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Despite Latin no longer being taught in most schools, interest in the meanings of Latin words
used in ordinary conversation or in the mottoes of organisations is great
- as is also evidenced by the large number of hits to this one page of a very large site.

For the most part the phrases shown below are those used in ordinary speech rather than just in a motto.

Each definition reflects the meaning commonly intended by English writers rather than a strictly literal translation.

Extract from
Compendium of Good Writing
by N E Renton (expanded)

Note: Hyphens are not used in the 289 or so phrases shown below.

The use of italics is optional. However, as always, internal consistency should be observed.

Italics are probably best reserved for phrases not found in standard English dictionaries and for phrases in the course of being explained.

Hand Photos and Postscripts


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quidquid latine dictum sit altum viditur.   whatever is said in Latin seems profound.

Girl, to amorous boy-friend: Go easy, I'm virgo intacta.

Boy: Oh, I can speak Latin, too. I'm infra dig.

Some other pages on this web site may also be of interest.

Short Story: Quidquid latine dictum sit altum viditur

a fortiori.   with yet stronger reason.

a posse ad esse.   from possibility to actuality.

a posteriori.   derived by reasoning from observed facts.

a priori.   from what was before.

ab incunablis.   from the origin.

ab initio.   from the beginning.

ab intra.   from within.

ab urbe condita (abbreviated AUC).   from the founding of the city (Rome in 753 BC).

ad absurdum.   to the point of absurdity.

ad eundem.   to the same level.

ad eundem gradum.   to the same level.

ad hoc.   for this special purpose.

ad hominem.   denoting an argument made personally against an opponent, rather than logically against an issue (literally, "to the person").

ad idem.   of the same mind.

ad infinitum.   without limit.

ad libitum.   according to pleasure.

ad litem.   for the suit.

ad locum (abbreviated ad loc.).   at the place.

ad nauseam.   to a disgusting extent.

ad valorem.   according to value.

addenda.   things to be added.

advocatus diaboli.   devil's advocate.

affidavit.   a sworn written statement usable as evidence in court.

agenda.   things to be done (used especially for a list of items to be discussed at a meeting).

alea iacta est.   the die is cast (Caesar).

alma mater.   one's old school or university.

alter ego.   other self.

amicus curiae.   friend of the court.

amicus omnibus, amicus nemini.   a friend to all is a friend to none.

anno domini (abbreviated AD).   in the year of the Lord.

annus horribilis.   a terrible year.

annus mirabilis.   a wonderful year.

ante bellum.   before the war.

ante meridiem (abbreviated a.m.).   before midday.

aqua fortis.   nitric acid.

aqua pura.   pure water.

ars gratia artis.   art for art's sake.

aude sapere.   dare know.

audi alteram partem.   hear the other side (one of the principles of natural justice).

bella gerant alii.   let others wage war.

bona fide (adjective).   genuine, sincere.

bona fide (adverb).   genuinely, sincerely.

bona fides (noun).   honest intention.

cadit quaestio (abbreviated cq).   the question falls; the matter admits no further argument (in copyediting: the facts have been double checked).

caret.   it is lacking (used in editing to indicate that something is to be inserted).

carpe diem.   seize the day.

casus belli.   the circumstances justifying war.

cave canem.   beware of the dog.

caveat emptor.   let the buyer beware.

caveat lector.   let the reader beware.

caveat venditor.   let the seller beware.

ceteris paribus.   other things being equal or unchanged.

circa (abbreviated c. and followed by a date).   about.

cogito, ergo sum.   I think, therefore I am (Descartes).

compos mentis.   sane.

confer (abbreviated cf.).   compare.

cor unum.   one heart.

corpus delicti.   the facts of a crime.

corrigenda.   a list of things to be corrected (in a book).

cui bono?   who benefits?

cui malo?   who suffers a detriment?

cum grano salis.   with a grain of salt (that is, not literally).

curriculum vitae.   a summary of a person's career.

de facto.   in fact (especially in contradistinction to "de jure").

de gustibus non est disputandum.   there is no accounting for taste.

de jure.   by right (especially in contradistinction to "de facto").

de minimis.   with respect to trifles.

de novo.   anew.

delectatio morosa.   peevish delight.

deo duce.   with God for a leader.

deo gratias.   thanks be to God.

deo volente.   God willing.

deus ex machina.   a contrived event that resolves a problem at the last moment (literally, "a god from a machine").

dictum meum pactum.   my word is my bond.

