1. “Sapere aude.”A popular Latin school motto, this one means, “Dare to know.” It’s commonly associated with the Age of Enlightenment and may be the reminder you need to never stop learning, no matter your age.
2. “Ad astra per aspera.”One of the most popular Latin phrases, meaning, “Through adversity to the stars,” this utterance is generally used to describe the overcoming of adversity resulting in a favorable outcome. For instance, this common state motto—which also happens to adorn the memorial plaque for the astronauts who died on Apollo 1—can be used in conversation when you’re having a terrible go of things, but you’re confident a greater outcome awaits you.
3. “Carpe vinum.”We’ve all heard the phrase “carpe diem” a million times, but we’ll do you one better: “Carpe vinum.” Of all the Latin phrases to master, this one, which translates to “seize the wine,” will certainly come in handy when you’re eager to impress your waiter with a fancy foodie phrase or are doing your best Caligula impression after a few glasses of pinot noir.
4. “Alea iacta est.”Latin phrases don’t get much more iconic than “alea iacta est,” or “the die is cast,” an expression reportedly uttered by Julius Caesar as he crossed Italy’s Rubicon river with his army. Of course, it works equally well when you’ve got the wheels in motion for a brilliant plan that doesn’t involve civil war.
5. “Acta non verba.”If you want to make it clear that you won’t stand for lip service, toss “acta non verba” into your everyday language. Meaning, “Deeds, not words,” this phrase is an easy way to make it clear that you don’t kindly suffer those whose behavior doesn’t match their words.
6. “Audentes fortuna iuvat.”Want some inspiration to kill it on an upcoming job interview? Repeat, “Audentes fortuna iuvat” (“Fortune favors the bold.”) to yourself a few times in the mirror before heading out the door.
7. “Natura non constristatur.”While it’s natural to be upset over storm damage to a house or dangerous conditions that cause a flight to be canceled, Latin speakers were sure to make it clear that nature doesn’t share our feelings. “Natura non constristatur,” which means, “Nature is not saddened,” is the perfect phrase to remind yourself or others just how unconcerned with human affairs Mother Nature truly is.
8. “Ad meliora.”Today may not be going the way you want, but you can always boost your spirits by uttering “ad meliora,” or, “Toward better things.”
9. “Creo quia absurdum est.”Occam’s razor isn’t always the best way to judge a situation. In times where belief alone trumps logic, drop a “creo quia absurdum est,” which means, “I believe because it is absurd.”
10. “In absentia lucis, Tenebrae vincunt.”While not quite the Washington Post’s motto, this phrase comes pretty close. If you’re ever channeling your inner superhero, try out this expression, which means, “In the absence of light, darkness prevails.”
Latin Phrases About Love
Manus in ManoDirectly translated, “manus in mano” means “hand in hand.” However, the amazing thing about this phrase is that it speaks of the romantic bond just as powerfully today as it did thousands of years ago.
Aere PerreniusIf you want to tell someone your love for them is forever, you can use a Latin phrase. “Aere perennius” means “more lasting than bronze.”
Amor Vincit OmniaMost people have heard of this Latin phrase, which is sometimes used in English. “Amor vincit omnia” means “love conquers all.”
In Perpetuum et Unum DiemWill your love last forever? The beautiful Latin phrase “in perpetuum et unum diem” directly translates to “forever and one day.”
Inspiring Latin Words and PhrasesIf you’re looking for a new personal statement or motto, why not turn to Latin? This language is one of beauty and power, and it makes for some inspiring expressions:
Dum Spiro, SperoOptimism was valued, even in Ancient Rome. The phrase “dum spiro, spero” means “while I breathe, I hope.” The idea is that as long as someone is alive, they keep hoping.
Carpe DiemYou’ve probably heard of this famous Latin phrase used in English. It’s attributed to the Roman poet Horace. “Carpe diem” means “seize the day.” This relates to making the most of the time you have.
Alis Propriis VolatIf you need an inspiring quote for a graduation, nothing beats “alis propriis volat.” It means “she flies with her own wings.”
Acta, Non VerbaWhile words are powerful, action is often more powerful. The Latin phrase “acta, non verba” proves this has always been true. It translates as “actions, not words.”
Discendo DiscimusHave you noticed that when you teach something to someone else, you also learn things? The Latin saying “discendo discimus” means “by teaching, we learn.”
Ad Astra per AsperaSometimes, people must have the persistence to endure hard times before they can reach success. The Latin phrase “ad astra per aspera” perfectly sums up this idea. It is translated as “through hardships to the stars.”
