Latin phrases in English still used in everyday language plus a complete list of Latin abbreviations, for students, teachers and common citizens.
Humanum genus est avidum nimis auricularum. (Lucrezio)
Mankind is too greedy for lies.
Vita brevis, ars longa, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile. (Hippocrates)
Life is short, art is long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult.
Mundus universus exercet histrioniam. (Petronio)
The whole world plays the comedy
Mala tempora currunt sed peiora parantur. (Cicerone)
We are living bad times, but worse are coming
Ad vitam Paramus. (Unknown)
We are preparing for life.
Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, Auri sacra fames. (Virgilio)
What do not you force mortal hearts [to do], accursed hunger for gold.
Ignorantia legis non excusat. (Unknown)
Ignorance of the law does not excuse.
Nil sine magno vita labore dedit mortalibus. (Unknown)
Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.
Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus; hoc est vivere bis vita posse priore frui. (Martial)
The good man extends the period of his life; it is to live twice, to enjoy with satisfaction the retrospect of our past life.
Viva enim mortuorum in memoria vivorum est posita. (Cicero)
The life of the dead is retained in the memory of the living.
Vitanda est improba siren desidia. (Horace)
One must avoid that wicked temptress, Laziness.
Vitam regit fortuna, non sapientia. (Cicero)
Fortune, not wisdom, rules lives.
Brevis ipsa vita est sed malis fit longior. (Publilius Syrus)
Our life is short but is made longer by misfortunes.
As I wrote in other two articles about the influence of Latin in the English language we must be conscious that the English language is full of words that come from Latin or from Romance or Neo-latin languages, such as French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese ans so on.
A Latinism therefore (from Medieval Latin: Latinismus) is a word, idiom, or structure in a language other than Latin that is derived from, or suggestive of, the Latin language. The Term Latinism refers to those loan words that are borrowed into another language directly from Latin (especially frequent among inkhorn terms); English has many of these, as well. There are many Latinisms in English, and other (especially European) languages.
Did you know how much of the English language comes from Latin? About 80% of the English we speak can be traced back to Latin. Many English words share Latin roots with the Romance languages such as Spanish, French, and Italian, so it’s often easy to decode a new word by considering the bits of Latin you know. For example, the Latin root “aud” means “to hear,” which forms the basis for the English words “auditorium” and “audience,” both of which have to do with listening.
But then we have also many Latin phrases and abbreviations that are still used in English; they are typically used in laws and legal documents, but not necessarily only in these texts, and they are more commonly in written English than in spoken English. So here’s a guide to the most common Latin words that are used in English. Learn these and you’ll sound like a native English speaker. Some Latin comes to English in more than the roots of words. There are many phrases used wholesale from the original Latin. It pays to know these common Latin words and phrases we use in English as they come up in a variety of situations. You’ll often see Latin still used in inscriptions or used as an organization’s motto, but you may also be surprised how often it crops up in day-to-day use.
Common Latin Words and Phrases We Use in English with their meanings
Ad hoc: To this, specific.
In Latin, ad hoc literally means to this, which has been adapted by English speakers as a saying that denotes that something is created or done for a particular purpose, as necessary.
We did not have an HR manager at the company, so I formed an ad hoc HR committee.
Ad nauseam: repeating or continuing to the point of boredom
The apparent risks of secondary smoking have been debated ad nauseam.
The word alibi is a Latin phrase that simply means elsewhere, which will make sense to all you crime drama addicts out there who are familiar with the term as used by police, investigators, and other law enforcement professionals. Nowadays, alibi commonly refers to evidence that someone did not commit a (usually) criminal act because he or she was elsewhere at the time the act was committed.
A Priori: Based on hypothesis or theory, rather than experience. Derived by logic, with no observed facts.
Although I have never been a bachelor myself, I of course know a priori that all bachelors are unmarried.
Bona fide: Unquestionable, in good faith.
Since my boss has never been friendly to me, I was surprised when he offered me his bona fide advice on how I could succeed in business.
Bonus: Good. Bonus, from the Latin adjective bonus, which means good, refers to any number of good things in its current English usage.
Most often, bonus refers to an extra sum of money or reward from one’s employer for good performance, which of course is always a good thing.
Carpe diem: Seize the day!
An exclamation urging someone to make the most of the present time and not worry about the future.
Cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am.
French philosopher Descartes’ famous formula of 1641 attempting to prove his own existence.
Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware.
The principle that the buyer is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.
Circa; c. around; approximately
The house was built circa 1870.
Coitus interruptus: interrupted congress; aborting sexual intercourse prior to ejaculation.
