Latin Words and Phrases Every Man Should Know

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 25, 2013 · 224 comments

in Manly Knowledge, Travel & Leisure


What do great men like Benjamin Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill have in common?

They all were proficient in Latin.

From the Middle Ages until about the middle of the 20th century, Latin was a central part of a man’s schooling in the West. Along with logic and rhetoric, grammar (as Latin was then known) was included as part of the Trivium – the foundation of a medieval liberal arts education. From Latin, all scholarship flowed and it was truly the gateway to the life of the mind, as the bulk of scientific, religious, legal, and philosophical literature was written in the language until about the 16th century. To immerse oneself in classical and humanistic studies, Latin was a must.

Grammar schools in Europe and especially England during this time were Latin schools, and the first secondary school established in America by the Puritans was a Latin school as well. But beginning in the 14th century, writers started to use the vernacular in their works, which slowly chipped away at Latin’s central importance in education. This trend for English-language learning accelerated in the 19th century; schools shifted from turning out future clergymen to graduating businessmen who would take their place in an industrializing economy. An emphasis on the liberal arts slowly gave way to what was considered a more practical education in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

While Latin had been dying a slow death for hundreds of years, it still had a strong presence in schools until the middle of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1960s, college students demanded that the curriculum be more open, inclusive, and less Euro-centric. Among their suggested changes was eliminating Latin as a required course for all students. To quell student protests, universities began to slowly phase out the Latin requirement, and because colleges stopped requiring Latin, many high schools in America stopped offering Latin classes, too.  Around the same time, the Catholic Church revised its liturgy and permitted priests to lead Mass in vernacular languages instead of Latin, thus eliminating one of the public’s last ties to the ancient language.

While it’s no longer a requirement for a man to know Latin to get ahead in life, it’s still a great subject to study. I had to take classes in Latin as part of my “Letters” major at the University of Oklahoma, and I really enjoyed it. Even if you’re well out of school yourself, there are a myriad of reasons why you should still consider obtaining at least a rudimentary knowledge of the language:

Knowing Latin can improve your English vocabulary. While English is a Germanic language, Latin has strongly influenced it. Most of our prefixes and some of the roots of common English words derive from Latin. By some estimates, 30% of English words derive from the ancient language. By knowing the meaning of these Latin words, if you chance to come across a word you’ve never seen before, you can make an educated guess at what it means. In fact, studies have found that high school students who studied Latin scored a mean of 647 on the SAT verbal exam, compared with the national average of 505.

Knowing Latin can improve your foreign language vocabulary. Much of the commonly spoken Romanic languages like Spanish, French, and Italian derived from Vulgar Latin. You’ll be surprised by the number of Romanic words that are pretty much the same as their Latin counterparts.

Many legal terms are in Latin. Nolo contendere. Mens rea. Caveat emptor. Do you know what those mean? They’re actually common legal terms. While strides have been made to translate legal writing into plain English, you’ll still see old Latin phrases thrown into legal contracts every now and then. To be an educated citizen and consumer, you need to know what these terms mean. If you plan on going to law school, I highly recommend boning up on Latin. You’ll run into it all the time, particularly when reading older case law.

Knowing Latin can give you more insight to history and literature. Latin was the lingua franca of the West for over a thousand years. Consequently, much of our history, science, and great literature was first recorded in Latin. Reading these classics in the original language can give you insights you otherwise may have missed by consuming it in English.

Moreover, modern writers (and by modern I mean beginning in the 17th century) often pepper their work with Latin words and phrases without offering a translation because they (reasonably) expect the reader to be familiar with it. This is true of great books from even just a few decades ago (seems much less common these days – which isn’t a hopeful commentary on the direction of the public’s literacy I would think). Not having a rudimentary knowledge of Latin will cause you to miss out on fully understanding what the writer meant to convey.

Below we’ve put together a list of Latin words and phrases to help pique your interest in learning this classical language. This list isn’t exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve included some of the most common Latin words and phrases that you still see today, which are helpful to know in boosting your all-around cultural literacy. We’ve also included some particularly virile sayings, aphorisms, and mottos that can inspire greatness or remind us of important truths. Perhaps you’ll find a Latin phrase that you can adopt as your personal motto. Semper Virilis!

