The six cases of nouns


Used for the subject of the verb. The subject is the person or thing doing the verb.
For example:

vidua laborat – the widow works.

‘the widow’ is the subject, as she is doing the verb (working). ‘the widow’ is in the nominative case.


Used to call or address someone or something.

For example:

O Maria! – Oh Mary!
O domina! – Oh lady!
O regina! – Oh queen!

The vocative case is usually the same as the nominative.

The second declension masculine has a vocative case that is different from the nominative, which takes ‘-e’ or ‘-i’.

For example:

O domine! – Oh Lord!
O Georgii! – Oh George!

Not all parts of speech have a vocative case.


Used for the object of a verb. The object is the person or thing the verb is done to.

For example:

domina cartam confirmat – The lady confirms the charter.

The verb (‘confirms’) is being done to ‘the charter’ – therefore ‘the charter’ is in the accusative.

The accusative is also used after some prepositions.


Used for nouns that are ‘of’ something else and to show possession (who something belongs to).

For example:

terra ecclesie – The land of the church.

‘of the church’ is in the genitive.

filie vidue – The widow’s daughters. (Literally: the daughters of the widow).

‘of the widow’ is in the genitive.


Used for nouns that are to or for something.

For example:

terram ecclesie do – I give land to the church.

The verb is ‘I give’ (do). ‘land’ is the object – it is in the accusative. ecclesie, meaning ‘to the church’, is in the dative.

solvimus decem solidos carte – We pay 10 shillings for a charter.

‘for a charter’ is in the dative.


Used for nouns that are by, with or from something.

For example:

papa ecclesiam carta confirmat – The pope confirms the church by a charter.

‘by a charter’ is in the ablative case.

The ablative case is also used after some prepositions.

First declension nouns

First declension nouns end ‘-a’ in the nominative singular and are feminine.

carta, -e (f.) charter
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative -a -e carta carte
Vocative -a -e carta carte
Accusative -am -as cartam cartas
Genitive -e -arum carte cartarum
Dative -e -is carte cartis
Ablative -a -is carta cartis

filia, -e (f.) daughter and anima, -e (f.) soul have different endings from carta in the dative and ablative plural. The example of filia is given below; anima declines with the same endings.

Case Singular Plural
Nominative filia filie
Vocative filia filie
Accusative filiam filias
Genitive filie filiarum
Dative filie filiabus
Ablative filia filiabus

There are a few first declension nouns that are masculine.

  • agricola, -e (m.) farmer
  • parsona, -e (m.) parson
  • papa, -e (m.) pope
  • Thomas, -e (m.) Thomas

These take the same endings as carta.

Second declension nouns

Second declension nouns ending

  • ‘-us’, ‘-ir’ and ‘-er’ are masculine
  • ‘-um’ are neuter

Masculine ‘-us’ ending

dominus, –i (m.) man
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative -us -i dominus domini
Vocative -e -i domine domini
Accusative -um -os dominum dominos
Genitive -i -orum domini dominorum
Dative -o -is domino dominis
Ablative -o -is domino dominis

This is the only case when the nominative is different from the vocative.

Look out for the following irregularities:

deus, -i (m.) God has the irregular vocative singular deus.

Male names that end ‘-ius’ in the nominative, end ‘-i’ in the vocative.

For example:

Gregorius, -i (m.) – Gregory
Gregorii! – Oh Gregory!

Masculine ‘er’ ending

1. magister, magistri (m.) master: This loses its ‘e’ when it is declined. faber declines like magister.

Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative various -i magister magistri
Vocative same as nominative -i magister magistri
Accusative -um -os magistrum magistros
Genitive -i -orum magistri magistrorum
Dative -o -is magistro magistris
Ablative -o -is magistro magistris

2. puer, pueri (m.) boy: This keeps its ‘e’ when it is declined. armiger declines like puer.

Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative various -i puer pueri
Vocative same as nominative -i puer pueri
Accusative -um -os puerum pueros
Genitive -i -orum pueri puerorum
Dative -o -is puero pueris
Ablative -o -is puero pueris

Masculine ‘ir’ ending

The only second declension noun ending ‘-ir’ is vir, viri (m.) man, husband

Case Singular Plural
Nominative vir viri
Vocative vir viri
Accusative virum viros
Genitive viri virorum or virum
Dative viro viris
Ablative viro viris

Neuter ‘-um’ ending

testamentum , –i (n.) will
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative -um -a testamentum testamenta
Vocative -um -a testamentum testamenta
Accusative -um -a testamentum testamenta
Genitive -i -orum testamenti testamentorum
Dative -o -is testamento testamentis
Ablative -o -is testamento testamentis

Third declension nouns

Third declension nouns end ‘-is’ in the genitive singular.

