List of Latin phrases

This page provides English translations of less common Latin phrases (i.e., not always found in dictionaries), some of which are themselves translations from Greek.

Note that the difference between phrases and proverbs is often subjective. Please use this test to see whether a Latin sentence is a phrase or proverb: If the sentence is an old yet common saying that expresses some practical truth, then it is probably a proverb. If it is in the form of an incomplete sentence or does not contain some practical truth, then it is probably a phrase.


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

;A pedibus usque ad caput

"From feet to head."
;Ab initio
"From the beginning"
;Absit omen
"May the presentiment not become real or take place"
;
Ab urbe condita or Anno urbis conditae, abbreviated A.U.C
"from the founding of the city" (of Rome); 753 B.C, according to Livy's count; used as a reference point by the Romans for establishing dates, as we use A.D. today.

;A bene placito
"at your pleasure"
;Ad Calendas Graecas
"To the Greek Kalends", i.e. "to a date that does not (or will not) exist" (Emperor Augustus, in Suetonius, in the sense of "never" - Kalends were part of the Roman calendar, not of the Greek, so it is used of a false or unlikely promise)
;Ad captandum vulgus
"To appeal to the crowd" -- often used of politicians who make false or insincere promises appealing to popular interest.
;Ad hoc
"For a particular purpose (improvised, made up in an instant)"
;Ad hominem
"To the man", meaning 1) an argument designed to appeal to personal interest rather than objective fact; 2) an argument criticizing one's opponent rather than his ideas.
;Ad interim
"in the meantime", as in the term "chargé d'affaires ad interim" for a diplomatic officer who acts in place of an ambassador
;Ad infinitum
"to infinity", going on forever
;Ad libitum (ad lib)
"Freely; at ease", just ramble
;Ad majorem Dei gloriam
"to the greater glory of God"
;Ad multos annos
"To many years!", i.e. "Many happy returns!"
;Ad nauseam
"to the point of nausea"
;Ad valorem
"by the value", e.g. ad valorem tax
;Advocatus Diaboli
"The Devil's advocate"
;Aegri somnia
"Troubled dreams"
;Alea iacta est
"The die is cast" (Julius Caesar in Suetonius uses it as an imperative "Alea jacta esto": "Let the die be cast")
;Alma mater
"nourishing mother" - used for the university one has attended
;Alter ego
"Another self" - usually refers to a pseudonym but can refer to another person.
;A mari usque ad mare
"From sea to sea" - motto of Canada
;Amicus curiae
'Friend of the court" (adviser), a person who can obtain or grant access to the favour of powerful people (like Romana curia). In current US legal usage, a brief submitted to the court by a third party.
;Anno Domini
"In the year of the lord", often abbreviated A.D. - denotes the era after the birth of Jesus Christ, also called the Common Era
;Ante litteram
"before the letter", a qualifier for an expression when applied to something that existed before the expression itself was introduced or became common. For example, one could say that Alan Turing was a computer scientist ante litteram, since the profession of "computer scientist" was not recognised in Turing's day.
;Ante meridiem (a.m.)
"Before noon" -- in the period from midnight to noon
;Ars gratia artis
"Art for art's sake" (motto of MGM)
;Ars longa, vita brevis
"Art is long, life is short". This is the Latin translation by Horace of a phrase from Hippocrates, and is often used out of context. The art referred to in the original aphorism was the craft of medicine, which took a lifetime to acquire.
;Aurea mediocritas
"Golden Mean" (in Horace, Odi, an ethical goal)
;Aut vincere aut mori
"Death or victory"
;Ave atque vale
"Hail and farewell!"


B

;Bona fide

"In good faith"
;Bonum commune hominis
"Common good of man"
;Bonum commune communitatis
"General welfare"