Latin Words and Phrases Every Man Should Know

a posteriori from the latter -- knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence
a priori from what comes before -- knowledge or justification is independent of experience
faber est suae quisque fortunaeevery man is the artisan of his own fortune --
quote by Appius Claudius Caecus
acta non verba
deeds, not words
ad hoc
to this -- improvised or made up
ad hominem
to the man -- below-the-belt personal attack rather than a reasoned argument
ad honorem
for honor
ad infinitum
to infinity
ad nauseam
used to describe an argument that has been taking place to the point of nausea
ad victoriam
to victory -- more commonly translated into "for victory," this was a battle cry of the Romans

alea iacta est
the die has been cast
at another time -- an assumed name or pseudonym
alma mater
nourishing mother -- used to denote one's college/university
amor patriae
love of one's country
amor vincit omnia
love conquers all

annuit cœptis
He (God) nods at things being begun -- or "he approves our undertakings," motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States and on the back of the United States one-dollar bill

ante bellum
before the war -- commonly used in the Southern United States as antebellum to refer to the period preceding the American Civil War

ante meridiem
before noon -- A.M., used in timekeeping
aqua vitae
water of life -- used to refer to various native distilled beverages, such as whisky (uisge beatha) in Scotland and Ireland, gin in Holland, and brandy (eau de vie) in France
arte et marte
by skill and valour

astra inclinant, sed non obligant
the stars incline us, they do not bind us -- refers to the strength of free will over astrological determinism

audemus jura nostra defendere
we dare to defend our rights -- state motto of Alabama
audere est facere
to dare is to do

I hear
aurea mediocritas
golden mean -- refers to the ethical goal of reaching a virtuous middle ground between two sinful extremes

auribus teneo lupum
I hold a wolf by the ears -- a common ancient proverb; indicates that one is in a dangerous situation where both holding on and letting go could be deadly; a modern version is, "to have a tiger by the tail"

aut cum scuto aut in scuto
either with shield or on shield -- do or die, "no retreat"; said by Spartan mothers to their sons as they departed for battle
aut neca aut necare
either kill or be killed
aut viam inveniam aut faciam
I will either find a way or make one -- said by Hannibal, the great ancient military commander
barba non facit philosophum
a beard doesn't make one a philosopher
bellum omnium contra omnes
war of all against all
bis dat qui cito dat
he gives twice, who gives promptly -- a gift given without hesitation is as good as two gifts

bona fide
good faith
bono malum superate
overcome evil with good
carpe diem
seize the day
caveat emptor
let the buyer beware -- the purchaser is responsible for checking whether the goods suit his need
around, or approximately
citius altius fortius
faster, higher, stronger -- modern Olympics motto
cogito ergo sum
"I think therefore I am" -- famous quote by Rene Descartes
contemptus mundi/saeculi
scorn for the world/times -- despising the secular world, the monk or philosopher's rejection of a mundane life and worldly values

corpus christi
body of Christ
corruptissima re publica plurimae leges
when the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous -- said by Tacitus
creatio ex nihilo
creation out of nothing -- a concept about creation, often used in a theological or philosophical context
cura te ipsum
take care of your own self -- an exhortation to physicians, or experts in general, to deal with their own problems before addressing those of others

curriculum vitae
the course of one's life -- in business, a lengthened resume
de facto
from the fact -- distinguishing what's supposed to be from what is reality
deo volente
God willing
deus ex machina
God out of a machine -- a term meaning a conflict is resolved in improbable or implausible ways
dictum factum
what is said is done

disce quasi semper victurus vive quasi cras moriturus
learn as if you're always going to live; live as if tomorrow you're going to die
discendo discimus
while teaching we learn
docendo disco, scribendo cogito
I learn by teaching, think by writing
ductus exemplo
leadership by example
ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt
the fates lead the willing and drag the unwilling -- attributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca

dulce bellum inexpertis
war is sweet to the inexperienced
dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
it is sweet and fitting to die for your country
dulcius ex asperis
sweeter after difficulties

e pluribus unum
out of many, one -- on the U.S. seal, and was once the country's de facto motto
veteran -- retired from office
et alii
and others -- abbreviated et al.
et cetera
and the others
et tu, Brute?
last words of Caesar after being murdered by friend Brutus in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," used today to convey utter betrayal
ex animo
from the heart -- thus, "sincerely"

ex libris
from the library of -- to mark books from a library
ex nihilo
out of nothing
ex post facto
from a thing done afterward -- said of a law with retroactive effect

fac fortia et patere
do brave deeds and endure
fac simile
make alike -- origin of the word "fax"
flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo
if I cannot move heaven I will raise hell -- Virgil's Aeneid

fortes fortuna adiuvat
fortune favors the bold

fortis in arduis
strong in difficulties
gloria in excelsis Deo
glory to God in the highest
habeas corpus
you should have the body -- a legal term from the 14th century or earlier; commonly used as the general term for a prisoner's legal right to challenge the legality of their detention

habemus papam
we have a pope -- used after a Catholic Church papal election to announce publicly a successful ballot to elect a new pope

historia vitae magistra
history, the teacher of life -- from Cicero; also "history is the mistress of life"

hoc est bellum
this is war
homo unius libri (timeo)
(I fear) a man of one book -- attributed to Thomas Aquinas

honor virtutis praemium
esteem is the reward of virtue
hostis humani generis
enemy of the human race -- Cicero defined pirates in Roman law as being enemies of humanity in general

humilitas occidit superbiam
humility conquers pride
igne natura renovatur integra
through fire, nature is reborn whole

