Vōs respectful in Latin


Senior Member
For the respectful second person singular pronoun,descendants of the Latin word "vos" are used in many Romance Languages(But not in Romanian,which uses "dumneavoastra".Maybe in earlier Romanian a reflex of "vos" was used?).This is the case in French,Italian(Although I hear Lei is used more in contemporary speech),and Spanish(Well,due to the fact that the pronoun was used so much throughout history,"vos" lost its respectful meaning and now is equivalent to "tu",used in many regions of Latin America.)With that being said,is "vos" used as a respectful second person singular pronoun attested in Latin?
  • danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    Well, without doing an extensive research on the matter, I have the feeling that Latin (Classical or Vulgar) did not use the plural "vos" as a marker of respect, while the current situation in French, Italian and others could be a marker of nobility plural used in Middle Ages.

    For Romanian:
    The medieval form of respect was domnia ta which later (probably 19th century) was reduced in pronunciation to dumneata.
    A good example is in the oldest surviving Romanian document (1521 AD):
    Neacșu's letter - Wikipedia
    where on the 14th row the respectful form domnia ta is used 2 times with a verb in singular form ("ești")
    while on the 13th row the plural form domniele vostre is used in a context of plural (meaning "all of you" - plural).
    This document is written in Cyrillic in scripta continua, so there is no clear indication if there were 2 separate words domnia + ta (as I assume) or one word domniata as it is spelled in Latin transliteration.
    Note also that Cyrillic alphabet does not have a letter for the Romanian diphtong 'oa', so this text is not an attestation of a pronunciation like
    vostre instead of the expected domniele voastre.

    The plural form dumneavoastră (contraction of domnia voastră) appeared in 19th century under the French influence on the Romanian young boyars who made their studies in Paris, gave French first names to their children (e.g. Armand Călinescu, Henri Coandă), brought a lot of French loanwords in Romanian...
    were criticized by the Romanian nationalists (being called bonjouriști ).
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English - England
    is "vos" used as a respectful second person singular pronoun attested in Latin?
    Not in Classical Latin. One theory is that the practice started when there were two Roman emperors and that the usage gradually spread down from the top of the social pyramid until it became established throughout society in the Late Middle Ages.


    German (Germany)
    Moderator note: The question in this thread is why, when and how the second plural started be be used as a respectful form to address a single individual in classical Latin and/or its early successor languages. The formal development of the pronouns expressing the respectful form in later stages of various Romance languages is a different topic. Posts addressing this question have been moved to this new thread.
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