C

;Cacoethes scribendi

"An insatiable urge (literally 'a bad habit') to write." From Juvenal.
;Carpe diem
"Seize the day" (Horace to Leuconoe: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero, take hold of the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow)
;Casus belli
"an event that causes or justifies war"
;Caveat emptor
"Let the buyer beware", i.e. the onus of responsibility is on the purchaser of goods.
;Caveat venditor
"Let the seller beware", i.e. the seller of goods is responsible for providing information about the goods to the purchaser
;Cave canem
"Beware of the dog"
;Ceterum censeo
"In conclusion, I think that..."
;Cetera desunt
"The rest is missing"
;Ceteris paribus :
"All other relevant things being equal"
;Christus Rex :
"Christ the King"
;Circa
"About, approximately, around", e.g. of a date: "Jesus Christ was actually born circa 6 B.C."
;Cogito ergo sum
"I think, therefore I am" (René Descartes)
;Compos mentis
"Of sound mind" (sometimes used rather humorously)
;Conditio sine qua non
"Condition without which not", or "indispensable condition".
;Confoederatio Helvetica (CH)
"Helvetian Confederation" -- the official name of Switzerland and the source of the ISO_3166-1_alpha-2 country code and Top-level_domain "ch"
;Corpus Christi
"Body of Christ"
;Corpus delicti
"body of the crime" - the body of facts that prove a crime
;Corpus vile
"A person or thing fit only to be the object of an experiment
;Credo quia absurdum
"I believe it because it is absurd." -- Tertullian
;Cura te ipsum
"Cure thyself"
;Cui bono
"Whom does it benefit?" - a maxim sometimes used in the detection of crime.
;Cui prodest
"Whom does it benefit?" (short form for cui prodest scelus, is fecit in Seneca's Medea - the murderer is the one who gains by the murder)
;Cuius regio, eius religio
"He who rules, his religion"
;Cum grano salis
"With a grain of salt" (just a bit of wise attention)
;Curriculum vitae
"course of life" - a résumé


D

;Damnant quod non intellegunt

"They condemn what they do not understand."
;
De facto
"in fact", "in practice"
;De gustibus non disputandum est
"there is no disputing matters of taste"
;De jure
"by law"
;De minimis non curat praetor (or rex or lex)
"The authority" (or "king", or "law") "does not care about trivial things"
;De novo
"Anew"
;Deus ex machina
"A contrived or artificial solution" (literally, "a god from a machine"). Refers to the practice in Greek drama of letting Zeus resolve awkward plots when a mechanical device would lower an actor playing Zeus onto the stage near the end of a play, as though he were descending from Olympus.)
;Deus vult!
"God wills it!" (Slogan of the Crusades)
;Divide et impera
"Divide and govern", attributed to Philip II of Macedonia and meaning that if you encourage rivalries and jealousies among your people, you will rule them more easily
;Dominus Illuminatio Mea
"The Lord is my light" (the motto of Oxford University).
;Dum spiro, spero
"As long as I breathe, I hope"
;Dura lex, sed lex
"The law is harsh, but it is the law"


E

;E pluribus unum

"From many, one" - the motto of the USA.
;Ecce homo
"Behold the man!" -- in the Latin translation of the Gospel of John these words are spoken by Pilate as he presents Christ crowned with thorns to the crowd.
;Emeritus
"Honorary; by merit"
;Esto perpetua
"Let it be everlasting" -- used by the historian Fra Paolo Sarpi of his native Venice.
;Et alii
"And others", often written et al. (Alii strictly means "male others", but is also used for groups of men and women; et aliae is used when the "others" are all female.)
;Et cetera
"And the other ones", also abbreviated as etc. or &c. (nowadays used for "and the rest")
;Et in Arcadia ego
"I, also, am in Arcadia" (See memento mori)
;Et tu, Brute
"And thou, Brutus?" This is an accurate quotation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. He renders as Latin in an English play what was originally quoted as Greek spoken by a Roman. Plutarch quotes Caesar as saying, "Kai su, teknon?", Greek for "You too, my child?" Greek would have been the language of Rome's elite at the time. It is unlikely that Caesar actually said these words.
;Ex animo
"From the heart" (sincerely)
;Ex ante
"Before the event, beforehand" (economics: based on prior assumptions)
;Ex Cathedra
"From the chair" -- a phrase applied to the Pope when he is speaking infallibly and, by extension, to others who speak with supreme authority or arrogance.
;Excelsior
"Ever upward"
;Exempli gratia
"For the sake of example" or just "for example." Often abbreviated as e.g.
;Exeunt
See exit.
;Ex hypothesi
"from the hypothesis" (i.e. the one under consideration)
;Exit
"he / she leaves;" Exeunt omnes: they all leave
;Ex libris...
"From the books (library) of..."
;Ex nihilo
"From nothing" -- Jewish, Christian, and Muslim tradition holds that God created the universe from nothing.
;Ex nihilo nihil fit
"Nothing comes from nothing" - you need to work for something
;Ex officio
"From the office" - when someone holds one position by virtue of holding another, e.g. the U.S. vice president is ex officio president of the Senate
;Ex post facto
"After the fact" (also post facto)
;Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus
"Outside the Church [there is] No Salvation" -- a phrase of much disputed significance in Roman Catholic theology.


