SALAVS Lesson 3

Lesson 3: Names and third declension

Salavs! Time for some more nouns.

More second declension and men’s names

We’ve already covered basic second declension nouns in Lesson 2. There are a couple more categories of second declension nouns, which are important because they are used in men’s personal names. The vast majority of Oscan inscriptions contain at least one man’s name, so these come up a lot.

second declension i

Oscan family names can also use a special set of endings, with the nominative –iis (also spelled -iís, -ies and -ιες).

second declension ii

There aren’t many attested plural forms, but there are a few – for example, when an inscription refers to multiple members of the same family. If you want more detail on these forms, you can look in Buck.

How do Oscan names work?

Oscan names follow a similar system to Roman names – each person has a first name, given to them by their parents, and a last name, inherited from their father. (Later, Romans add one or more additional names, or cognomina – but this is rare in Oscan texts.) Many Oscan women have a first and last name – unlike Roman women, who generally have only a family name (plus cognomina). Women do not change their family names on marriage.

Oscan family names generally have their origins in first names – just as McDonald derives from Donald, Jameson derives from James, and Latin Marcius derives from Marcus. Many family names have the characteristic -iis ending discussed above, but they can also end in -is. Women have feminine versions of these names – so the same names, but using first declension endings. There are far, far fewer women’s names attested, though, so it is not easy for us to see all the variation that might have existed.

In many, but not all cases, Oscan names are accompanied by another first name in the genitive to indicate ‘son/daughter of’ or ‘freedman/freedwoman of’ – these are not differentiated in Oscan, so it’s not always clear whether someone is free-born or a former slave.

Some examples:

  • Pakis Kluvatiis
  • Dekis Rahiis
  • Sepis Heleviis
  • Vibis Smintiis
  • Trebis Sestiis
  • Stenis Kalaviis Steneis
  • Marahis Heírennis Pakieís


  • Write these names in the genitive, and then in the accusative. (Hint: the genitive indicating the father’s name will stay in the genitive no matter what.)
  • Can you guess the female equivalents? Use the first declension in Lesson 2 to help. (Hint: generally the family name end –, rather than -iiú.)

Translate these sentences and transliterate them into the Oscan alphabet.

  • Marahis Heírennis aasass úpsed. Highlight answer: Marahis Heírennis set up the altars.
  • Vibis Smintiis Vibeis fluusaí deded eítiuvad Dekkieis Rahiieis. Highlight answer: Vibis Smintiis son of Vibis gave (this) to Flora with the money of Dekis Rahiis.
  • Pakiú Kluvatiú deded deívaí húrtúí. Highlight answer: Pakiú Kluvatiú gave (this) to the goddess in the garden.

Third declension

There are two sets of endings for the third declension – consonant stems and i-stems. Don’t worry about this distinction too much; it’s more important that you learn to recognise the endings in context. You’ll probably see a lot of similarities between these endings and the second declension too.

third declension

Other declensions

There are a few fourth and fifth declension nouns, and a few irregular nouns, but the endings to these are very similar to what you have seen already. If you want to look these up for the sake of completeness, you can find them in Buck.

Comparisons with Latin – inheritance or contact?

You might be starting to see some similarities with Latin vocabulary, if you know some Latin. Some of these similarities are because Oscan and Latin are cognate languages – that is, they go back to one ‘Proto-Italic’ language, which no longer survives. You might also see similarities with English or Ancient Greek – because all these languages go back to Proto-Indo-European. So niir means ‘man’, and is cognate with Greek ἀνήρ (aner) and the name of the Roman emperor Nero. The word aasass ‘altars’ looks a lot like Latin aras ‘altars (accusative plural)’.

But some of the similarities are because Oscan and Latin were in contact for many centuries, and words and structures were borrowed back and forth between them. So aídil, for example, is a borrowing of the Latin word aedilis. But these similarities can sometimes be deceptive – just because we know what a Roman aedile was, doesn’t mean an aídil fulfilled the exact same function.


The following Oscan words are borrowings from Latin – can you guess (or find out) the corresponding Latin words? Highlight after the Oscan word to reveal the Latin original.

  • aídil aedilis (aedile – a kind of magistrate)
  • pavmentúm pavimentum (pavement)
  • senateís (gen. sing.) senatus (senate)
  • trístaamentud (abl. sing.) testamentum (will, testament)
  • embratur imperator (general)
  • kenzstur censor (censor – the state official who performs the census)
  • kvaísstur quaestor (quaestor – a kind of magistrate)


Transcribe the inscription – can you guess a translation?

aeclanum 4.JPG

Highlight to reveal transcription and notes:

gv . magiis . pk / flakís / famatted

  • This man, unusually, has a cognomen.
  • gv is an abbreviation for the first name Gavis.
  • pk is an abbreviation for the (genitive) first name Pakieis, which here is his father’s name.
  • famatted means ‘he ordered’ – essentially, Gavis Magiis Flakís organised whatever building work the inscription commemorates – in this case, probably a wall in the sanctuary of the goddess Mefitis at Aeclanum.


More practice: here are some flashcards for the vocabulary you have met in this lesson.

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