Unlike the first and second declension nouns, you cannot identify third declension nouns in the nominative because they

  • have a variety of forms and spelling
  • have endings that do not reveal their gender
  • can be masculine, feminine or neuter

To decline a third declension noun:

  • Find the genitive singular, which always ends in ‘-is’
  • Remove the ‘-is’, leaving you with the stem
  • Add the endings shown below

Masculine and Feminine

rex, regis (m.) king
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative various -es rex reges
Vocative same as nominative -es
rex reges
Accusative -em -es regem reges
Genitive -is -um regis regum
Dative -i -ibus regi regibus
Ablative -e -ibus rege regibus


jusjuris (n.) law, right
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative various -a jus jura
Vocative same as nominative -a jus jura
Accusative same as nominative -a jus jura
Genitive -is -um juris jurum
Dative -i -ibus juri juribus
Ablative -e -ibus jure juribus

The endings for rex and jus are the same in the genitive, dative and ablative.


There are many exceptions to these rules for third declension nouns. It is not possible to list them all here. We’d like to draw your attention to the following, which you are likely to find in typical historical documents.

Some third declension nouns have the genitive plural ending ‘-ium’. This happens in

  • nouns that have the same number of syllables in the genitive and nominative singular
  • some nouns that have a syllable more in the genitive singular than in the nominative singular

For example:

  • pars, partis (f.) part
  • clavis, clavis (f.) key
  • navis, navis (f.) ship
  • pons, pontis( m.) bridge

Other nouns that have the genitive plural ending ‘-ium’ include

civis, civis(m.) citizen
Case Singular Plural
Nominative civis cives
Vocative civis cives
Accusative civem cives
Genitive civis civium
Dative civi civibus
Ablative cive civibus

If a noun has an irregular genitive plural, it will be noted in the word list.

Neuter nouns that end ‘-ium’ in the genitive plural

  • end ‘-i’ in the ablative singular
  • end ‘-ia’ in the nominative, vocative and accusative plural

For example

mare, maris (n.) sea
Case Singular Plural
Nominative mare maria
Vocative mare maria
Accusative mare maria
Genitive maris marium
Dative mari maribus
Ablative mari or mare maribus

The following third declension nouns decline like mare

  • animal, animalis (n.) animal
  • calcar, calcaris (n.) spur

An irregular third declension noun is turris, turris (f.) tower

Case Singular Plural
Nominative turris turres
Vocative turris turres
Accusative turrim turris or turres
Genitive turris turrium
Dative turri turribus
Ablative turri turribus

When using documents from medieval England, you will often see the phrase turris Londinii – the Tower of London

Fourth declension nouns

Fourth declension nouns ending ‘-us’ are masculine, apart from manus and domus which are feminine. Fourth declension nouns ending ‘-u’ are neuter.

redditus, -us (m.) rent
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative us -us redditus redditus
Vocative us -us redditus redditus
Accusative um -us redditum redditus
Genitive -us -uum redditus reddituum
Dative -ui -ibus redditui redditibus
Ablative -u -ibus redditu redditibus

An important irregular noun is

domus, -us (f.) house
Case Singular Plural
Nominative domus domus
Vocative domus domus
Accusative domum domos or domus
Genitive domus domuum or domorum
Dative domui domiibus
Ablative domo domiibus
genu, -us (n.) knee
Case Singular Plural
Nominative genu genua
Vocative genu genua
Accusative genu genua
Genitive genus genuum
Dative genu geniibus
Ablative genu geniibus

Fifth declension nouns

These are feminine. The exception is dies, which is usually masculine when singular and always masculine when plural.

res, rei (f.) a thing
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative -es -es res res
Vocative -es -es res res
Accusative -em -es rem res
Genitive -ei -erum rei rerum
Dative -ei -ebus rei rebus
Ablative -e -ebus re rebus
dies, -i (m.) day
Case Singular Plural
Nominative dies dies
Vocative dies dies
Accusative diem dies
Genitive diei dierum
Dative diei diebus
Ablative die diebus