F

;Fiat justitia (et ruat cælum)

"Let justice be done (though the heavens fall)"
;Fidei Defensor (Fid Def or fd)
"Defender of the Faith" -- a title given to Henry VIII of England by Pope Leo X on October 17, 1521 before Henry became an heresiarch. Appears on all British coins, usually abbreviated.
;Fons et origo
"The wellspring and origin"


G

;Genius loci

"the spirit of the place"
;Gloria in excelsis Deo
"glory to God in the highest"


H

;Habeas corpus

"You must have the body", i.e. you must justify an imprisonment. First two words of the Writ to bring a prisoner to court (Charles II of England, Habeas corpus Act - 1679)and commonly used as the general term for a prisoner's legal right to have the charge against specifically identified
;Habemus papam
"We have a pope" - used at the announcement of a new pope (see conclave)
;Hic jacet...
"Here lies...." -- written on gravestones or tombs.
;Honoris causa (h.c.)
as in "doctorate h.c.", an honorary degree
;Horribile dictu
"Horrible to tell"


I

;Id est

"That is" or sometimes "in this case," depending on the context. Often abbreviated i.e. Example: When celebrating this holiday (i.e. Christmas), always hang a wreath on your door.
;Illegitimi non carborundum
Not an authentic phrase from antiquity. Supposedly a latin version of the English phrase "Don't let the bastards wear you down."
;Imperium in imperio
"An empire within an empire," i.e. a fifth column, a group of people within an nation's territory who owe allegiance to some other leader.
;In absentia
"in the absence" (of a defendant in court)
;Infinitus est numerus stultorum
"Infinite is the number of fools" Ecclesiastes 1:15 (Vulgate)
;In flagrante delicto
"In flaming crime," i.e. "red-handed" -nowadays used when you are in found in a compromising situation with a sexual partner
;In hoc signo vinces
Constantine supposedly saw this in an omen shortly before the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
;In media res
"In or into the middle of a sequence of events" - taken from the poet Horace, this refers to the poetic technique of beginning a narrative poem at a late point in the story, after much action has already taken place. Poems which use this technique inclued the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Paradise Lost.
;In memoriam
"In memory of"
;In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
"In necessary things unity, in doubtful things liberty, in all things charity" -- a theological phrase often misattributed to St Augustine.
;In situ
"In place"; in the original location and environment.
;In toto
"In total" (altogether)
;In vino veritas
"Drink brings out the truth" (literally, "in wine, truth")
;Incredibile dictu
"Incredible to say"
;Ipse dixit
"He, himself, has spoken." Used with reference to the arbitrary assertions of authorities. See appeal to authority
;Ipso facto
"By the fact itself"
;Iunctis viribus
"By united efforts"
;Ius primae noctis
"Right of the first night" - droit de seigneur


L

;Labor omnia vincit

"Labor conquers all"
;Lapsus calami
"A slip of the pen"
;Lapsus linguae
"A slip of the tongue"
;Lapsus memoriae
"Memory lapse"
;Lex talionis
"Law of retaliation" -- cf. Retributive justice, an eye for an eye.
;lorem ipsum
A fragment of Latin from Cicero, used as filler by copy editors.


M

;Magna cum laude

"With great honor"
;Magnum opus
"Masterpiece" (great work); also ironically.
;Mala fide
"In bad faith" -- something which is done fraudulently.
;
Malum in se
"Wrong in itself" a crime that is inherently wrong, as opposed to malum prohibitum.
;Malum prohibitum
"A prohibited wrong" a crime that society decides is wrong for some reason, not inherently evil.
;Mea (maxima) culpa
"By my own (very great) fault" -- used in Christian prayers and confession.
;Memento mori
"Remember that you will die."
;Mirabile dictu
"Wonderful to tell"
;Modus vivendi
"way of life" - an accommodation between disagreeing parties
;Morituri te salutant
"Those who are about to die salute you"
;Multum in parvo
"Much in little" -- e.g. "Latin phrases are often multum in parvo, because they convey much in few words."
;Mutatis mutandis
"The necessary changes having been made."