ignis aurum probat
fire tests gold -- a phrase referring to the refining of character through difficult circumstances

in absentia
in the absence
in aqua sanitas
in water there is health
in flagrante delicto
in flaming crime -- caught red-handed, or in the act
in memoriam
into the memory -- more commonly "in memory of"
in omnia paratus
ready for anything

in situ

in position -- something that exists in an original or natural state

in toto
in all or entirely
in umbra, igitur, pugnabimus
then we will fight in the shade -- made famous by Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae and by the movie 300
in utero
in the womb
in vitro
in glass -- biological process that occurs in the lab
incepto ne desistam
may I not shrink from my purpose
intelligenti pauca
few words suffice for he who understands
invictus maneo
I remain unvanquished
ipso facto
by the fact itself -- something is true by its very nature
labor omnia vincit
hard work conquers all

laborare pugnare parati sumus
to work, (or) to fight; we are ready
labore et honore
by labor and honor
leges sine moribus vanae
laws without morals [are] vain
lex parsimoniae
law of succinctness -- also known as Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one

lex talionis
the law of retaliation
magna cum laude
with great praise

magna est vis consuetudinis
great is the power of habit
magnum opus
great work -- said of someone's masterpiece

mala fide
in bad faith -- said of an act done with knowledge of its illegality, or with intention to defraud or mislead someone; opposite of bona fide

malum in se
wrong in itself -- a legal term meaning that something is inherently wrong

malum prohibitum
wrong due to being prohibited -- a legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law
mea culpa
my fault
better things -- carrying the connotation of "always better"

memento mori
remember that [you will] die -- was whispered by a servant into the ear of a victorious Roman general to check his pride as he paraded through cheering crowds after a victory; a genre of art meant to remind the viewer of the reality of his death
memento vivere
remember to live
memores acti prudentes futuri
mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be
modus operandi
method of operating -- abbreviated M.O.
montani semper liberi
mountaineers [are] always free -- state motto of West Virginia
morior invictus
death before defeat
morituri te salutant
those who are about to die salute you -- popularized as a standard salute from gladiators to the emperor, but only recorded once in Roman history
morte magis metuenda senectus
old age should rather be feared than death
mulgere hircum
to milk a male goat -- to attempt the impossible
multa paucis
say much in few words

nanos gigantum humeris insidentes
dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants -- commonly known by the letters of Isaac Newton: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants"
nec aspera terrent
they don't terrify the rough ones -- frightened by no difficulties, less literally "difficulties be damned"
nec temere nec timide
neither reckless nor timid
nil volentibus arduum
nothing [is] arduous for the willing
nolo contendere
I do not wish to contend -- that is, "no contest"; a plea that can be entered on behalf of a defendant in a court that states that the accused doesn't admit guilt, but will accept punishment for a crime
non ducor, duco
I am not led; I lead
non loqui sed facere
not talk but action
non progredi est regredi
to not go forward is to go backward
non scholae, sed vitae discimus
we learn not for school, but for life -- from Seneca
non sequitur
it does not follow -- in general, a comment which is absurd due to not making sense in its context (rather than due to being inherently nonsensical or internally inconsistent), often used in humor
non sum qualis eram
I am not such as I was -- or "I am not the kind of person I once was"

nosce te ipsum
know thyself -- from Cicero

novus ordo seclorum
new order of the ages -- from Virgil; motto on the Great Seal of the United States
nulla tenaci invia est via
for the tenacious, no road is impassable
obliti privatorum, publica curate
forget private affairs, take care of public ones -- Roman political saying which reminds that common good should be given priority over private matters for any person having a responsibility in the State

panem et circenses
bread and circuses -- originally described all that was needed for emperors to placate the Roman mob; today used to describe any entertainment used to distract public attention from more important matters

para bellum
prepare for war -- if you want peace, prepare for war—if a country is ready for war, its enemies are less likely to attack
parvis imbutus tentabis grandia tutus
when you are steeped in little things, you shall safely attempt great things -- sometimes translated as, "once you have accomplished small things, you may attempt great ones safely"

pater familias
father of the family -- the eldest male in a family
pecunia, si uti scis, ancilla est; si nescis, domina
if you know how to use money, money is your slave; if you don't, money is your master
per angusta ad augusta
through difficulties to greatness
per annum
by the year
per capita
by the person
per diem
by the day
per se
through itself
persona non grata
person not pleasing -- an unwelcome, unwanted or undesirable person
pollice verso
with a turned thumb -- used by Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator
post meridiem
after noon -- P.M., used in timekeeping
post mortem
after death
thing having been written afterward -- in writing, abbreviated P.S.
praemonitus praemunitus
forewarned is forearmed
praesis ut prosis ne ut imperes
lead in order to serve, not in order to rule
primus inter pares
first among equals -- a title of the Roman Emperors

