Latin gerundives in English

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A gerundive may be defined as a verbal adjective of obligation, i.e., an adjective formed from a verb to express the thought that the action denoted by the verb is desirable or obligatory. Verbs in English do not have a gerundival form but in Latin and ancient Greek they do: in Latin gerundives are formed by adding -andus, -endus, or –iendus to the verbal stem, in Greek by adding –τεος (–teos).

However, some words which are Latin gerundives have become part of the English language: Among them are:

  • addendum (plural addenda), a gerundive from the verb addĕre ‘to add’, meaning ‘(something) to be added’. The word may be used of the supplement or appendix of a book, journal, report, or the like.
  • agendum (plural agenda), a gerundive from the verb agĕre ‘to do, act, perform’, meaning ‘(something) to be done’..The Latin plural form agenda is the commonly used form in English, where it is treated as a singular (e.g., ‘This agenda is even longer than the one for last week’s meeting.’) The word may be applied, e.g., to a list of issues which need to be discussed by a committee or to a schedule of actions which must be carried out as part of a programme.
  • corrigendum (plural corrigenda), a gerundive from the verb corrigĕre, ‘to make straight, improve, correct’, meaning ‘(something) to be corrected’ The word (usually in the plural) is typically used to refer to the misprints in a book or other printed material, misprints of which the reader is sometimes, though nowadays rarely, informed by means of a slip of paper inserted into the book.
  • emendendum (plural emendenda), from the verb ēmendāre 'to emend', is virtually the same as corrigendum (above).
  • memorandum (plural memoranda or memorandums), a gerundive from the verb memorāre, ‘to mention, remind’, meaning ‘(something) worthy of being mentioned, (something) of which to be reminded’. The word, which in informal contexts is often abbreviated to memo (plural memos), is used to refer to a written record, e.g., of the main points in a discussion; to a note or list of items or points to be remembered; or, in the context of diplomacy, to an informal note summarising a government’s position on a particular issue.
  • pudendum (plural pudenda), a gerundive from the verb pudēre ‘to be ashamed’, meaning ‘(something) about which one should feel shame’. The word, typically in the plural, is used exclusively to refer to the human external genital organs, particularly to the female genital organs. (Incidentally, this use of pudenda does not presuppose that we should be ashamed of our genital organs but rather that we should feel shame or embarrassment if they were to be publicly visible and hence that they should be kept covered in public.)
  • referendum (the regularly formed English plural referendums is becoming nore used now than the traditional Latin referenda, which may still be preferred by academics) is the gerundive of the verb referre 'to refer'. (OED, 2020, notes that the form referenda "is sometimes deprecated in usage guides, etc., on the grounds that a Latin plural gerundive referenda, meaning ‘things to be referred’, would necessarily connote a plurality of issues, but this view is unlikely to affect actual usage.")

Rather differently, when Shakespeare wanted a name for his heroine - the daughter of Prospero - in The Tempest (1610 or 1611), he invented Miranda, the feminine singular form of the Latin gerundive meaning "she who should be loved", from the verb mirari, 'to wonder at'.'admire'). This process seems to heve been imitated in the seventeenth century to produce the girl’s name Amanda, a gerundive from the verb amare (‘to love’) and means ‘deserving to be or worthy of being loved’. See Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges (2006).

For the most famous use of a gerundive in Roman history - in the sentence Delenda est Carthago (‘Carthage must be destroyed’) - see Cato, under Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius.

    • Some older forms which some of AWE's users might care to revive are
      • credenda, the gerundive of credĕre, 'to believe', meaning 'things that should be believed'. This might be applied, for example, to the Thirty-Nine Articles.
      • facienda, the gerundive of facĕre, 'to make or do', meaning 'things that should be done'. A Roman, or a medieval monk, might have used this as a heading for a 'to do list', had he thought of such a thing.
      • tacenda, the gerundive of tacēre, 'to be silent', meaning 'things not to talk of', 'things about which to keep silent'. Cf. Wittgenstein's famous dictum: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."