N

;Nemo me impune lacessit

"No-one provokes me with impunity" -- a famous Scottish motto.
;Nolens (aut) volens
"Willing or not"
;Noli me tangere
"Touch me not" -- according to the Gospel of John, this was said by Christ to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection.
;Non compos mentis or Non compos sui
"Of unsound mind"
;Non sequitur
Statement that doesn't follow logic (Literally, "It does not follow.")
;Non serviam
"I will not serve"
;Nosce te ipsum
"Know thyself"
;Nota bene
"note it well" - an important note
;Novus Ordo Seclorum
"New Order of the Ages"
;Numerus clausus
"closed number"


O

;Oderint dum metuant

"Let them hate, so long as they fear." Attributed by Seneca to the playwright Lucius Accius, and said to be a favourite saying of Caligula's.
;Odi et amo
"I hate (her), and I love (her)." From Catullus
;Odium theologicum
"Theological hatred" -- a special name for the hatred generated in theological disputes.
;Ora et labora
"Pray and work" - Benedictine motto


P

;Pacta sunt servanda

"agreements must be honoured"
;Panem et circenses
"Bread and circuses" - coined by the poet Juvenal, describing all that was needed for the emperors to placate the Roman mob, and today used to describe any public entertainment.
;Parens patriae
"Parent of the country"
;Pari passu
"With equal step" - moving together
;Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus
A line from Horace: "The mountains are in labour, and a ridiculous mouse shall be born" (i.e. much ado about nothing).
;passim
"throughout" - used in proof reading to indicate a correction that should be made globally and will not be noted on every occurrence
;pater familias
"father of the family"
;Pax Americana
"[The] Peace of America" -- a euphemism for the United States of America and its sphere of influence, adapted from Pax Romana (q.v.)
;Pax Britannica
"[The] Peace of Britain" -- a euphemism for the British Empire, adapted from Pax Romana (q.v.)
;Pax Romana
"[The] Peace of Rome" -- a euphemism for the Roman Empire, referring to the imposed peace enjoyed under Roman rule.
;Pax tecum
"Peace be with you (singular)"
;Pax vobiscum
"Peace be with you (plural)"
;Per annum
"Per year"
;Per ardua ad astra or Per aspera ad astra
"Through hardship to the stars," motto of the Royal Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force.
;Per caput, per capita
"Per person" (literally, "by head(s)")
;Per se
"By or in itself, without referring to anything else, intrinsically", see for instance negligence per se
;Perpetuum mobile
something in perpetual motion
;Persona non grata
"Person not wanted". An unwanted or undesirable person. In diplomatic contexts, a person rejected by the government where they have been sent.
;Petitio principii
"begging the question"
;Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
"After this, therefore because of this" (a fallacy).
;Post meridiem (p.m.)
"After noon" -- in the period from noon to midnight
;Post mortem
"after death"
;Primum non nocere
"First, do no harm"
;Principiis obsta
"Resist the beginnings"
;Pro bono publico
"For the public good" - a lawyer's work is said to be pro bono if he does not charge for it.
;Pro rata
"For the rate" (per hour for example)
;Pro tempore
"For the time being"
;Pulvis et umbra sumus
"We are dust and shadow" --- from Horace


Q

;Quære

"(You might) ask. . ." Used to introduce questions, usually rhetorical or tangential questions.
;Quid pro quo
"A thing for a thing", i.e. a favor for a favor.
;Quidnunc? or Quid nunc?
"What now?" As a noun, a quidnunc is a busybody or a gossip.
;Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
A line from Juvenal: "Who will watch the watchmen?"
;Quieta non movere
"Don't move settled things", or: "Don't rock the boat."
;Quod erat demonstrandum, abbreviated as Q.E.D
"that which was to be demonstrated." This abbreviation is often written at the bottom of a completed proof.
;Quo vadis
"Where are you going?" (according to Christian legend, St. Peter meeting Jesus on the Appian way in Rome asked: "Quo vadis, Domine", or "Where goest thou, Lord?")
;Quo vide
"which see". Abbreviated "q.v.". Associated with a term or phrase, it tells the reader to look up the term or phrase elsewhere in the current document or book.


R

;Rara avis

"A rare bird", i.e. an extraodinary or unusual thing (from Juvenal's Satires: rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno, "a rare bird on the earth, and very like a black swan".)
;Regnat populus
"Let the People rule"
;Requiescat in pace (RIP)
"Rest in peace"
;Res ipsa loquitur
"the thing speaks for itself;" a phrase from the common law of torts that means negligence can be inferred from the fact that such an accident happened, without proof of exactly how.
;Rete non tenditur milvio
"The net is not extended to the kite;" Things (of the air) fall where they may.

;Risus abundat in ore stultorum
"Abundant laughs in the mouth of the foolish" - too much hilarity means foolishness
;Rosa rubicundior, lilio candidior, omnibus formosior, semper in te glorior
"Redder than the rose, whiter than the lilies, fairer than everything, I will always glory in thee."