pro bono
for the good -- in business, refers to services rendered at no charge
pro rata
for the rate
quam bene vivas referre (or refert), non quam diu
it is how well you live that matters, not how long -- from Seneca
as if or as though
qui totum vult totum perdit
he who wants everything loses everything -- attributed to Seneca
quid agis
what's going on? -- what's up, what's happening, etc.
quid pro quo
this for that -- an exchange of value
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
whatever has been said in Latin seems deep -- or "anything said in Latin sounds profound"; a recent ironic Latin phrase to poke fun at people who seem to use Latin phrases and quotations only to make themselves sound more important or "educated"
quis custodiet ipsos custodes?who will guard the guards themselves? -- commonly associated with Plato
of whom -- the number of members whose presence is required under the rules to make any given meeting constitutional

requiescat in pace let him rest in peace -- abbreviated R.I.P.
rigor mortis
stiffness of death
scientia ac labore
knowledge through hard work
scientia ipsa potentia est
knowledge itself is power
semper anticus
always forward
semper fidelis
always faithful -- U.S. Marines motto
semper fortis
always brave
semper paratus
always prepared
semper virilisalways virile
si vales, valeo
when you are strong, I am strong
si vis pacem, para bellum
if you want peace, prepare for war
sic parvis magna
greatness from small beginnings -- motto of Sir Frances Drake
sic semper tyrannis
thus always to tyrants -- attributed to Brutus at the time of Julius Caesar's assassination, and to John Wilkes Booth at the time of Abraham Lincoln's assassination; whether it was actually said at either of these events is disputed
sic vita est
thus is life -- the ancient version of "it is what it is"
sola fide
by faith alone
sola nobilitat virtus
virtue alone ennobles
solvitur ambulando
it is solved by walking
spes bona
good hope
statim (stat)
immediately -- medical shorthand
status quo
the situation in which or current condition
under penalty
sum quod eris
I am what you will be -- a gravestone inscription to remind the reader of the inevitability of death
summa cum laude
with highest praise
summum bonum
the supreme good
suum cuique
to each his own
tabula rasa
scraped tablet -- "blank slate"; John Locke used the term to describe the human mind at birth, before it had acquired any knowledge
tempora heroica
Heroic Age
tempus edax rerum
time, devourer of all things
tempus fugit
time flees -- commonly mistranslated "time flies"
terra firma
firm ground
terra incognita
unknown land -- used on old maps to show unexplored areas
vae victis
woe to the conquered
vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas
vanity of vanities; everything [is] vanity -- from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1)
veni vidi vici
I came, I saw, I conquered -- famously said by Julius Caesar
repeat exactly
veritas et aequitas
truth and equity
veto I forbid
vice versato change or turn around
vincit qui patitur
he conquers who endures
vincit qui se vincit
he conquers who conquers himself
vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
[a] wise man does not urinate [up] against the wind
virile agitur
the manly thing is being done
viriliter agite
act in a manly way
viriliter agite estote fortes
quit ye like men, be strong
virtus tentamine gaudet
strength rejoices in the challenge
virtute et armis
by virtue and arms -- or "by manhood and weapons"; state motto of Mississippi

vive memor leti
live remembering death
vivere est vincere
to live is to conquer -- Captain John Smith's personal motto

vivere militare est
to live is to fight
vox populi
voice of the people

What are your favorite Latin phrases? Any other important Latin words and phrases that you think a modern man should know? Share with us in the comments!

{ 224 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Joe July 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm

While it’s great for us all to share our favorite Latin verses in this forum, be careful; for spouting a Latin phrase in certain places (like your local watering hole) will have you looked upon as an arrogant a$$hole, if not an extraterrestrial!

102 Célia July 26, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Dominus Vobiscum-The Lord be with you

103 Jake July 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Wow, that’s a pretty complete list. Two other terms that I didn’t see listed are “id est” and “exempli gratia.” Most people probably see these written as “i.e.” and “e.g.” repsectively. Id est means “that is” and exempli gratia means “for the sake of example.” It can be easier to remember “i.e.” as “in essence” and “e.g.” as “example given.” Knowing the real meanings of those two, you’ll see how incorrectly both are used all across the internet. It really is rampant, and the two are definitely not interchangeable.

104 Johan July 26, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Divide et impera = Divide and rule

105 Paul July 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I agree with Joe! When I saw this article, the first thing I thought of was
“37 Conversation Rules for Gentleman from 1875″. I found it very instructive and remembered this rule specifically:

28. It is extremely rude and pedantic, when engaged in general conversation, to make quotations in a foreign language.

Hopefully no barroom brawls break out because some aspiring gentleman says ‘cum’ too many times and his friends get the wrong idea.

106 Rick July 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm

What a beautiful language. It is the language of love. This article has inspired me to take up Latin lessons. Thanks for sharing this.

107 Doug July 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Next up, the Logical Fallacies?

108 JeanPaul July 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Very complete and educational list! Definitely something all men should know!!!

