I took a course in diachronic linguistics during my MA, but it focused on grammaricalizations in English so I’m not at all versed in etymology of Romance Languages. To me, however, it seems more intuitive for a Romance language like Romanian to have as source for their most used verb depicting the act of loving (a iubi, to love) come from Latin (iubeo, to move, command) which is its stratum, and NOT Slavic (lubiti, to love), which is one of its adstratum.

Can someone explain to me how likely it is, given the chronological factor, that a word from the adstratum would become the defacto word for love in a language when an alternative in the stratum is available?

  • 6
    Why does the shift "command" → "love" seem more plausible than a straightforward "love" → "love"?
    – Draconis
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 18:01
  • 8
    But also, is iubeoa iubi actually sound under Latin to Romanian sound shift rules? I think that should generally be the primary factor taken into account @Draconis, before even the shift in meaning... if the Slavic root plausibly turns into the Romanian word but the Latin word doesn't, then it doesn't...
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 18:38
  • There's also dragoste. Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 4:10
  • 1
    @LjL That sounds like a legitimate answer you should make for the OP.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 20:37
  • @Mitch I don't think so... not unless I can actually name the sound shift rules involved and reach a conclusion. Sometimes people seem to think better of my comments than I do myself :-)
    – LjL
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 22:43

3 Answers 3


The Latin-Romanian sound correspondences exclude any possibility for the Romanian iubi 'to love' to be a descendant of the Latin iubeō (iubēre, iussī, iussum) 'command, order'.

Latin ē/oe and i became Romanian /e/:

Front vowels changed as follows:

• ē/oe and i became /e/.
• ī became /i/.
e/ae became:
• /ɛ/ in stressed syllables
• /e/ in unstressed syllables

Subsequent to this, stressed /ɛ/ diphthongized to /je/.

Lat. pellem > *pɛlle > Rom. piele /pjele/ ('skin')
Lat. signum > *semnu > Rom. semn ('sign')
Lat. vīnum > *vinu > Rom. vin ('wine')

Note, different Latin vowels became Romanian /e/ or /ɛ/, but there are no instances of Latin e/ē becoming Romanian /i/.

What do we see in our words iubeō (iubēre, iussī, iussum) and iubi? The Latin verb is of the 2nd declension, that is the -ē- declension. In the 1st p. sg. present iubeō the -ē- is shortened before another vowel (o), in the active infinitive iubēre it is long as it should be. Also, it is long in other forms whenever it is possible.

On the other hand, the Romanian verb belongs to the -i declension and we see that i in all the forms of the verb whenever it is possible (the personal suffixes -esc, -ești, and -ește are added only to the verbs in -i most of which correspond to the Latin verbs with infinitives in -īre). The verbal noun from iubi is iubire.

The final -i in a Romanian infinitive can develop only from i, Romanian i cannot appear from an older e, this means iubi cannot be a descendant of the Latin iubeō, the best candidate for the source of iubi is the Slavic lubiti which has the stem lubi- in all the Slavic languages.

  • Why not a mixed etymology? Iubere (noun, vocative) could have been, pre slavic influence, a way to signify the object of someone's authority, the linguistic tool to boss people around, which, later, through contact with the slavic iubiti, could have transitioned into being Iubire (noun, vocative), the way to address the object of your affection in present-day Romanian. Also, based on my dissertation, the Romanian conjugation system you are citing (the classic one) does not actually reflect the data so I would not rely on it to tell me what Latin vowels turned into in Romanian. Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 4:29

Besides the rather large semantic shift from "to command" to "to love", there is another argument against the derivation of Romanian iubi from Latin iubeo: Latin iubeo is an irregular verb having the perfect iussi and the past participle iussum. If this verb is continuated in Romanian, one would expect a continuation of the principle parts as well. On the other hand, a regular verb paradigm is expected for a borrowed verb.

  • 1
    I don't normally correct people's English, but I think you may be misunderstood. I think you mean "if" (= "wenn") rather than "when" (="als").
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 11:44
  • I honestly find the shift from being moved (by someone) to loving someone not that big. The problem remains in terms of explaining the phonological shifts and the regularity of the Romanian verb vs. the Latin one. Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 20:24

It is a very difficult question, because it is difficult to know exactly what was happening at the time to trigger such things without many proofs. I would say that it was probably a way the slavic people found more pleasant to say "I love you" insted of using a latin word, supposing a "pidgin-like" contact. Romans may have spread their language, but some traces of both substratum and adstratum can remain by, let's call it, "popular use".

Also, it would be more probable if they used latin verb "amō" rather than "iubeō". The semantic shift there is much bigger than the slavic etymon. However, they didn't, so, by now, we can only guess.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.