S

;Salus populi suprema lex esto

"Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law." Motto of the American state of Missouri.
;Salva veritate
"With truth preserved"
;Sapere aude
"Dare to be wise"
;Semper fidelis
"Always faithful" -- the motto of the United States Marine Corps
;Semper paratus
"Always prepared"
;Sic
"Thus", "just so". Used to state that quoted material appears exactly that way in the source, usually despite errors of spelling, grammar, usage, or fact.
;Sic semper tyrannis
"Thus always to tyrants". Motto of the American state of Virginia and said to have been shouted by John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
;Sic transit gloria mundi
"Thus passes the glory of the world". A tradition during papal coronations is for a barefoot monk to interrupt the procession three times, holding a burning tow and after it goes out saying "Pater sancte [Holy Father], sic transit gloria mundi" to remind the new Pope that, despite the grand procession, he is still a mortal man.
;Sine anno (sa)
"Without year", used in bibliographies to indicate that the date of publication of a document is unknown.
;Sine loco (sl)
"Without place", used in bibliographies to indicate that the place of publication of a document is unknown.
;Sine nomine (sn)
"Without name", used in bibliographies to indicate that the publisher of a document is unknown.
;SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus)
"[The] Senate and People of Rome" -- the official name of the Roman Republic. The senate was the representative body of the aristocratic class, and people here referred to the non-aristocrats. "SPQR" was carried on battle standards by the Roman Legions.
;Status quo
"Existing state of affairs" (from "statu quo ante", prior or current situation)
;stet
"let it stand" - used as a marginal mark in proof reading to indicated that something deleted should be undeleted
;Sub iudice (or Sub judice)
"under a judge", i.e. a case that cannot be publicly discussed until it is finished.
;Sub poena
"under penalty", i.e. on pain of punishment
;Sub rosa
"under the rose," secretly (a rose was placed above a door to indicate that what was said in the room beyond was not to be repeated outside)
;sui generis
literally meaning of its own gender/genus; in a class of its own
;Sum quod eris
"I am what you will be". A gravestone epitaph to remind the reader of the inevitability of death; the phrase is often completed with the balancing line Fui quod sis (I was what you are).
;Summa cum laude
"With the highest honor"
;Summum bonum
"The supreme good"
;Sunt omnes uno
"They are all one"
;Sutor, ne ultra crepidam
"Cobbler, no further than (your competence on) the sandal". It is said that Greek painter Apelles was one day painting a warrior but he was uncertain on how to render his sandals (crepida). He asked the advice of a cobbler (sutor), but after a time the cobbler started offering advice on other parts of the painting and was rebuked by Apelles with this phrase (but in Greek).


T

;Tabula rasa

"Blank slate"; literally "a scraped slate" (Romans used to write on wax tablets, easy to erase). John Locke used the term to describe the human mind at birth before it had acquired any knowledge.
;Terra firma
"Solid ground"
;Terra incognita
"Unknown land"
;Tu autem
"You, also." (See memento mori)
;Tu fui, ego eris
"What you are, I was. What I am, you will be." (Literally: "I was you. You will be me.") This is found on graves and burial sites. The meaning is that the dead were once living, and the living will eventually die.

U

;Ubi mel ibi apes

"Where honey, there bees", i.e., if you want support, you must offer something in return.
;Ubi revera or Ubi re vera
"When, in reality..."
;Ultima ratio
"last reason" - the last resort
;Urbi et orbi
"to the city [Rome] and to the globe" - a blessing of the pope


V

;Vade mecum

"Come with me." A vade-mecum is an item one carries around, especially a handbook.
;Vae Victis
"Woe to the conquered"
;Veni, vidi, vici
"I came, I saw, I conquered" (Julius Caesar sent a message to the Roman senate which consisted only of these three words. It referred to his campaign against the King of Pontus)
;Via
"By way of"
;Via media
"Middle path", often used of the Church of England, which was said to be a via media between the errors of Roman Catholicism and extreme Protestantism.
;Vice versa
"A reverse of order or meaning"
;Vivat, crescat, floreat!
"May he/she/it live, grow, and flourish!"
;Vivat Rex!/Vivat Regina!
"Long live the King!/Long live the Queen!"
;Videlicet.
"That is; namely." Used to introduce examples, lists, or items. Usually appears abbreviated as viz.
;Volenti non fit iniuria.
"A person who consents does not suffer injustice."


See also


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