109 Mark July 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Non illegitimum carborundum: Don’t let the bastards wear you down.

110 Seth July 26, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Great article! I took Latin when I was in elementary school (Homeschooled), and enjoyed it, although the curriculum wasn’t particularly great. It helped later on when I was taking Spanish, as well as simply reading for fun.
One of my favorite phrases is “Vincit qui patitur” – Endurance conquers all.

Celía: Ivanhoe quote. Very nice.

Joe and Paul: These phrases are not ones that you would use in a casual environment, however, they can be useful in a scholarly environment or in writing. Common sense and knowing your audience come into play here.

111 Darryl July 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Ad astra per aspera “A rough road leads to the stars” Apollo 1 memorial plaque

112 Daniel July 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

semper paratus is also the Coast Guard’s motto

113 TomD July 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I took three years of Latin in a small-town, public high school in the early 1970s. Even then, I knew how unusual it was and how fortunate I was to have the opportunity. We were lucky to have a classics major as a high school teacher who loved Latin and taught it at the high school level. When she retired, about 30 years ago, Latin was dropped from the curriculum.

When my friends asked me why I was taking Latin, rather than Spanish or French, I told them that I wanted to improve my English and learn ancient history.

114 Ryan Haber July 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Aside from the mere functionality of learning Latin, in particular, consider the deeper connection with our own culture – which is very much a child of the Roman civilization. Throughout Europe and the Americas, our conceptions are deeply shaped by a number of shared cultural assumptions inherited from the Romans and the peoples they assimilated.

If we are concerned that our culture is fraying at the seams, well, while learning Latin won’t fix all our problems, it will give you a greater sense of what we have inherited, what we have lost, and what is worth fighting to defend and shore up.

Rick, if you want tips or have any questions, drop a line. withouthavingseen at gmail.

115 Cortland July 26, 2013 at 8:26 pm

De Angustibus non est disputandem…….Concerning taste, there is no dispute.

116 Barry July 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Per ardua ad astra — Through adversity to the stars. It’s the motto of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Quo vadis? — Whither goest thou? A Biblical reference but often used as a question about one’s direction in life.

117 Shimarenda July 26, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Very good list. Three phrases I like are:

Per aspera ad astra : Through hardship to the stars

Sic transit vir : Thus passes man

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit : Bidden or unbidden, God is present.

118 Don George July 26, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Thanks so much. You have reminded me of the good old days. I am taking time off to revive my latin. Gratias Tibi.

119 Alex July 26, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Perhaps I missed it in the very complete and detailed list, which I very much enjoyed reading, but I didn’t see one of my favorite sayings: In vino veritas – “In wine there is truth.” This surprised me as it seems to be commonly known and has proven true many times, even reminding me to hold my tongue when it begins to slip after a few cocktails as well.

120 Robert July 26, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Post hoc ergo propter hoc = after this, therefore because of this.

Logical fallacy that effect directly follows cause.

121 G. Malloy July 27, 2013 at 12:23 am

“Cogito ergo sum” is a *translation* of Descartes’ “Je pense, donc je suis,” composed in French for his Discourse on Method, considered the first major non-Latin treatise in the West. Some years later, he used the Latin phrase in his Principles of Philosophy. Pax tecum.

122 L.H. July 27, 2013 at 1:17 am

Quando Omni Flunkus, Moritati

123 Andrew July 27, 2013 at 2:54 am

“E pluribus unum, my friends. Sine qua non” was good for Andrew Jackson.

124 Jason July 27, 2013 at 4:02 am

This article is interesting as I did Latin in high school by correspondence, since it is no longer offered in a classroom setting. I loved it. Later, I studied some classical Greek. I’d like my children to learn Greek rather than Latin. The reasons are 1) Greek is the language of the New Testament. 2) The Septuagint is a translation of the old testament by ancient Jewish scholars. While not the original Hebrew, it is consulted by scholars when they are uncertain of the Hebrew meaning and wish to see how ancient Jewish scribes though the Hebrew should be translated into Greek and this clarifies the meaning of difficult Hebrew passages.
3) Greek is much more common for medical terms (although most muscle names are Latin terms)
4) Greek is actually more challenging than Latin and so, Latin will be relatively easy after learning Greek.
5) During the Roman Empire, distinguished Romans whose mother tongue was Latin considered it important to learn Greek (as people today consider it important to learn Latin).
Just my thoughts!

125 Freddie July 27, 2013 at 4:29 am

Panem et circenses. This is really familiar to me. Panem and bread, right, now I understood.

126 sonny July 27, 2013 at 4:47 am

Nemo dat quod non habet (no one gives what he does not have)

Sic transit gloria mundi (Thus fades worldly glory)

Ars gratia artis (art for art’s sake)

Ad majorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God)

Ab urbe condita (form the city’s founding)

abyssus abyssum invocat (one abyss invokes another)

de gustibus non disputandum (there is no accounting for taste)

127 Robin Leysen July 27, 2013 at 5:41 am

ceteris paribus – with all other circumstances staying the same.

