Latin words and phrases everyone should know

  1. a posteriori – from the latter, knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence;
  2. a priori – from what comes before, knowledge or justification is independent of experience;
  3. asta non verba – deeds, not words;
  4. ad hoc – to this, improvised or made up;
  5. ad hominem – to the man, below the belt personal attack rather than a reasoned argument;
  6. ad honorem – for honour;
  7. ad infinitum – to infinity;
  8. ad victoriam – to victory, more commonly translated into “for victory”;
  9. alea iacta est – the die has been cast;
  10. alias – at another time, an assumed name or pseudonym;
  11. alibi – elsewhere;
  12. amor patriae – love of one’s country;
  13. amor vincit omnia – love conquers all;
  14. ante meridiem – before noon, A.M., used in timekeeping;
  15. arte et marte – by skill and valour;
  16. astra inclinant sed non obligant – the stars incline us, they do not bind us (refers to the strength of free will over astrological determinism);
  17. audemus jura nostra defendere – we dare to defend our rights;
  18. audere est facere – to dare is to do;
  19. audio – I hear;
  20. aurea mediocritas – golden mean, refers to the ethical goal of reaching a virtuous middle ground between two sinful extremes;
  21. aut viam inveniam aut faciam – I will either find way or make one;
  22. barba non facit philosophum – a beard doesn’t make one philosopher;
  23. bona fide – good faith;
  24. bono malum superate – overcome evil with good;
  25. carpe diem – seize the day;
  26. circa – around, or approximately;
  27. curriculum vitae – the course of one’s life; in business – a lengthened resume;
  28. de facto – from the fact, distinguishing what’s supposed to be from what is reality;
  29. deo volente – God willing;
  30. dictum factum – what is said is done;
  31. 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;
  32. discendo discimus – while teaching we learn;
  33. docendo disco, scribendo cogito – I learn by teaching, think by writing;
  34. ductus exemplo – leadership by example;
  35. ergo – therefore;
  36. et cetera – and the others;
  37. ex animo – from the heart, thus “sincerely”;
  38. fac fortia et patere – do brave deeds and endure;
  39. fac simile – make alike, origin of the word “fax”;
  40. fortes fortuna adiuvat – fortune favours the bold;
  41. fortis in arduis – strong in difficulties;
  42. historia vitae magistra – history, the teacher of life – from Cicero, also “history is the mistress of life”;
  43. humilitas occidit superbiam – humility conquers pride;
  44. ignis aurum probat – fire tests gold – a phrase referring to the refining of character through difficult circumstances;
  45. in aqua sanitas – in water there is health;
  46. in memoriam – into the memory, more commonly “in memory of”;
  47. in omnia paratus – ready for anything;
  48. in situ – in position, something that exists in an original or natural state;
  49. in toto – in all or entirely;
  50. in utero – in the womb;
  51. in vitro – in glass, biological process that occurs in the lab;
  52. intelligenti pauca – few words suffice for he who understands;
  53. invicta – unconquered;
  54. labor omnia vincit – hard work conquers all;
  55. 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;
  56. mea culpa – my fault;
  57. memento vivere – remember to live;
  58. non ducor, duco – I am not led, I lead;
  59. non loqui sed facere – not talk but action;
  60. non progredi est regredi – to not go forward is to go backward;
  61. per annum – by the year;
  62. per capita – by the person;
  63. per diem – by the day;
  64. per se – through itself;
  65. post meridiem – after noon, P.M., used in timekeeping;
  66. post mortem – after death;
  67. postscriptum – thing having been written afterward, in writing abbreviated P.S.;
  68. pro bono – for the good, in business refers to services rendered at no charge;
  69. quid pro quo – this for that, an exchange of value;
  70. sic vita est – thus is life, the ancient version of “it is what it is”;
  71. sola fide – by faith alone;
  72. summum bonum – the supreme good;
  73. veni vidi vici – I came, I saw, I conquered;
  74. veto – I forbid;
  75. vice versa – to change or turn around;
  76. vincit qui se vincit – he conqures who conqures himself; etc. 🙂

Fair enough, we don’t have to know all of them by heart, but just by reading them certain things become much clearer.