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Important Latin phrases from the blog The Art of Manliness

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 -- quote by Appius Claudius Caecus

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


at another time -- an assumed name or pseudonym



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


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


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


veteran -- retired from office



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 movie 300

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



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


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

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