English is not my mother tongue, so somebody might have to explain this one properly.


128 Paul Wainwright July 27, 2013 at 6:23 am

PATER NOSTER, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra.

129 Thomas July 27, 2013 at 7:24 am

Post hoc ergo propter hoc — “After this, therefore because of this”. It denotes a logical fallacy that since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.

130 Generalisimo July 27, 2013 at 7:54 am

Maury- Thanks for the e-mail. As Cicero said ” Amicitaie Nostrae Memoriam spero Sempiternam.* I hope that the memory of our friendship will be everlasting !
Salve Sis.- Qui docet discit

131 Derek July 27, 2013 at 8:58 am

Nihil sine labor (nothing without work)


Labor omnia vincit (work conquers all)

Two of the best pieces of advice I ever got.

132 Trip July 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

“Labor omnia vincit” is also the motto of the Great State of Oklahoma.

133 Josh B July 27, 2013 at 9:45 am

In vino veritas- there is truth in wine

134 Patrick Wright July 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

One phrase to add:

“Volenti non fir injuria” – to one who is willing, there is no injury.

This is a crucial legal precept describing the principle of “consent” in any association or exchange. It has been scuttled in recent decades by horrible legal precedents in an effort to relieve consenting adults of responsibility for physical or financial injury in cases where they clearly assumed the risk.

Legal scholars and centuries of Anglo-Saxon common law took it seriously enough to render it in Latin.

135 Roland Faubert July 27, 2013 at 10:45 am

This did not include my favorite:
Illigetimi non carborundum
Don’t let the bastards get you down.
and one from my Jesuit High School Latin
Quid Custodiet ipsos custodies.
Who guards the guards.

Great list and a keeper.

136 Chase Ferguson July 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

As one of, what seems to be, the last generations of students to have to learn Latin in [parochial] school – I’m quite happy to see a primer on Latin phrases.

As a Ferguson, it makes my morning to see our clan motto up on this list (dulcius ex asperis). Thanks, AOM, for fighting the good fight!

137 Andrew July 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

Molon Labe – Come and Take. Making a comeback.

138 John Spiers July 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

And every older university has a gigantic endowment for latin and greek studies. How come, because those schools were first, and have had the longest time to collect endowments. My daughter took a BA in Latin, Magna Cum Laude, full ride (rent and food paid too) with a quarter in Rome to boot. If you know a kid who is good at languages, check out the Latin endowment at the school. The departments have a few slots reserved too, so you kid might get around lower grades otherwise, plus get full ride.

139 Ray July 27, 2013 at 11:22 am

Latin is the language that has been used by the elites to exclude the common man from knowledge. If you believe in freedom, don’t use this abhorrent language to perpetuate this. Speak English, the language of the new empire and be forever reminded of what happened to the empire of that long dead language.

140 Shanderson July 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

You should sell these as flash cards. Or offer them as such – scientia sit potentia.

141 Eric Weidner July 27, 2013 at 11:54 am

Here are three more common phrases that are handy:

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum or nil nisi bonum – speak only good of the dead/don’t speak ill of the dead. Useful when someone generally disliked is fired from your workplace.

Caveat venditor – let the seller beware. Society and modern law favor this still, sort of.

Sic gloria transit mundi – thus passes the glory of the world or all worldly things are fleeting. The best-laid plans, nothing lasts forever, etc.

142 Donald Webber July 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Regnant populi – The People Rule (not the President nor the Politicians) Deo adjuvante . . .

143 Gerard July 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Possunt quia posse videntur – They can because they think they can!

144 JWH July 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Jake – excellent comment! The common, but incorrect, interchangeable use of ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ is one of my personal pet peeves. As you say, it is easy to avoid making this mistake if one reminds oneself of the meaning of the terms. Ut bene valere!

145 Leia July 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Vis Per Mare, which means “Strength from the Sea” and is the motto of the aircraft carrier that I’m stationed on…The USS Carl Vinson.

146 Yoda July 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm

veni vidi vici ?

147 Goateggs July 27, 2013 at 11:39 pm

“Molon Labe – Come and Take. Making a comeback.”

Molon Labe is Greek.

148 Joy Martin July 28, 2013 at 2:27 am

It gives insight in to different English words used in the modern days.

149 Gonzalo July 28, 2013 at 5:36 am

Dum Spiro Spero.

150 LongJohn July 28, 2013 at 5:39 am

Yeah, and be sure to add some decent american accent, nothing sounds more proficient & educated. Seriously, that language is beautiful, but also dead. I had a teacher who wouldn’t stop bothering me with his “manly” latin proverbs, knowing that Latin wasn’t my favorite class at all. That guy was a loser. Someone using even a well-studied latin phrase in front of people who don’t understand him, always looks like a show-off. Love that language by studying it for yourself and exchanging your passion with other passionate people and not by reciting some sentences without any knowledge of grammar or spelling; seriously.

