20 Second Declension Nouns

2004.02.0021 (LCT-116)

Marble basin fragment, written in the Attic alphabet, ca. 500 B.C. The rim is inscribed with part of an inscription reading: “of the Bouleuterion.” Athenian Agora Excavations.


Second Declension Nouns

1. Masculine and Feminine

Nouns in this declension are mostly MASCULINE and use endings similar to the masculine definite article. The nominative singular, however, adds –ς. The few FEMININE nouns in this declension use exactly the same endings as the masculine. Only the article marks their feminine gender.

Most NOUN STEMS of the second declension end in –ο. As with the first declension, the vowel stem combines with the SECOND DECLENSION case endings in a stable, consistent way, so you actually learn the stem vowel and the personal ending together as one combined case ending (S 229). Note that the endings for the nominative and accusative singular, as well as the nominative plural, are short. All other endings are long (S 231; GPH p. 5).

Singular Plural
Nominative -ος -οι
Genitive -ου -ων
Dative -ῳ -οις
Accusative -ον -ους

ὁ λόγος –ου word

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ λόγος οἱ λόγοι
Genitive τοῦ λόγου τῶν λόγων
Dative τῷ λόγῳ τοῖς λόγοις
Accusative τὸν λόγον τοὺς λόγους

ἡ νῆσος -ου island

Singular Plural
Nominative ἡ νῆσος αἱ νῆσοι
Genitive τῆς νήσου τῶν νήσων
Dative τῇ νήσῳ ταῖς νήσοις
Accusative τὴν νῆσον τὰς νήσους

ὁ ἀδελφός -οῦ brother

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ ἀδελφός οἱ ἀδελφοί
Genitive τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ τῶν ἀδελφῶν
Dative τῷ ἀδελφῷ τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς
Accusative τὸν ἀδελφόν τοὺς ἀδελφούς

ὁ κίνδυνος -ου danger

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ κίνδυνος οἱ κίνδυνοι
Genitive τοῦ κινδύνου τῶν κινδύνων
Dative τῷ κινδύνῳ τοῖς κινδύνοις
Accusative τὸν κίνδυνον τοὺς κινδύνους

 

2. Accent of Second Declension Nouns

Like some FIRST DECLENSION nouns, e.g. τιμή -ῆς, second declension nouns can have a persistent accent on the ultima of all inflected forms. When this happens, a CIRCUMFLEX is used on the genitive and dative, singular and plural; an ACUTE accent falls on the nominative and accusative, singular and plural.

Unlike the first declension, the accent of the GENITIVE PLURAL of second declension nouns is not inevitably drawn to the ultima.

 

3. Neuter 

Second declension NEUTER nouns follow the NEUTER LAWS that we learned earlier during our study of third declension nouns. Namely:

  1. The NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE SINGULAR must be IDENTICAL.
  2. The NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE PLURAL also must be IDENTICAL, and end in a short –α.
  3. Whenever any NEUTER noun is the subject of a verb, the verb is regularly 3rd PERSON SINGULAR, even if the neuter subject is plural!

ACCENT RULES for neuter nouns follow those of masculine second declension nouns (S 231; GPH p. 5):

Singular Plural
Nominative -ον
Genitive -ου -ων
Dative -ῳ -οις
Accusative -ον  -α

τὸ ἔργον -ου deed, work

Singular Plural
Nominative τὸ ἔργον τὰ ἔργα
Genitive τοῦ ἔργου τῶν ἔργων
Dative τῷ ἔργῳ τοῖς ἔργοις
Accusative τὸ ἔργον τὰ ἔργα

τὸ πρόσωπον -ου face, mask, person

Singular Plural
Nominative τὸ πρόσωπον τὰ πρόσωπα
Genitive τοῦ προσώπου τῶν προσώπων
Dative τῷ προσώπῳ τοῖς προσώποις
Accusative τὸ πρόσωπον τὰ πρόσωπα

τὸ σημεῖον -ου sign

Singular Plural
Nominative τὸ σημεῖον τὰ σημεῖα
Genitive τοῦ σημείου τῶν σημείων
Dative τῷ σημείῳ τοῖς σημείοις
Accusative τὸ σημεῖον τὰ σημεῖα

 

4. ναῦς, νοῦς, and νεώς

In Classical Greek, it is easy to confuse these two nouns:

  • νοῦς, νοῦ ὁ mind
  • νεώς, νεώ ὁ temple

Let us take a look at how they can be distinguished from each other.

 

ὁ νοῦς, νοῦ mind

This is a regular second declension noun in MOST DIALECTS, and is inflected as follows in those dialects.

Singular Plural
Nominative νόος νόοι
Genitive νόου νόων
Dative νόῳ νόοις
Accusative νόον νόους

As you may suspect by now, ATTIC GREEK contracts the όο/όω combinations, and accents the results accordingly (S 235; GPH p. 6). Note the circumflexes!

ὁ νοῦς, νοῦ mind (Classical Attic)

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ νοῦς οἱ νοῖ
Genitive τοῦ νοῦ τῶν νῶν
Dative τῷ νῷ τοῖς νοῖς
Accusative τὸν νοῦν τοὺς νοῦς

 

2. ὁ νεώς, νεώ temple

This noun is one of a handful of second declension nouns with a nominative singular ending in –εως. This noun in other GREEK DIALECTS actually end in –ηος or –ᾱος.