Coitus interruptus is the only form of birth control that some religions allow.
Compos mentis: in control of the mind (often used ironically).
Please call me back later when I’m compos mentis.
De facto: in fact; in reality. Nowadays, it is used to highlight something that is simply a fact or someone who holds a position, with or without the right to do so.
She was the de facto leader of the book club.
Although the Emperor was the head of state, the de facto ruler of Japan was the Shogun.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori: It is a sweet and glorious thing to die for one’s country.
From Horace, Odes III, 2, 13. Used by Wilfred Owen for the title of his anti-war poem Dulce et Decorum Est.
E.g.: For example
Commonly confused with the similar Latin term i.e., e.g. stands for the Latin phrase exempli gratia, meaning for the sake of example. In English, it is used to introduce a list of examples in place of the phrase such as.
Ego: I. A popular term in psychology, ego in fact began as the Latin equivalent of the first person pronoun, I.
It makes sense when considering its modern meaning, which refers to an individual’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem.
Ergo: therefore, consequently. It is one Latin phrase that has maintained its meaning exactly in English usage.
I have never been to Kim’s apartment. Ergo, I cannot tell you what it looks like.
Erratum: error; mistake.
Lists of errors from a previous publication are often marked “errata” (the plural, meaning errors).
Et cetera: etc, and the rest; and so on; and more.
We urgently need to buy medical equipment, drugs et cetera.
Ex gratia: from kindness or grace (without recognizing any liability or legal obligation).
They received an undisclosed ex gratia payment.
Ex libris from the books; from the library:
In the front of a book: Ex Libris John Brown
Extra: In addition to
A common English adjective and prefix, extra is a Latin preposition that means outside or in addition. In English, extra is an adjective, adverb, or prefix that means additional, in addition, or to a greater extent.
Festina lente: Hurry slowly.
An oxymoron =similar to “more haste, less speed”.
Habeas corpus: a court order instructing that a person under arrest be brought before a judge.
The right of habeas corpus has long been regarded as an important safeguard of individual liberty.
I.e.: That is
Sometimes mistaken for the similar abbreviation e.g., i.e. stands for the Latin phrase id est, which literally translates to that is. It is most often used to add information that states something in different words or to give a more specific example: Most of the puppies (i.e., four of the six) found homes over the weekend.
In vino veritas: in wine, truth.
Meaning that a drunk man reveals the truth about himself.
Latin phrases still used in English
Latin phrases still used in English
Impromptu: It means spontaneous or without preparation. Something that catches you by surprise. From the Latin phrase in promptu, meaning in readiness, impromptu is a common English adjective or adverb that describes something spontaneous.
My boss called an impromptu meeting today and my colleagues and I were totally unprepared.
She threw an impromptu birthday party for her best friend.
In loco parentis: in the place of a parent.
Teachers sometimes have to act in loco parentis.
In situ: in its original place.
The paintings have been taken to the museum but the statues have been left in situ.
In vitro: (biology) taking place outside a living organism (for example in a test tube) in vitro fertilization
Inter alia: among other things.
The report covers, inter alia, computers, telecommunications and air travel.
Originally the first-person present indicative form of the Latin verb intro, meaning to enter, intro in English usage has become a prefix or informal noun that describes the beginning of something (i.e., an introduction).
Multi: Many. Multi is the plural form of the Latin adjective multus, meaning many. In English, it is used as a prefix to describe something that contains more than one of something else.
Multicolored, multifaceted, multicultural, etc.
Nil desperandum: Do not despair.
Per: for each.
This petrol station charges $4.00 per gallon.
Per annum; p.a.: for each year
The population is increasing by about 3% per annum.
Per ardua ad astra: through struggle to the stars.
(motto of the Royal Air Force and others)
Per capita: for each person.
The country’s annual income is $30,000 per capita.
Per se: In itself, intrinsically, of an inherent nature.
My friends and I were celebrating and having a great time, but it really wasn’t a party per se.
These facts per se are not important.
Persona non grata: unacceptable or unwelcome person.
From now on, you may consider yourself persona non grata in this house.
Post-mortem: examination of a body after death; autopsy.
The post-mortem revealed that she had been murdered.
Pro bono (publico): For the good (of the public). Pro bono indicates that something is being done without payment or reimbursement.
The phrase is often applied when lawyers provide legal services for little or no money, though its use is not exclusive to the legal profession.
Pro rata: proportional; proportionally.
The car rental charge is $130 per day and then pro rata for part of a day.
Quid pro Quo: It means “of equal exchange or substitution.” Literally, it means “something for something”. You exchange something of the other’s interest for something of your own interest.