151 Mike July 28, 2013 at 6:14 am

Sua Sponte Of their own accord official motto of the 75th Ranger Regiment

152 Bill Losapio July 28, 2013 at 8:05 am

Sic transit gloria mundi: The glories of this world are fleeting (transitory)

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur: The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.

Mens rae: guilty mind

And ya just gotta hav diss wun I tellz ya:

Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito: Do not give in to evil but go forth ever more boldly against it.

153 Bill Losapio July 28, 2013 at 9:28 am

And cant forget this very important one:

Ceteris Paribus: all things being equal

154 Bill Losapio July 28, 2013 at 9:33 am

This one’s a must for anyone practicing the art of manliness:

Fiat justicia ruat caelum: let justice be done though the heavens may fall

155 Ted July 28, 2013 at 11:52 am

Ave Caesar! Moritori te salutamus. Hail Caesar! We who are to die salute you.

156 Nzie July 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm

@ Seth #110 – a more literal translation of “vincit qui patitur” is “he conquers who suffers,” or, in more standard English, “he who suffers conquers.”

@ Ray # 139 – For a long time, Latin was simply the “universal” (in Europe at any rate) second language, the lingua franca most people could communicate in at some level, probably helped by the fact that the western Church prayed almost exclusively in it. Over time of course that changed – Latin became “bastardized” (or medieval/ecclesial, rather than classical) and languages grew more distinctive from each other and from Latin, and it moved into being the province of the educated, but it didn’t start that way, and give that we have a much more inclusive educational system these days, there’s no reason it need stay that way.

@ Robin Leyson #127 – to explain ceteribus paribus, literally “with the rest remaining equal/the same,” is a way of discussing the change of a single element of something. This could be theoretical, as in, what would have happened with only one change, or scientific, where a scientist will change only one aspect of an experiment to test it.

157 emf July 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm

e pur si mouve – and yet it moves: what Galileo supposed said after accepting his guilt and house arrest for heresy.

158 David July 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Esto Vir- Be a man.

159 Isabella July 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm

My High School motto (England) was
Optima Tenete, which I’ve held to all my life.
Means “hold to the right”

160 John July 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Iners remedium malorum ignorantia est. Also

161 John July 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Iners remedium malorum ignorantia est. Also, Marcus Martial seems to have anticipated hip-hop when he wrote ” Verum, nihil securia est malo poeta”.

162 Kyle July 28, 2013 at 11:23 pm

post hoc ergo propter hoc.

163 Dave H. July 29, 2013 at 8:11 am

Quid nunc? “What now?”

A quidnunc is a busybody, one who thinks the mastery of gossip is tantamount to wisdom.

164 lisag July 29, 2013 at 9:54 am

On his own my soon to be freshman son decided to take Latin in high school. I will share this with him. I found this article from Thanks much.

165 Ransom Gilbert July 29, 2013 at 10:25 am

When I saw the article title of ‘phrases everyman should know’, I had every intention of learning all of them…then I saw the list! LOL
That List was huge!

166 Stephen Cianca July 29, 2013 at 11:21 am

e pur si mouve–is actually Italian, not Latin. Close, but no cigar.

Here’s another one: Vox populi, vox Dei: the voice of the people is the voice of God. (A slogan common to demagogues.)

167 Richard July 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm

What, over 160 comments, and no one has yet to mention the “Romani Ite Domum” scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”?

CENTURION: What’s this, then? ‘Romanes Eunt Domus’? ‘People called Romanes they go the house’?
BRIAN: It– it says, ‘Romans, go home’.
CENTURION: No, it doesn’t. What’s Latin for ‘Roman’? Come on!
BRIAN: ‘R– Romanus’?
CENTURION: Goes like…?
BRIAN: ‘Annus’?
CENTURION: Vocative plural of ‘annus’ is…?
BRIAN: Eh. ‘Anni’?
CENTURION: ‘Romani’….

Anyway, even if you don’t choose to learn the language, don’t just pretentiously pepper your speech with Latin phrases. Learn the origin of the phrases, and _understand_ their meaning. You will find yourself acquiring no small knowledge of law and Roman letters and philosophy – manly pursuits all.

168 Pappy July 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Ex Meis Frigidis Et Mortuis Manibus!

169 Mark July 30, 2013 at 12:24 am

Sine Qua Non – without which, one cannot. Essential. My wife.

170 Andreas Dunker July 30, 2013 at 4:13 am

“vitam impendere vero” – to devote one’s life to truth.

This is the slogan of the university of Hannover.

171 Mr. French July 30, 2013 at 9:57 am

Vae victus – Kain, a character in a somewhat cheesy video game used to utter this quite often.

