Writing French Essays Phrases In Latin

Latin Words and Expressions: All You Need to Know

By Daniel Scocco

Even though Latin is considered a dead language (no country officially speaks it), its influence upon other languages makes it still important. Latin words and expressions are present in virtually all the languages around the world, as well as on different scientific and academic fields.

Below you will find a list with the most used and important Latin words and expressions, enjoy!

Common Latin Words

alibi: elsewhere
alter: another
bellum: war
bonus: good
borealis: northern
corpus: body
derma: skin
dies: day
domus: home/house
ego: I/me
erectus: upright
gens: family
homo: human
malus: bad
magnus: great
nemo: nobody
omnis: everything
pax: peace
primus: first
qui: who
rex: king
sapiens: wise
terra: earth
tempus: time
virtus: virtue
vivo: live
vox: voice

Latin/Greek Numeral Prefixes

semi: half
uni: one
duo, bi: two
tri, tris: three
quadri, tetra: four
penta: five
hexa: six
hepta: seven
octo: eight
ennea: nine
deca: ten

Other Latin/Greek Prefixes

ad: towards
ambi: both
endo: within
extra: in addition to
exo: outside
hyper: over
hypo: under
infra: below
inter: between
intro: within
iso: equal
liber: free
macro: large
micro: small
mono: single
multi: many
omni: all
proto: first
poli: many
tele: distant
trans: across

General Latin Expressions

a priori: from the former. If you think something a priori, you are conceiving it before seeing the facts. Presupposing.

ad hoc: to this. Ad hoc refers to something that was creating for a specific purpose or situation. An ad hoc political committee, for instance, is formed for one specific case.

ad infinitum: to infinity. Something that goes ad infinitum keeps going forever. You could say that your wife hassles you ad infinitum, for example.

ad valorem: to the value. This expressed is used when something is related to the value of an object or transaction, like an ad valorem tax which is proportional to the value of the product.

ceteris paribus: other things being equal. This expressions if often used in economics where, in order to impact of something on the economy (e.g., inflation or unemployment), you need to hold other variables fixed.

de facto: common in practice, but not established by law. For example, English is the de facto official language of the United States.

honoris causa: for the sake of the honour: This is an honorary degree where an academic institution grants a doctorate to someone without the formal requirements (exams and the like). Usually the person receiving the degree has connections with the University or has made important achievements in a certain field.

in toto: entirely.

mutatis mutandis: with necessary changes. This expression is used to express agreement to something that, however, still need to be changed or amended.

per se: by itself. If something exists per se, for instance, it exists by itself, regardless of external factors.

sic: thus. Sic is usually used in newspapers or other publications (placed within square brackets [sic]) to indicate that the spelling error or unusual phrase on a quotation was reproduced as it was in the source, and therefore it is not an editorial error.

vice versa: the other way around. If you write “John loves Mary, and vice versa,” it means that Mary also loves John.

Q.E.D. (Quod erat demonstrandum): which was to be demonstrated. This Latin abbreviation is often used at the end of mathematical theorems in order to demonstrate that proof is complete.

Legal Latin Expressions

bona fide: good faith. In contract law, for instance, parties must always act in good faith if they are to respect the obligations.

de jure: by law. Some states are currently working on legislation that would make English the de jure official language of the United States.

dictum (plural dicta): a statement that forms part of the judgment of a court.

obiter dicta: a judge’s opinion offered in the course of a judgment but having no legal force.

ex parte: from, by, or for one party in a dispute. An ex parte decision is one decided by a judge without requiring all of the parties to the controversy to be present.

habeas corpus: (we command that) you bring forth the body. In this case, the “body” (corpus) refers to a living person who is being held in prison. The phrase has nothing to do with producing the corpse of an allegedly-murdered person.

ipso facto
: by the fact itself. Parents who have deliberately mistreated their child are ipso facto unfit custodians.

mens rea: guilty mind. The U.S. legal system requires that when a crime is committed, the perpetrator must have the intention to commit the crime. For example, a driver who strikes and kills a pedestrian because of faulty brakes is guilty of manslaughter, but not of murder. There was no intent to kill so the mind was not guilty. On the other hand, the wife who repeatedly runs over her husband with her SUV is guilty of murder because of her mens rea.

pro bono: (the original phrase is pro bono publico) for the public good. Sometimes high-priced lawyers come forward to defend suspects who would otherwise have to take their chances with someone from the Public Defender’s office. They work on the case pro bono, i.e., they don’t charge a fee.

prima facie: by first instance – this refers cases with sufficient evidence to warrant going forward with an arraignment.

quid pro quo: something for something. For example, the ADAs (assistant district attorneys) make deals with criminals, giving them shorter sentences in exchange for information that will enable them to convict other criminals. Another example of quid pro quo might occur between two lawyers, each of whom gives up some advantage to gain another.

