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CiceroD

Juno and Venus

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a very simple question

 

Why do their names sound masculine especially Venus's?

 

was it a throw back to before the us-i suffix was masculine?

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The names Venus and Juno may appear masculine, but a Latin dictionary does give them both as being feminine words, despite the appearance of their endings.

 

I can at least offer an explanation for the masculine-appearing ending of the name Venus, from Norman W. DeWitt, Professor of Latin Emeritus in Victoria College, the University of Toronto.

 

In a couple of articles on Latin semantics for The Classical Journal in 1936 and 1940, Dr. DeWitt explained that the word Venus, -eris "ought to be neuter like genus, -eris." The word had been used to mean "fruit" and, as such, Venus was originally a goddess of gardens before the Romans began to associate her with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. That, even though Venus was already a garden deity, "identification of Venus with Aphrodite may have quickened the semantic shift," thereby making Venus undeniably feminine.

 

In a reverse direction, the Latin word cupido, -inis is feminine, yet the Roman Cupid became a masculine deity by equation with the masculine Greek deity of Eros.

 

-- Nephele

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I did some digging around...didn't get everything that I wanted, but some answers nonetheless.

 

As for Venus: Calvert Watkins in his 1985 Dictionary of Indo-European Roots states that Venus is of the Proto-Indo-European root *wen 'to desire or strive'. Specifically, *wen-es is the etymon; I suspect that the -es either zero-graded in Latin or somehow became associated with genus as Nephele said (although for the record, analogy, which is what this latter option is, is never one that I'm fully comfortable with; it's often a 'default' option when philologists have no other recourse). What makes this more interesting is twofold: 1) the Germanic/Norse goddess Freya has the same root: *wen > o-grade *won > Old Norse vana > Vanadīs > Freya; 2) *wen-es-no > Latin venēnum 'love potion; poison'. Pretty cool!

 

As for Juno: Watkins didn't bother to give an etymology here (drat), but Andrew Sihler's 1995 New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin gives us some clue. Most Proto-Indo-European n-stems were indeed neuter, which often either continued being neuter in Latin or, in some cases, became masculine. There were some non-neuter n-stems which became feminine in Latin; for the most part, they were (female) names. Iūnō was one, as was Bellōna. There are other members of this group which are not names; there was a "vigorously productive affix" (I love that phrase) -tiōn-, which was really a combination of the -ōn- stem and a feminine -ti- stem (e.g. ratiō 'reckoning', mentiō 'mention', natiō 'birth; race', actiō 'motion'--this is also a very abundant formation in Celtic. Also there is a "large but close class of verbal abstracts" in -iō: legiō 'legion' ('levy', from legō), regiō 'line, direction' (from regō).

 

Don't know how much this clears things up, but I took a shot!

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a very simple question

 

Why do their names sound masculine especially Venus's?

 

was it a throw back to before the us-i suffix was masculine?

Interestingly, that's also the case for the goddesses Tellus and Salus.

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Was it a throw back to before the us-i suffix was masculine?

 

I forgot to add information about this part...sorry!

 

The -us/-i declension is direct from Proto-Indo-European--from the 'newly' created o-stems--and were entrenched before the Italic branch split from the Indo-European tree. While names of deities do tend to be old, particularly for 'primary' or 'core' gods, I don't know that it necessarily leads to your guess.

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Oh, I'm sure that there were puns to be had. But what I find interesting is that these two goddesses--Juno and Venus--are perhaps the most connected with femininity: the mother, and the lover. Perhaps Ceres would be another, but that's it.

 

However, there are several cases of 'cross-dressing,' as I like to call it: nouns which are of one gender but in a declension which is dominated by another. Ex: nurus 'daugther in law', socrus 'mother in law' both of declension II; agricola 'farmer' (et.al.) in declension I. These get ironed out in the history of the Romance languages--indeed, they can be seen in the Appendix Probi, so with the 'vulgar' registers there is already a change--but because Juno and Venus are so known and are truly proper nouns, their forms don't really change.

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However, there are several cases of 'cross-dressing,' as I like to call it: nouns which are of one gender but in a declension which is dominated by another. Ex: nurus 'daugther in law', socrus 'mother in law' both of declension II; agricola 'farmer' (et.al.) in declension I. These get ironed out in the history of the Romance languages--indeed, they can be seen in the Appendix Probi, so with the 'vulgar' registers there is already a change--but because Juno and Venus are so known and are truly proper nouns, their forms don't really change.

 

Here's a list that might interest you of some more masculine, first declension nouns, including masculine Greek loan-words with feminine endings. And (as you noted DoL) some of these nouns, such as auriga ("charioteer") and andabata ("gladiator who fought blindfolded") certainly seem like "cross-dressers" in a feminine-dominated declension.

 

But since Greek isn't a Romance language, do you know whether these "cross-dressing" Greek loan-words got "ironed out", too, over time?

 

-- Nephele

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That's exactly what I was thinking of, in part, Nephele...just that I was doing it from memory! Thanks for the online citation!

 

And, yes, for the most part masculine I-declension words were re-assigned to the declension that best matched their gender. But specific to the Greek ones...I think it depends on whether they were specifically male-masculine nouns (brabeuta 'judge, umpire') or just simply masculine-assigned words. Many of the male-masculine ones I know were re-assigned, often with the -tor suffix added to make it masculine-looking (vs. -trix), but as to all of those nouns, I don't know. I'll update this soon...but let me look some stuff up.

Edited by docoflove1974

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