For example, in Homer, the noun uses –η:

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ νηός οἱ νηοί
Genitive τοῦ νηοῦ τῶν νηῶν
Dative τῷ νηῷ τοῖς νηοῖς
Accusative τὸν νηόν τοὺς νηούς

For Doric and other dialects, including Koine, the noun uses –:

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ ναός οἱ ναοί
Genitive τοῦ ναοῦ τῶν ναῶν
Dative τῷ ναῷ τοῖς ναοῖς
Accusative τὸν ναόν τοὺς ναούς

 

In ATTIC GREEK, however, TRANSFERENCE OF QUANTITY led to the length of the two adjoining vowels (long η/α and short ο) being switched (short ε and long ω). So while the Athenians would say and write νεώς, almost every other Greek in the Mediterranean would say and write νηός or νᾱός. This change in pronunciation is so peculiar to the Athenians and their Attic dialect that SECOND DECLENSION –εως nouns are called ATTIC DECLENSION NOUNS (S 237-238).

Only two words in our vocabulary list belong to the ATTIC DECLENSION: νεώς, νεώ temple and λεώς, λεώ the people, folk. Both inflect the same (S 238; GPH p. 7). While studying their inflection, note the following characteristics:

  • The original noun stem vowel (long η/α) shortens to ε.
  • ο and ου become ω
  • οι becomes
  • The accent of the nominative singular – acute on the ultima – is kept throughout all forms!

νεώς, νεώ ὁ temple (Classical Greek)

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ νεώς οἱ νεῴ
Genitive τοῦ νεώ τῶν νεών
Dative τῷ νεῴ τοῖς νεῴς
Accusative τὸν νεών τοὺς νεώς

 

– τὸ τέλος –

 


Key Terms and Concepts

  • SECOND DECLENSION: MASCULINE AND FEMININE
  • ACCENT OF SECOND DECLENSION NOUNS
  • SECOND DECLENSION: NEUTER
  • νοῦς, and νεώς
  • ATTIC DECLENSION NOUNS

Vocabulary List 1

Masculine Nouns

  • ἀδελφός -οῦ ὁ brother
  • ἄνθρωπος -ου ὁ, ἡ human being
  • ἀριθμός -οῦ ὁ number
  • βίος -ου ὁ life
  • δῆμος -ου ὁ people
  • δοῦλος -ου ὁ slave
  • ἵππος -ου ὁ horse
  • ἥλιος -ου ὁ sun
  • θάνατος -ου ὁ death
  • θεός -οῦ ὁ, ἡ god, goddess
  • θυμός -οῦ ὁ soul, spirit
  • καιρός -οῦ ὁ the right time
  • κίνδυνος -ου ὁ danger
  • κόσμος -ου ὁ order; decoration; world
  • κύκλος -ου ὁ circle
  • κύριος -ου ὁ lord, master
  • λίθος -ου ὁ stone
  • λόγος -ου ὁ word, speech; thought, reason; account, reckoning

Vocabulary List 2

Masculine Nouns

  • νόμος -ου ὁ custom, tradition, law
  • νοῦς, νοῦ ὁ mind (other dialects: νόος, νόου)
  • ξένος -ου ὁ guest/friend/host; foreigner, stranger
  • οἶκος -ου ὁ house, home, family
  • οὐρανός -οῦ ὁ sky
  • ὀφθαλμός -οῦ ὁ eye
  • πολέμιοι -ων οἱ the enemy
  • πόλεμος -ου ὁ war
  • πόνος -ου ὁ work, stress, trouble, pain
  • ποταμός -οῦ ὁ river
  • στρατηγός -οῦ ὁ general
  • σύμμαχοι -ων οἱ allies
  • τόπος -ου ὁ place, topic
  • τρόπος -ου ὁ way, turn
  • υἱός -οῦ ὁ son
  • φόβος -ου ὁ panic, fear
  • χρόνος -ου ὁ time

Vocabulary List 3

Feminine Nouns

  • ἄνθρωπος -ου ὁ, ἡ human being
  • θεός -οῦ ὁ, ἡ god, goddess
  • νῆσος -ου ἡ island
  • νόσος -ου ἡ disease
  • ὁδός -οῦ ἡ road

Attic Declension Nouns

  • λεώς, λεώ ὁ the people, folk
    • other dialects: λαός -οῦ or ληός -οῦ
  • νεώς, νεώ ὁ temple
    • other dialects: ναός -οῦ or νηός -οῦ

Neuter Nouns

  • ἀργύριον -ου τό money, silver
  • βιβλίον -ου τό book
  • ἔργον -ου τό deed, work
  • ζῷον -ου τό living being, animal
  • ἱερόν -οῦ τό temple
  • ὅπλον -ου τό weapon, tool (mostly pl.)
  • πρόσωπον -ου τό face, mask, person
  • σημεῖον -ου τό sign
  • στάδιον -ου τό (pl. στάδια or στάδιοι) stadion or stade
    • a stade is about 185 meters/202 yards
  • τέκνον -ου τό child
  • χωρίον -ου τό place, spot, district

Exercises

I. Memorize the vocabulary.

II. Decline in full the following nouns:

  1. ὁ θάνατος -ου
  2. ὁ νοῦς, νοῦ
  3. ὁ ποταμός -οῦ
  4. ὁ λεώς, λεώ
  5. τὸ ζῷον -ου

III. For the following noun forms, 1). Give the proper form of its article(s), and 2). Change to its opposite number (singular to plural, plural to singular).

For example: κίνδυνος (answer: ὁ /οἱ κίνδυνοι)

  1. στάδια
  2. νεῴ
  3. ἀνθρώπων
  4. τόπῳ
  5. τέκνον
  6. νόσους
  7. δῆμον
  8. βιβλίου
  9. ἀριθμούς
  10. ἥλιοι

Readings

LXX Psalm 1: AGE Ch. 20.

 

License

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Second Declension Nouns by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.