Astra Inclinant, Sed Non Obligant.Another star-themed inspirational quote is “astra inclinant, sed non obligant.” It means “the stars incline us; they do not bind us.” People are influenced by destiny, but they are not bound by fate.
More Lovely Latin Words and PhrasesNo matter what kind of situation you encounter, there are some Latin vocabulary terms that can help. These beautiful words will come in handy.
MellifluusLiterally translated, “mellifluus” means “flowing with honey.” It’s related to the English word “mellifluous,” which means a sound that is beautiful and sweet to hear.
SusurrusThe Latin word “susurrus” means “to whisper.” It’s a lovely word to say and is actually an example of onomatopoeia – a word that sounds like its action.
Barba Tenus SapientesIn a time when men grow magnificent beards, the Latin phrase “barba tenus sapientes” takes on new meaning. It translates as “wise as far as his beard.”
Brutum FulmenThere’s no English term for the idea of something that is threatening without having a reason to be. The Latin phrase “brutum fulmen” eloquently expresses this concept, translating as “senseless threat.”
Felix CulpaThe world is full of happy accidents or lucky failings, and the Romans had a term for them. “Felix culpa” means “happy fault.”
MelioraA Latin word for positivity is another beautiful example of how this language can eloquently express complex concepts. The word “meliora” means “better things” or “things continuing to improve.” The English word “ameliorate” derives from “meliora.”
UmbraWhen you take umbrage with something, you express annoyance. This is loosely related to a beautiful Latin word. “Umbra” refers to shadows, ghosts, and darkness, but it especially means the shadows of trees.
Latin Phrases About Death
Memento MoriWhat does the phrase memento mori mean? Remember death. It’s a unique phrase used by Roman generals and others, typically during their victory parade. Your mortality is most apparent after a battle.
Mortem ObireMortem obire can be broken down a few ways. It could mean to face death. The Latin phrase about death could be translated as leave this life to remember someone you’ve lost.
Extremum Vitae Spiritum EdereLooking for a unique Latin phrase about death? Try extremum vitae spiritum edere, which translates to give up the ghost. Just let that one sit with you for a while.
Animam AgereAnother phrase that works to break down the finality of death is animam agere. It translates to mean to have one’s last breath. It’s a poetic phrase for a final moment.
Mortem OppetereThe Roman’s had a phrase for all different types of deaths. Mortem oppetere translates to meet a violet death.
Mortem Sibi ConsciscereRather than being a violent death, mortem sibi consciscere translates to death by suicide. This phrase could work well during suicide awareness month or for a tattoo in remembrance.
Mortem Occumbere Pro PartiaA death for your country is mortem occumbere pro partia. This phrase could also be used for a Roman noble death.
Necessaria Morte MoriThis Latin phrase for death is used when a death is natural. No foul play occurred in this type of death; it was just time.
MortiferLooking to translate bringer of death in Latin? Look no further than the word mortifer. It also translates to lethal and fatal.
Mori Quam FoedariHonor is important. In fact, there are those that would rather face death than dishonor. If you want to exemplify this in Latin, mori quam foedari means death before dishonor.
Mors ImmaturaWhen death comes too soon or is untimely, you call it a mors immatura. However, it isn’t just deaths happening at a young age, it’s also for those that depart before they’ve reached their full potential in life.
Mature DecedereLooking for a Latin phrase covering death for those who die young, then mature decedere is correct. This could be the death of a child or just someone considered young.
Mors Vincit OmniaDeath is the end. It can’t be avoided, and everyone succumbs to death at some point. The Romans summed this up poignant in death conquers all or mors vincit omnia.
Latin Phrases About War
Alea iacta est – The die has been thrown (Said by Julius Caesar when he crossed with his troops the Rubicon river in 49 BC, despite the refusal of the Roman Senate, thus provoking civil war)
Ante bellum – Before War (Period of increasing tension that leads to a war)
Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit litora – I sing of war and of a man, who first from the shores of Troy, driven by fate, arrived in Italy and on Lavinian shores. (Virgil – Aeneid I)
Audi Iuppiter et tu Iane Quirine dique omnes caelestes vosque terrestres vosque inferni audite – Hear, O Jupiter and you too, Janus-Quirino also, and all the celestial, terrestrial, and infernal gods, hear (Livy Book I – Declaration of war)
Bella! Horrida bella! – War! Horrid War! (Virgil – Virgil – Aeneid, VI, 86)
Bellum internecinum! – War of extermination
Bellum omnium contra omnes – War of all against all (Thomas Hobbes [1588-1679] – Levithan, XIII)
Casus belli – Cause of war (Diplomatic term – Reason to start a war)
Deus vult – God wills it (Motto of the First Crusade – 1095 war ordered by Pope Urban II against Muslims in Jerusalem)
Duas fossas XV pedes latas eadem altitudine perduxit – Directed the construction of two trenches fifteen feet wide and the same depth (Julius Caesar – The Gallic war)
Latin Phrases About Life
1. Dum spiro speroI don’t remember where I read this one, but it has become part of the way I live my life. It means “While I breathe, I hope.” To me, this translates into never losing hope and faith for a better future. Never losing drive to achieve your goals.
