876) A Grammar of the Latin Language from Plautus to Suetonius, volume 1, pages 443-444
  2. 2.0 2.1 J. P. Postgate (1907) “The so-called Distributives in Latin”, in The Classical Review, volume 21, number 7, page 201
  3. ^ S. E. Jackson (1909) “Indogermanic Numerals”, in The Classical Review, volume 23, number 7, page 164
  4. 4.0 4.1 Karl Gottlob Zumpt (1853) Leonhard Schmitz, Charles Anthon, transl., A Grammar of the Latin Language, 3rd edition, page 101
  5. ^ Николае Сараманду, Мануела Невачи (2019) “Лингвистичен мотивационен анализ на балкански и романски характерни особености в Европейския лингвистичен атлас [A Linguistic Motivational Analysis of Balkan and Romance Features in 'Atlas Linguarum Europae']”, in БЪЛГАРСКИ ЕЗИК / BULGARIAN LANGUAGE (in Bulgarian), volume 66, number 3, →DOI, →ISSN, page 17

Further reading

  • quaterni”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • quaterni”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • quaterni in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.
  • Carl Meißner, Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[1], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • to demand 48 per cent: quaternas centesimas postulare (Att. 5. 21. 11)