dictum sapienti sat est.   a word to the wise is sufficient.

dramatis personae.   the list of characters in a play.

dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.   it is sweet and proper to die for one's country (Horace).

dum spiro, spero.   as long as I breathe, I hope (Cicero).

dum vires annique sinunt, tolerate labores.   while strength and years permit, endure labor (Ovid).

dura lex, sed lex.   the law is harsh, but it is the law.

ecce homo.   behold the man.

ego.   consciousness of one's own identity.

eiusdem generis.   of the same kind.

emeritus.   retired after distinguished service and holding an honorary title (for example, emeritus professor).

ergo.   therefore.

errata.   a list of errors (in a book).

et alia.   and other things.

et alii (abbreviated et al.).   and others.

et cetera (abbreviated etc.).   and so on.

et sequentes (abbreviated et seq. or seqq.).   and those that follow.

et uxor (abbreviated et ux.).   and wife.

ex cathedra.   (of a pronouncement) formally, with official authority.

ex curia.   out of court.

ex gratia.   purely as a favour.

ex libris.   from the library of.

ex nihilo.   out of nothing.

ex officio.   by virtue of his office.

ex parte.   by only one party to a dispute in the absence of the other.

ex post facto.   retrospectively.

excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta.   he who excuses himself, accuses himself (qui s'excuse, s'accuse).

exeat.   permission for a temporary absence.

exempli gratia (abbreviated e.g.).   for example.

fama nihil est celerius.   nothing is swifter than a rumour.

fiat.   let it be done.

floruit.   he flourished.

functus officio.   having discharged his duty and thus ceased to have any authority over a matter.

gaudeamus igitur.   so let us rejoice.

habeas corpus.   you may have the body. (The opening words of a prerogative writ requiring a person holding another person to bring that person before a court.)

hic jacet.   here lies.

honoris causa.   as a mark of esteem.

ibidem (abbreviated ibid. in citations of books, etc.).   in the same place.

id est (abbreviated i.e.).   that is.

idem.   the same.

imperator.   emperor.

imprimatur.   let it be printed.

in absentia.   while absent.

in camera.   in private session.

in casu.   in this case.

in casu extremae necessitatis.   in case of extreme necessity.

in curia.   in court.

in deo speramus.   in God we trust.

in extenso.   at full length.

in extremis.   near death.

in flagrante delicto.   in the very act of committing an offence.

in illo tempore.   at that time.

in loco extremis.   in the farthest place.

in loco parentis.   in place of a parent.

in medias res.   in the midst of things (Horace).

in memoriam.   in memory.

in re.   in the matter of.

in silico.   by means of a computer simulation.

in situ.   in its original situation.

in specie.   in kind; (a) in its own form and not in an equivalent (b) in coins and not in paper money.

in toto.   entirely.

in vino veritas.   in wine there is truth.

in vitro.   observable in a glass test tube; outside the living body and in an artificial environment.

in vivo.   happening within a living organism.

index librorum prohibitorum.   official list of the books not to be read by Catholics.

infra.   below or on a later page.

infra dig.   unbecoming (slang).

inter alia.   among other things.

inter se.   among themselves.

inter vivos.   during life.

intra muros.   within the walls.

intra vires.   within the power.

ipso facto.   by that very fact.

latine dictum.   spoken in Latin.

loco citato (abbreviated loc. cit.).   in the passage just quoted.

locum tenens.   one occupying the place (used as an English noun meaning "deputy").

locus sigilli (abbreviated l.s.).   the place of the seal.

locus standi.   the right to be heard in court.

magna carta.   Great Charter (issued by King John in 1215, granting various liberties).

magna cum laude.   with great honour or academic distinction.

magnum opus.   great work.

me judice.   I being the judge; in my opinion

mea culpa.   by my fault (used as an acknowledgement of one's error).

memento mori.   remember that you have to die.

memorandum.   (a note of) a thing to be remembered.

mens rea.   guilty mind.

mens sana in corpore sano.   a sound mind in a sound body.

mirabile dictu.   wonderful to relate.

modus operandi.   the manner of working.

monumentum aere perennius.   an immortal work of art or literature (literally, "a monument more lasting than bronze") (Horace).

multi multa; nemo omnia novit.   many know many things; no one knows everything.

multum in parvo.   much in a small compass.

multus amicus, nullus amicus.   a friend to all is a friend to none.

mutatis mutandis.   the necessary changes being made.

ne plus ultra.   the highest standard of excellence.