2. Docendo discimusWhenever I read something interesting, the first thing I do is either make notes or tell someone about it. When I tell a friend about a topic I’ve read about, I discover whether I’ve understood it entirely. I discover whether I’m passionate enough about that topic that I can speak about it in my own words and not fail to teach someone else about it. Docendo discimus means “By teaching, we learn.”
3. Veni vidi viciI’m sure you’ve heard of this one before: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” It originates from a letter that Julius Caesar wrote after his victory in the war against Pharnaces II of Pontus. How does this apply in my life? Whenever I set a goal, I do everything to achieve it. I set a goal, I work hard, I achieve.
4. Et ceteraI’m not sure if this is worthy of being on this list… It means “and other things.” To be honest, I just wanted to mention it so I can tell you all that pronounce this as “exetera”, it’s wrong. You’re pronouncing it wrong. It’s pronounced (phonetically) as “et setera”, “et ketera”, or as “et chetera” with the “ch” as in “Charlie”. I’m fun at dinner parties. Okay, moving on.
5. Natura nihil frustra facitWhen you look outside, you see the sun shining which enables us to see when we’re outside, you see trees invisibly producing oxygen so we can continue to exist. Natura nihil frustra facit: “Nature does nothing in vain.” It means that – and this is going to sound cliché – everything happens for a reason. Everything happens of necessity. It reminds me that, even though I should enjoy life and enjoy as many fun activities as possible, I should also make sure that every task I undertake has some meaning or is somewhat significant. Which brings us to the next one…
6. Quam bene vivas refert non quam diu“It is how well you live that matters, not how long.” Most of us are somewhat afraid of the inevitable that is part of being human: death. However, that fear is probably not associated with actually dying, but more with how you’ve lived your life. Did you accomplish all your goals and dreams before it was too late? Did you get married and had children? Did you get to travel and see the world? Death is inevitable and something you can’t control, but the choices you make during life are absolutely all up to you. It’s not about the number of years that you lived, but about the years spent truly living. Those are the ones that count. Speaking about the number of years that count…
7. Eheu fugaces labuntur anni“Alas, the fleeting years slip by.” This one reminds me to not waste time. Don’t waste time overthinking things. Don’t waste time stressing over things you can’t control. Don’t waste time overanalyzing every single thing that happened during your day and has already passed. Let go and live in the Now. (It’s easier said than done, but we can try.)
8. Beati pauperes spirituI recently read the book Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, and my favorite passage is the following: “And if there is one thing more that I must say to you, it is this: Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness and remains far behind yours. Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words.” It reminds me that no matter how happy everyone around me seems to be, every single one is battling his own war in his head. “Beati pauperes spiritu” is actually from the Bible and it means “Blessed in spirit [are] the poor.” The kindest people I’ve met in my life didn’t have many material possessions, but they had a lot of love, kindness, and compassion to give.
9. Marcet sine adversario virtusTo be honest, all I know about this one is that it belongs to Seneca and that it means “Valor becomes feeble without an opponent.” I don’t know the context of it in the essay that’s written by Seneca, but to me it means that you constantly need to challenge yourself to keep your life exciting. I can easily interpret “valor becomes feeble without an opponent” to “passion fades away without a challenge.”
10. Temet nosce“Know thyself.” This has two meanings to me. First, even though the majority of the people perceives something as the truth, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is indeed the truth or the right thing to do. Make sure you stay true to yourself and choose what you think is the right choice. Second, make sure to be yourself no matter how others prefer to perceive you. True friends will like you for you, and not the you they prefer to see.
Latin Phrases Used In English
1. Ad hoc: To thisIn 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. Usually, one does something on an ad hoc basis (e.g., she answered questions on an ad hoc basis).
2. Alibi: ElsewhereThe 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.
3. Bona fide: With good faithAnother common Latin phrase, bona fide literally means with good faith. The meaning has changed somewhat in English usage to mean something that is real or genuine (e.g., she was a bona fide expert in the social structures of humpback whales).
4. Bonus: GoodBonus, 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.
5. Carpe diem: Seize the dayA common phrase with motivational speakers and go-getters, carpe diem is a Latin phrase that means seize the day, made popular by the Roman poet Horace. It is usually used to motivate others to make the most of the present and stop worrying about the future.