Famous Latin Phrases

divide et impera: Divide and reign. It was a theory proposed by Niccolò Machiavelli and used previously by the Roman Senate to dominate the Mediterranean.

alea jacta est: the die is cast: This famous phrase was said by Julius Caesar upon crossing the Rubicon. Caesar was violating a law of the Roman Empire, hence why he was playing with luck.

veni vidi vici
: I came, I saw, I conquered. Another phrase said by Julius Caesar, this time upon the victory over Pharnaces, king of Pontus.

cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am. This phrase was originally said in French by René Descartes, and it represents a corner-stone of the Western philosophy. The Latin translation is more widely used, though.

carpe diem: seize the day. This phrase comes from a poem by Horace. The phrase was made famous when it was used on the movie Dead Poets Society.

deus ex machina: God out of a machine. In ancient Greece when a plot was complicated or tangled, the play writers would just insert a God in the final act in order to solve all the problems. Usually a crane machine was used to drop the actor on stage, hence the name.

homo homini lupus: man is a wolf to men. This phrase was originally said by Plauto, but other philosophers also used it, including Bacon and Hobbes. The meaning is quite straight forward.

This article was written collaboratively by Daniel and Maeve. If you think there is Latin word or expression missing just let us know and we will update it.

Recommended for you: « Punctuation Errors: Multiple Punctuation Marks »


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123 Responses to “Latin Words and Expressions: All You Need to Know”

  • Steve

    Some say that the removal of Latin from the school curriculum was a major factor which has contributed to the ‘dumbing down’ of the populace of the western nations. When we understand Latin, we understand our own English language and much of its construction so much better.

  • bob

    1) When did Titus Maccius Plautus become “Plauto” in English, rather than “Plautus”? “Plauto” is correct in Italian, Spanish, and probably in several other languages.

    2) The original phrasing in the Asinaria is “lupus est homo homini”, though it seems that the most common form in modern English is “homo homini lupus est”.

    3) In the entry entitled “homo homini lupus”, ought not “straight forward” be a single word?

    4) If the above seem a bit pedantic, remember that Caesar’s editor must be above reproach 🙂

  • Scott

    1) When did Titus Maccius Plautus become “Plauto” in English, rather than “Plautus”? “Plauto” is correct in Italian, Spanish, and probably in several other languages.

    2) The original phrasing in the Asinaria is “lupus est homo homini”, though it seems that the most common form in modern English is “homo homini lupus est”.

    3) In the entry entitled “homo homini lupus”, ought not “straight forward” be a single word?

    4) If the above seem a bit pedantic, remember that Caesar’s editor must be above reproach 🙂

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Latin Phrases


It’s a matter of taste and style, but not long ago American writers attempted to demonstrate their credentials to the world by including Latin and French phrases within works. A dash of Latin was expected of the moderately educated throughout the Western world.

– Words and Phrases –

annus mirabilis - wonderful year

arbiter elegantiae - judge of the elegant; one who knows the good things in life

bona fides - good faith; credentials

carpe diem - sieze the day; enjoy the present

casus belli - cause justifying a war

caveat emptor - buyer beware

cui bono? - for whose advantage?

caeteris paribus - all things being equal

de facto - of fact; it is

de gustibus non est disputandum - no disputing tastes; there is no accounting for taste

Dei gratia - by the grace of God

Deo gratias - thanks to God

Deo volente - God willing

dis aliter visum - it seemed otherwise to the gods

Dominus vobiscum - Lord be with you

dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - sweet and seemly it is to die for one’s country

ecce homo - behold man

ex cathedra - with authority

ex more - with or according to customs

exempli gratia - for example (e.g.)

genius loci - spirit of the location

hic et ubique - here and everywhere

hinc illae lacrimae - hence, those tears

humanum est errare - to err is human; human is to err

id est - that is (i.e.)

in extremis - at death

in hoc signo vinces - by this sign, you conquer

in loco parentis - in place of the parent

in medias res - into the middle of things; the heart of the matter

in omnia paratus - prepared for all; ready for anything

in perpetuum - forever; perpetually

in propia persona - in person; in one’s own life or words

in statu quo - as things were

in toto - entirely; in total

ipso jure - the law itself

jure divino - Divine law

labor omnia vincit - labor conquers all things; effort results in victory

laborare est orare - to work is to pray

laus Deo - praise God

loco citato - in the location cited

loquitur - he speaks

mens sana in corpore sano - of sound mind in a healthy body

meum et tuum - mine and yours

modus operandi - mode of operating

morituri te salutamus - we who are about to die, salute you

motu proprio - of one’s own accord; on your own

multum in parvo - there is much in little

nemo me impune lacessit - no one attacks me with impunity

nil admirari - wondering at nothing

nolens volens - willing or not

Nota Bene - note well; pay special attention to

omnia vincit amor - love conquers all

opere citato - in the volume cited; in the book cited

otium cum dignitate - leisure with dignity

passim - here and there

pater patriae - father of his country

pax vobiscum - peace be with you

persona non grata - unwelcome person

primus inter pares - first among equals

pro bono publico - for the public good

pro Deo et ecclesia - for God and the Church

pro forma - as a matter of form; standard

quod erat demonstrandum - which was demonstrated; that which was shown

requiescat in pace - rest in peace

sic - thus; so it was

sic passim - so throughout

sic semper tyrannis - thus always to tyrants

sine die - some day; not a particular time

sine quo non - without which, nothing; it is essential

tempus fugit - time flies

timeo Danaos et dona ferentes - I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts

verbatim et literatim - word for word, letter for letter


Now, even if you were not fortunate enough to take Latin in school, you possess enough to impress some editors and readers. Use these phrases wisely… and sparingly.

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