nemine contradicente (abbreviated nem. con.).   unanimously.

nemine dissentiente (abbreviated nem. dis.).   unanimously.

nihil obstat.   nothing stands in the way.

nil desperandum.   there is no cause for despair (Horace).

nisi.   unless.

nolens volens.   whether one likes it or not; willing or unwilling.

nolle prosequi.   to be unwilling to prosecute.

non compos mentis.   insane.

non sequitur.   it does not follow (used as an English noun meaning "a conclusion which does not accord with the premises").

noscitur a sociis.   the meaning of a word can be known from the context.

nota bene (abbreviated NB).   note well.

numero pondere et mensura deus omnia condidit.   God created everything by number, weight and measure (Isaac Newton).

o tempora, o mores!   oh, the times! oh, the morals! (Cicero).

obiter dictum.   a saying by the way.

omne ignotum pro magnifico est.   all things unknown seem grand (Tacitus the Elder).

omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.   all things are changing, and we are changing with them.

omnia vincit amor, nos et cedamus amori.   love conquers all things, let us too yield to love (Virgil).

opere citato (abbreviated op. cit.).   in the work just quoted.

pari passu.   equally.

parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.   great promises, but no result or only a ludicrous result (literally, "the mountains are in labour; a ridiculous mouse will be born") (Horace).

passim.   in various places (in a quoted work).

pax intrantibus.   peace to those who enter.

pax vobiscum.   peace be with you.

pedente lite.   pending the suit.

per annum.   per year.

per ardua ad alta.   through difficulties to the heights.

per ardua ad astra.   through difficulties to the stars.

per capita.   by the head.

per centum.   per hundred.

per diem.   per day.

per mensem.   per month.

per omnia saecula saeculorum.   for ever and ever.

per procurationem (abbreviated per pro or pp).   as agent for.

per se.   taken alone.

persona non grata.   a non-acceptable person.

post hoc ergo propter hoc.   after this, therefore because of this (a logical fallacy).

post meridiem (abbreviated p.m.).   after midday.

post mortem.   after death (also figuratively).

prima facie.   on a first view.

primus inter pares.   first among equals.

pro bono publico.   in the public good.

pro bono.   done without charge in the public interest.

pro forma.   for the sake of form.

pro hac vice.   for this occasion.

pro rata.   according to the rate.

pro se.   on one's own behalf.

pro tanto.   to that extent.

pro tempore (abbreviated pro tem).   for the time being.

proximo (abbreviated prox.).   of the next month.

qua.   in the capacity of.

quantum in me fuit.   I have done my best.

quasi.   as if.

qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.   let him who desires peace prepare for war (Vegetius).

quid pro quo.   something for something.

quis custodiet ipsos custodes?   who is guarding the guards?

quo in casu.   in which case.

quo vadis?   where are you going?

quod erat demonstrandum (abbreviated QED).   which was to be proved.

quod erat faciendum (abbreviated QEF).   which was to be done.

quod vide (abbreviated q.v.).   which see.

ratio decidendi.   the reason for the decision.

ratio legis est anima legis.   the reason of the law is the soul of the law.

re.   in the matter of.

reductio ad absurdum.   reduction to the absurd (proving the truth of a proposition by proving the falsity of all its alternatives).

regina.   queen.

requiescat in pace.   rest in peace.

res ipsa loquitur.   the thing speaks for itself.

res tantum valet quantum vendi potest.   a thing is worth only what someone else will pay for it.

rex.   king.

rigor mortis.   the stiffening of a body after death.

salve (plural salvete).   hail; welcome.

semel in anno licet insanire.   one can act the fool once a year.

semper fidelis.   always faithful.

senatus populusque Romanus (abbreviated SPQR ).   the Senate and the people of Rome.

sensu stricto.   in a narrow or strict sense.

seqq.   and those that follow.

seriatim.   one after another in order.

si vis pacem, para bellum.   if you want peace, prepare for war.

sic.   thus (used in quoted passages to indicate that an error has been deliberately reproduced).

sic transit gloria mundi.   thus passes the glory of the world.

silentium est aureum.   silence is golden.

silva rerum.   an assorted collection of facts.

simpliciter.   naturally; without qualification.

sine anno (abbreviated s.a.).  year not known.

sine die.   without stipulating a day.

sine qua non.   an indispensable condition.

status quo.   the existing condition.

stet.   let it stand (used in editing to indicate that something crossed out is to remain).

sub judice.   before a court.

sub rosa.   in confidence.

