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23.1 Forms of Comparatives and Superlatives

Of the three degrees of comparison of adjectives denoting a quality (positive, comparative, and superlative) we have only been using, aside from a few exceptions noted in the vocabulary, the positive degree.  This is the straightforward application of an adjective:  κοῦφος, η, ον = light,  σοφός, ή, όν = wise.


The comparative degree pairs two nouns to which such an adjective applies, X and Y.  For a comparison of equality or inferiority the adjective does not change its ending:  X is as ... as Y, or less ... than Y.  For a comparison of superiority, however (which is what the "comparative degree" refers to) both in English and in Greek, some adjectives add a suffix.  In English only monosylabic adjectives add the suffix -er:  light-er, wis-er, while adjectives of more than one syllable must resort to adverbs such as "more":  more difficult.  In both languages the term of comparison (the Y element) is usually expressed.  In English we articulate it as "... than Y."  

 In Greek the comparative suffix,  -ότερος, α, ον  creates a Τype 1 adjective.  It should be added to the stem of the adjective minus the vowel stem:

κουφ-ότερος, α, ον = lighter 

The ending  -ώτερος, α, ον should be used when the syllable preceding the suffix is short, as in   σοφ-

σοφ-ώτερος, α, ον = wiser.


A superlative assigns the quality expressed by the adjective in a very high degree (absolute superlative: very light or wise) or in the highest degree with reference to a class or group (relative superlative: the lightest or wisest of all).  In English the suffix -est is used only for the second type.  In Greek the superlative suffix is used for both.  Again,

The superlative suffix,- -ότατος, η, ον  creates a Τype 1 adjective.  It should be added to the stem of the adjective minus the vowel stem:

κουφ-ότατος, η, ον = very light, the lightest

The ending  -ώτατος, η, ον  should be used when the syllable preceding the suffix is short, as in  σοφ- :

σοφ-ώτατος, η, ον = very wise, the wisest


Adjectives of the 3rd declension offer some peculiarities:


positive degree



    εὐδαίμων, εὔδαιμον

   εὐδαιμον-έστερος, α, ον

   εὐδαιμον-έστατος, η, ον

     ἀληθής, ἀληθές

   ἀληθ-έστερος, α, ον

   ἀληθ-έστατος, η, ον


You will become familiar with irregular comparatives and superlatives as you further your reading and increase your vocabulary.  Here are some examples   

Irregular comparatives and superlatives


The following tend to have these

irregular comparative forms

irregular superlative forms

Adjectives ending in  -ύς. Example:

 ἡδύς, ἡδεῖα, ἡδύ = sweet

   ἡδίων, ἥδιον 1 = sweeter

  ἥδιστος, η, ον = sweetest

Adjectives ending in  -ρός. Example:

 αἰσχρός, ά, όν = ugly, shameful

 αἰσχίων, αἴσχιον 1  = uglier, more shameful

 αἴσχιστος, η, ον = ugliest, most shameful



Comparatives and superlatives based on a different stem:


Adjectives that tend to have an irregular comparative and superlative based on a different stem (compare with English better, worse, etc.  All these comparatives decline as in the Note below.  When there is more than one sequence of comparatives and superlatives for a given positive, there are shades of meaning that you will learn best in practice.  

 ἀγαθός, ή, όν

 βελτίων, βέλτιον

 ἀμείνων,  ἄμεινον

 κρείσσων, κρεῖσσον

 βέλτιστος, η, ον

 ἄριστος, η, ον

 κράτιστος, η, ον

  καλός, ή, όν

 καλλίων, κάλλιον

 κάλλιστος, η, ον

  μέγας, μεγάλη, μέγα

 μείζων, μεῖζον

 μέγιστος, η, ον

  πολύς, πολλή, πολύ

 πλείων /πλέων, πλεῖον / πλέον

 πλεῖστος, η, ον


Declined as εὐδαίμων, εὔδαιμον  (see 11.5 ), but it has some alternative contracted forms: ἡδίω, Acc masc/fem sg as well as Nom, Acc, and Voc neuter pl, ἡδίους, Nom and Acc masc/fem pl.