Is there a rule for the movement of the "r" to the end of the word? Or is it moreso that there was some kind of intrusive "e" that separated the "-gr-" to form "-ger"?

3 Answers 3


The development is the result of:

  • syncope of *-gros to *-grs (with syllabic r, sometimes transcribed as *r̥ following a non-IPA convention). In Latin, the Proto-Italic sequences *-ros, *-ris often show syncope of the vowel after *r, with the r becoming syllabic when preceded by a consonant (as in caper) but not when preceded by a vowel (as in vir, vesper).

followed by

  • loss of word-final s after r (most likely by assimilation *rs > *rz > *rr, followed by simplification of word-final *rr to /r/; for comparison, word-medial *rs became /rr/, as in terra)

  • vowel epenthesis that ultimately turned *r̥ into /er/.

I'm not sure about the ordering of the two last bullets.

See the following posts on Latin SE:

Further reading:


Note that Latin ager inflects as agri, agro, agrum, agro (in the singular), so the transformation of the ending is specific to the nominative singular. It is a regular development of Latin, that *Crus becomes Cer.


Most sound changes don't have specific names.

A relevant point of comparison here is puer < *ph₂weros. This suggests that the masculine nominative singular thematic ending -os (as well as the vocative -e) was lost first, suggesting an intermediate form *agr which violates Latin phonotactics and so required the insertion of a vowel to make it legal. In most such instances Latin has i or u for epenthetic vowels, it seems likely that the choice of e here was influenced by some combination of analogy to puer (and similar words), the fact that an e already appears in the usual vocative ending, or some sort of vowel-colouring from the r (-ir and -ur being pretty unusual in Latin).

  • Are there any instances of epenthetic i or u before r? None come to mind, though I haven't gone looking. In fact I think -ir and -ur are pretty rare (apart from the passive of verbs, of course).
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 15, 2021 at 10:11
  • good point! I'll add that there may be some colouring from the r
    – Tristan
    Oct 15, 2021 at 10:11
  • 3
    Note also that short vowel reduction in Latin produced /i/ in most environments but /e/ before /r/: caperis, capitur. So coloring from the /r/ is very likely.
    – Draconis
    Oct 15, 2021 at 17:09

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