They finally agreed on a quid pro quo agreement, in which John will disclose confidential information to George in exchange for free access to George’s company database.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who shall guard the guards?
Quod erat demonstrandum (QED): which was to be demonstrated.
The abbreviation is often written after a mathematical proof.
Re: about; concerning; regarding
Re simply means about, and in modern times, we see it used most often in responses to emails and in other correspondence to refer to an earlier topic of discussion.
Re: Unpaid Invoice
Sine qua non: essential condition; thing that is absolutely necessary.
Words are a sine qua non of spoken language.
A prefix borrowed from Latin, semi translates to half. When used in English, it indicates that something is incomplete or partially finished.
Semidetached, semiautomatic, semi-final, etc.
Status quo: Existing state of affairs
This straight-up Latin phrase literally translates to the state in which and is used in English to describe an existing state of affairs, usually related to political or social issues.
Monarchies naturally wish to maintain the status quo.
Sub rosa (adv.): privately, secretly
Latin, literally “under the rose,” which was regarded as a symbol of secrecy
Terra firma: dry land; the ground as opposed to the air or sea.
Sandokan and his men set foot on terra firma after three weeks at sea.
Veni, vidi, vici.
“I came, I saw, I conquered.”
The report sent by Julius Caesar to the Roman Senate after his battle in 47 BC against King Pharnaces II.
Verbatim: in exactly the same words.
I had to memorize the text verbatim.
Versus; vs.: against.
What are the benefits of organic versus inorganic foods?
In the case of Trump versus Biden, the judges decided…
Vice versa: the other way round. Vice versa is a Latin phrase that literally means in a turned position. In English, it is commonly used to indicate that two things are interchangeable.
My telephone serves me, and not vice versa.
Latin Abbreviations in English
Many Latin abbreviations are still used in English today, though usually in writing. This page lists some of the more common Latin abbreviations, with meanings and explanations. Although you may not need to use Latin abbreviations yourself, it’s useful to be able to recognize them. Their full forms and meanings are given below.
A.D. (anno domini): in the year of the Lord
ad inf., ad infin. (ad infinitum): to infinity
A.M. (ante meridiem): before midday
B.A. (Baccalaureus Artium): Bachelor of Arts
B.D. (Baccalaureus Divinitatis): Bachelor of Divinity
B.L. (Baccalaureus Legum): Bachelor of Law
B.Lit. (Baccalaureus Lit[t]erarum): Bachelor of Literature (or Letters)
B.M. (Baccalaureus Medicinae): Bachelor of Medicine
B.Mus. (Baccalaureus Musicae): Bachelor of Music
B.Phil. (Baccalaureus Philosophiae): Bachelor of Philosophy
B.S., B.Sc. (Baccalaureus Scientiae): Bachelor of Science
c., circ.: circa
cf. (confer): compare
D.D. (Divinitatis Doctor): Doctor of Divinity
D.G. (Dei Gratia): By the grace of God
D.Lit. (Doctor Litterarum): Doctor of Literature
D.M. (Doctor Medicinae): Doctor of Medicine
D.V. (Deo volente): God willing
e.g. (exempli gratia): for example
et al. (et alii, et alia): and others
etc. (et cetera): and the rest, and so forth
et seq. (et sequens, et sequentes, et sequentia): and the following
id. (idem): the same
i.e. (id est): that is
lb. (libra): pound
M.A. (Magister Artium): Master of Arts
M.D. (Medicinae Doctor): Doctor of Medicine
M.O. (modus operandi): method of operating
N.B. (Nota bene): Note well
no. (numero): by number
non obst. (non obstante): notwithstanding
non seq. (non sequitur): it does not follow
p.d. (per diem): by the day
p.a.: per annum
Ph.D. (Philosophiae Doctor): Doctor of Philosophy
P.M. (post meridiem): after midday
P.S. (post scriptum): written after
Q.E.D.: quod erat demonstrandum
R. (rex, regina): King, Queen
R.I.P. (Requiescat in pace): Rest in peace
sic (sic erat scriptum): thus was it written
v., vs.: versus
vox pop. (vox populi): the voice of the people
Learn more visiting these useful websites:
https://www.latin-english.com Latin English Dictionary
https://www.etymonline.com Online Etymology Dictionary
You can download the following books on Latin at this page:
Latin Language: Bennett, Charles E.: New Latin Grammar;
D’Oogle, Benjamin L.: Latin for beginners;
Wine, women and songs. Medieval Latin Student’s Songs, including translation and commentary by John Addington Symonds.