sub verbo.   under the word (or heading).

sui generis.   of its own kind.

supra.   above or on an earlier page.

suum cuique.   to each his own.

tabula rasa.   a clean slate; an opportunity to start from the beginning.

tempus fugit.   time flies.

tempus fugit, mors venit.   time passes, death advances.

terra firma.   dry land.

terra incognita.   unknown land.

terra nullius.   uninhabited land.

timeo danaos et dona ferentes.   I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts (Virgil).

uberrimae fidei.   of the utmost good faith.

ultimo (abbreviated ult.).   of the previous month.

ultra vires.   beyond the power.

vade mecum.   a constant companion.

vale (plural valete).   farewell.

velle est posse.   where there is a will, there is a way.

veni, vidi, vici.   I came, I saw, I conquered (Caesar).

verbatim.   exactly as said.

verbum sat sapienti (abbreviated verb. sap.).   a word to the wise is sufficient.

versus.   against.

vi et armis.   by force and arms.

vice.   in place of.

vice versa.   the order being reversed.

vide.   see.

videlicet (abbreviated viz.).   namely.

vires acquirit eundo.   we gather strength as we go (Virgil).

virgo intacta.   virgin.

volenti non fit injuria.   that to which a man consents cannot be considered an injury.

vox populi.   voice of the people.

The Colosseum today


Several correspondents have asked about

illegitimis non carborundum.   don't let the bastards grind you down.

This was the motto of United States General Joseph W "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell (1883-1946), but it is not real Latin. It is a pseudo-Latin joke.

A variation of this expression, illegitimum non carborundum, is the official motto of the Harvard University Marching Band.

A warning in Pompeii


It is alleged that the former Vice-President of the United States, Dan Quayle, once said, "I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn't study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people."

However, good though it sounds, this is actually a made-up story.


per procurationem:

If desired, letters can be signed by a subordinate on behalf of a superior in one of two ways:

(a) using Latin

J M Smith
pp BKJ
J M Smith, Sales Manager


  • the first "J M Smith" is an obviously fake manuscript signature of the superior
  • "pp" stands for per procurationem, Latin for "through the agency of"
  • "BKJ" are the manuscript initials of the person who physically signed the letter, whether or not that person also composed it
  • the second "J M Smith" and the title are typed.

(b) using English

Bruce Jones
Bruce Jones
J M Smith, Sales Manager


  • the first "Bruce Jones" is the genuine manuscript signature of the subordinate
  • the second "Bruce Jones" and the remaining lines are typed.

Signatures that take the form "Clerk pp Boss" are back-to-front and thus clearly wrong.


In 1843 Sir Charles Napier conquered Sind, which is now a province in Pakistan. He had had some misgivings about the justice of this action. He expressed these in the clever punning announcement of his success: "Peccavi" (I have sinned).


"Lorem Ipsum" is the standard dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. It is used to stop readers becoming distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.

Lorem Ipsum is a Latin passage which has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, making it look like readable English.


Nobody really knows how the Romans pronounced Latin words. For example, some experts prefer to sound a c as a k, while others prefer to sound a c as an s.

For a fuller discussion, see the Wikipedia entry.

Some online dictionaries let users actually hear the sound of words - see this entry for an example.


Users who indicated which search engine they had used to find this site advised as follows:

                             per cent

Google                          76
Yahoo!                          13
All others                      11

Total                          100


See the Wikipedia entry.


A discussion of anno domini

ISO 6801



Language Books and Web Pages



Apart from using traditional phrases such as those listed above, Latin enthusiasts can coin their own. Thus, for example, using caveat emptor as a precedent one can create caveat raptor (let the robber beware).



A very common error is to write "ad nauseum" in mistake for "ad nauseam" (to a disgusting extent).


A gentleman, having ordered a meal at a fine London restaurant, decided that he would like some wine to accompany his meal. So he summoned the wine steward and asked for a bottle of hock.

"Hock, sir?" asked the steward.

"Yes, hock, man. You know: hic, hunc, huius, huic, hoc."

"Hmm ... very good, sir."

The food duly arrived, but without the wine. This perturbed the gentleman slightly, as he was accustomed to a higher standard of service. He began to dine, and at the next opportunity he beckoned the steward again.

"Didn't I order a bottle of hock?"

"Yes, sir, you did - but then you declined it."

© Copyright N E Renton 2000-2009

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This page with 289 phrases http://nickrenton.com/310.htm was last updated on 2009-12-26