I have just learned that the suffix "escu" in a Romanian name means "son of." But it seems that the "u" is a common ending in all Romanian words. Does that one letter have a meaning?

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    The Romanian -escu is the equivalent of the French -esque, German -isch, and English -ish. Saying that it means son of (in Romanian) is as misleading as saying the same for all other suffixes mentioned above.
    – Lucian
    Nov 21 '14 at 5:21
  • @Lucian - It may also be considered the equivalent of the Italian names ending in -eschi (Tedeschi, Brunelleschi).
    – cipricus
    Jul 13 at 14:33

I don't think that the -u has a particular meaning in Romanian, unless in Rumanian it works to signal a particular ending, such as the masculine ending, but there's no mention about this ending on the article for Romanian grammar. Rather, I'd say it's simply what "survived" from the Latin endings (e.g. -us, -um). I tried to look for some resources but didn't find much. In any case I think you could look at The Romance Languages by Martin Harris, or The Romance Languages by Rebecca Posner.

The suffix "-escu" in Rumanian's names comes from the Latin "-iscus".

In any case, Romanian is not the only one that still has this heritage: Sardinian and Sicilian are other two examples that clearly still possess these endings.

These three languages are the only ones that kept the endings in -u1, while other Romance languages had changes. For example, italian changed the endings to -o. Romance languages are more or less far from Latin. You can see a comparison with the verb to sing, in the Proposed divisions section on the wikipedia article for Romance Languages.

Let's see a comparison for the verb "to enter":

║   ║  Latin   ║ Italian  ║ Sardinian ║ Romanian ║ English   ║
║   ║ Intrare  ║ Entrare  ║ Intrare   ║ A intra  ║ To Enter  ║
║ 1 ║ intro    ║ entro    ║ intro     ║ intru    ║ enter     ║
║ 2 ║ intras   ║ entri    ║ intrasa   ║ intri    ║ enter     ║
║ 3 ║ intrat   ║ entra    ║ intrata   ║ intră    ║ enters    ║
║ 4 ║ intramus ║ entriamo ║ intramusu ║ intrăm   ║ enter     ║
║ 5 ║ intratis ║ entrate  ║ intradese ║ intrați  ║ enter     ║
║ 6 ║ intrant  ║ entrano  ║ intrana   ║ intră    ║ enter     ║

1: see comments. Also other Romance languages possess this ending but not orthographically, just phonetically.

  • 1
    Sorry, I tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but didn't find much information. I wanted to back up what I know from my experience, but there isn't much out there. Hope to find something in the future. If someone wants to fix or let me know possible mistakes, please do!
    – Alenanno
    Apr 17 '12 at 18:19
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    Portuguese and Occitan also have endings in /u/ but this is not orthographically indicated. E.g Pt "entro" /ẽtɾu/; Occ (Alpine-Provencal) "intro" /intru/ Apr 17 '12 at 20:51
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    By the way - nice job on the table format. Apr 17 '12 at 22:52
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    @MarkBeadles I used this tool. It looks better there, though. I have to use the Code here and so it comes out with those spaces. :)
    – Alenanno
    Apr 17 '12 at 22:55
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    Portuguese paradigm is nearly identical to Spanish orthographically entro/entras/entra/entramos/entrais/entram but pronunciation is ẽtɾu/ẽtɾɐʃ/ẽtɾɐ/ẽtɾamuʃ/ẽtɾɐiʃ/ẽtɾɐ̃ũ/ with u phonemes (nasal and oral) in 1sg/1pl/3pl Apr 17 '12 at 23:34

As mentioned in Wikipedia article, ul is the definite article for (many) masculine and neuter nouns. E.g. cal-->calul i.e. horse-->the horse.
Commonly and informally, ul is reduced to u.

  • I think the OP was talking about vocabulary and orthography whereas this answer is specifically about pronunciation. I'm still voting it up though because the original question was too brief and thus allows this as a good answer. Aug 2 '13 at 6:12
  • Commonly and informally in speaking and writing, though yes, more common in speaking
    – Theta30
    Aug 2 '13 at 18:04
  • @hippietrail - considering pronunciation is the only way of making sense of the question, otherwise the question would have been why so many words end in "L".
    – cipricus
    Nov 19 '19 at 11:24
  • That definite article is not always ul, but also just l. One could say that the essential form is l, because u is added only when the noun ends with a consonant (because the musicality of the language, the facility of pronunciation demands it). On the other hand, as most such nouns do end in a consonant, the ul article is the most frequent.
    – cipricus
    Nov 19 '19 at 11:29
  • ul is reduced to u not only commonly and informally, but because otherwise it would sound wrong. Because this fact is not clearly enunciated as a rule in school, the written language induced people to start pronouncing more and more the final L, but even so the normal speech tends to de-emphasize L in favor of U as much as possible.
    – cipricus
    Jul 13 at 14:39

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