172 Will Bader July 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm

In medias res – Into the middle of things, a story that starts in the middle of the action, for example a Bond movie’s opening scene.

173 Alan Cyr July 31, 2013 at 8:15 am

Forti et fidelhi nihile difficile-”to the strong and true nothing is impossible. My “alma mater” motto…

174 Joel Daniels July 31, 2013 at 11:19 am

oderint dum metuant – Let them hate, so long as they fear.

175 John Padalis July 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm

My personal favorite:
“Odi et amo” I love and I hate
– Catullus 85

The only thing I retained from my highschool latin was the pronunciation…which is a pet peeve of mine. Make sure to learn how to say the letters and don’t do what I did and pronounce “Circumspice” (Look about you) as “Sercumspise”

176 Curt July 31, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I always thought that “sic transit gloria” – “all glory is fleeting” – was what was whispered in the ear of the conquering Roman general by a slave. But that is based strictly on the end of the movie, “Patton.”

177 Pat Carriere July 31, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Great article! Just one comment: “aut cum scuto aut in scuto” – presumably this is the latin translation of what Spartan mothers told their sons. I would presume that Spartan mother spoke Greek, right?

Thanks again!

178 Luke July 31, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Semper ubi sub ubi

179 Keith Ferguson August 1, 2013 at 6:39 am

Dulcius Ex Asperisis has been my family’s motto for centuries, and still holds true. Semper Paratus is the motto of the U S Coast Gaurd.

180 Alvar August 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Its astonishing how many sentences i understood or are actually the same as in spanish (Im a Spaniard.)

Btw: Once you know a romanic language, the rest are pretty similar, with 3 months of intensive course you can manage quite properly in any of the other counterparts…

181 Alvar August 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Protip: There’s a city on the foremost west-north corner of Spain called Finisterre, which means “The end of the Earth” in latin. Obviously the city was founded way before we discovered the Americas.

182 fdgdkjyhy August 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm

alea iacta est-
the die has been cast


183 Ernest August 2, 2013 at 10:38 am

(we will do it jointly)
Personal credo of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I

184 Thadryan August 2, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Also good to know: “post tenebras lux” – after darkness, light (The motto of my “Alma Mater”, American International College

185 Nick August 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm

How about these.
Vivere Senza rimpianti!
LIve without regrets.

Lex Orandi est Lex Credendi!
As we pray, so also we believe.

186 Christopher Price August 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

How about “De Opresso Liber” – the motto of the US Special Forces?
Also, i think people too liberally sling together Latin quotes these days without a full understanding of the language. For instance, in college, my classically schooled professor got a good laugh at the school’s motto “Faciemus” which they thought meant “We shall achieve” but apparently just translates roughly to the vague “let’s do stuff” lol

187 Greg Insley August 2, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Oderint Dum Metuant. Let them hate, so long as they fear.

188 Gene August 3, 2013 at 6:57 am

I know this isn’t ‘true’ latin but an old man I used to work with told me this phrase, “illegitimus non-carborundum” never let the bastards wear you down. I’ve shared that wisdom with a lot of people over the years. You can say that in a corwded conference room, those who know, smile. Those who don’t usually seek out the definition then have a good chuckle as well.

189 Towhid August 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I remember ‘vox populi’ from the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ when V says he is ‘a vestige of vox populi, now vacant and vanished’. I really enjoyed this post.
Gratias Amicus

190 John August 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I would add one more:
“Manus haec inimica tyrannis Einse petit placidam cum liberate quietem.”
(This hand, enemy to tyrants, By the sword seeks calm peacefulness [but only] with liberty.) — Algernon Sidney, Inscription in Visitor’s Book at the University of Copenhagen

191 A. Discipulus August 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

You forgot: Magni viri pauci amici habent.

192 porkchop August 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm

ego ipse custodes custodio, now even more so than prior to mr moore’s offering of the mid 80′s.

193 Pieter August 10, 2013 at 7:44 am

Beati pauperes spiritu, quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum.
Matthew 5:3

194 Guido Incognito August 11, 2013 at 12:18 am

Y’all forgot Qui Transtulit Sustinet, “That Which is Transplanted Survives”, the motto of the People’s Republic of Connecticut

195 Farid Awad August 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

Parri Passu is also missing, it means with an equal step or on equal footing :)

196 Jeremy August 11, 2013 at 8:58 pm


197 Jonathan August 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Anybody else read “ad infinitum” and thought of Buzz Lightyear?

198 Ace August 18, 2013 at 1:13 am

oderint dum metuant- “Let them hate, so long as they fear.”

199 Ruß August 18, 2013 at 6:49 am

@ Andrew ”
> Molon Labe – Come and Take. Making a comeback.

That’s not Latin, it’s Greek.

200 jim August 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Great list, thanks for posting, a helpful phrase to know is: ad valorem. Literally it means in proportion to the value but in practical usage it has become a synonym for property tax although the term could also be applied to sales tax.

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