Bk 1. xxxi. De differentiis

(detail) Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer / Cod. Bodmer 92 f.7v

ISIDORE’S  ‘De differentiis verborum’ and ‘De Differentiis rerum’

Similar in its general character to the “Etymologiae” is a work entitled “Libri duo differentiarum”. The two books of which it is composed are entitled respectively, “De differentiis verborum” and “De differentiis rerum”. The former is a dictionary of synonyms, treating of the differences of words with considerable erudition, and not a little ingenuity; the latter an exposition of theological and ascetical ideas, dealing in particular with the Trinity and with the Divine and human nature of Christ.  It suggests, and probably was inspired by, a similar work of Cato’s.  It is supplementary to the first two books of the “Etymologiae”

The [old] Catholic Encyclopaedia (1914)

.. which adds that Isidore’s  “Synonyma”.. ” … or, as it is sometimes called on account of its peculiar treatment, “Liber lamentationum”, is in a manner illustrative of the first book of the “Differentiae”.

In that passage, the  ‘ -verborum’ is said to be etymological, and the ‘-rerum’  theological, yet one sometimes finds those descriptions reversed, e,g,:

‘De Differentiis s. De Proprietate Verborum’ is in two parts, of which the first is less purely grammatical than the remainder, since it treats chiefly of the precise meaning of various theological terms, many of which involve abstruse questions of doctrine. The second part is borrowed in great measure from Agroetius and other old writers upon the same subject. This treatise does not appear to have been ever printed in a separate form, but will be found in editions of the collected works.

MIRABILE lists the copies in extant manuscripts as:

  • ‘De differentiis’  aka ‘De Proprietate Verborum’ [HERE]
  • De differentiis rerum (Differentiae theologicae vel spiritales) [Inter Deum] [HERE]
  •  The biography for Isidore in the New Catholic Encyclopaedia has been transcribed by Toletanus.  [HERE]




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