6. De Facto: In factDe facto is a Latin phrase that, literally translated, means of fact. 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 (e.g., she was the de facto leader of the book club).
7. E.g.: For exampleCommonly 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.
8. Ego: IA popular term in psychology, ego in fact began as the Latin equivalent of the first person pronoun, I, which makes sense when considering its modern meaning, which refers to an individual’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem.
9. Ergo: ThereforeErgo, an adverb meaning therefore, is one Latin phrase that has maintained its meaning exactly in English usage.
10. Et cetera: And so onUsed at the end of a list to indicate that further items could be included, et cetera (or etc.) literally translates to and the rest.
Latin Phrases With Meaning
1. AURIBUS TENEO LUPUMIt might seem odd to say that you’re “holding a wolf by the ears,” but auribus teneo lupum—a line taken from Phormio (c. 161 BCE), a work by the Roman playwright Terence—was a popular proverb in Ancient Rome. Like “holding a tiger by the tail,” it is used to describe an unsustainable situation, and in particular one in which both doing nothing and doing something to resolve it are equally risky.
2. BARBA TENUS SAPIENTESA man described as barba tenus sapientes is literally said to be “wise as far as his beard”—or, in other words, he might look intelligent but he’s actually far from it. This is just one of a number of phrases that show how the Romans associated beards with intelligence, alongside barba non facit philosophum, “a beard does not make a philosopher,” and barba crescit caput nescit, meaning “the beard grows, but the head doesn’t grow wiser.”
3. BRUTUM FULMENApparently coined by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, a brutum fulmen is a harmless or empty threat. It literally means “senseless thunderbolt.”
4. CAESAR NON SUPRA GRAMMATICOSIn a speech to the Council of Constance in 1414, the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg happened to use the Latin word schisma, meaning “schism.” Unfortunately for him, he muddled up its gender—schisma should be a neuter word, but he used it as if it were feminine. When the error was pointed out to him, Sigismund angrily proclaimed that because he was Emperor, even if the word was neuter (which it was) it would be feminine from now on, at which point one member of the Council supposedly stood and replied, “Caesar non supra grammaticos”—or “The Emperor is not above the grammarians.” The phrase quickly became a popular proverbial defence of the importance of good grammar and spelling.
5. CARPE NOCTEMCarpe noctem is essentially the nocturnal equivalent of carpe diem and so literally means “seize the night.” It too is used to encourage someone to make the most of their time, often in the sense of working into the early hours of the morning to get something finished, or else enjoying themselves in the evening once a hard day’s work is done.
6. CARTHAGO DELENDA ESTAt the height of the Punic Wars, fought between Rome and Carthage from 264-146 BCE, a Roman statesman named Cato the Elder had a habit of ending all of his speeches to the Senate with the motto “Carthago delenda est,” or “Carthage must be destroyed.” His words quickly became a popular and rousing motto in Ancient Rome, and nowadays can be used figuratively to express absolute support for an idea or course of action.
7. CASTIGAT RIDENDO MORESLiterally meaning “laughing corrects morals,” the Latin motto castigat ridendo mores was coined by the French poet Jean de Santeul (1630-97), who intended it to show how useful satirical writing is in affecting social change: The best way to change the rules is by pointing out how absurd they are.
8. CORVUS OCULUM CORVI NON ERUITPicture a politician sticking up for a colleague even in the face of widespread criticism—that’s a fine example of the old Latin saying corvus oculum corvi non eruit, meaning “a crow will not pull out the eye of another crow.” It’s essentially the same as “honor amongst thieves,” and refers to complete solidarity amongst a group of like-minded people regardless of the consequences or condemnation.
9. CUI BONO?Literally meaning “who benefits?,” cui bono? is a rhetorical Latin legal phrase used to imply that whoever appears to have the most to gain from a crime is probably the culprit. More generally, it’s used in English to question the meaningfulness or advantages of carrying something out.
10. ET IN ARCADIA EGOArcadia was a rural region of Ancient Greece, whose inhabitants—chiefly shepherds and farmers—were seen as living a quiet, idyllic life away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Athens. The Latin motto et in Arcadia ego, “even in Arcadia, here I am,” comes from the title of a painting by the French Baroque artist Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) that depicted four Arcadian shepherds attending the tomb of a local man. Although precisely what Poussin meant the title to imply is hotly debated, it’s often interpreted as a reminder that no matter how good someone else’s life appears to be compared to your own, we all eventually suffer the same fate—the “I” in question is Death.
Latin Phrases With English Meaning
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
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
alias — at another time; an assumed name or pseudonym
alibi — elsewhere
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