An Introduction to Ecthlipsis

Ecthlipsis— (also known as “elision”, etymologically from Greek ‘ek,’ “out” and ‘thlibein,’ “to rub”), refers to the omission of a syllableOpens in new window ending with M, when immediately followed by a word that begins with a vowelOpens in new window or diphthongOpens in new window; usually to enhance a poetical meterOpens in new window.

In some cases, ecthlipsis absorbs two syllables contracted by synaeresisOpens in new window, as in Consilium and Principium. Sometimes also, by the aid of synapheia, it devours a redundant syllableOpens in new window at the end of a verseOpens in new window, especially when the next line begins with a vowelOpens in new window, and without intervention by a long pause.

Poets of ancient times often took ecthlipsis to the extreme by omitting also the final S before a vowel, with the loss of a syllable, and before a consonantOpens in new window, without the loss of a syllable; as:

  • Vicimus, o socii! et magnam pugnavimu’ pugnam. — (Ennius)
  • Deblaterat plenus bonu’ rusticu’; concinit una. — (Lucilius)

As rightly observed, by CiceroOpens in new window, in his “Orator”, this omission or elision practically occurs chiefly in short syllables, even though it still occurs occasionally with long syllables, as Multi’ modis, Vas’ argenteis, Palmis et crinibus, Tectis fractis. — (Cicero, Orator, 45.)

Further Readings:
Silver Rhetoricae: EcthlipsisOpens in new window
Latin prosody made easy: The 4th ed. with the poetic treatise of Terentianus Maurus | By John Carey EcthlipsisOpens in new window
Latin Exercises: Adapted to Andrews and Stoddard's Latin Grammar | By Ethan Allen Andrews Synalaepha And EcthlipsisOpens in new window