Latin Words and Phrases Every Man Should Know

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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 fortunae every man is the artisan of his own fortune --  
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   
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  
audio 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  
circa 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  
emeritus veteran -- retired from office  
ergo therefore  
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 movie300  
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  
invicta unconquered  
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  
meliora 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  
postscriptum 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   
quasi 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  
quorum 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 virilis always 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  
subpoena 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  
verbatim repeat exactly  
veritas et aequitas truth and equity  
versus against  
veto I forbid  
vice versa to 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  

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