Latin Words and Expressions: All You Need to Know

By Daniel Scocco

latin words and expressions

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.

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

  • han

    YOU SAVED ME ! YOU HELPED ME FINISH MY HOMEWORK THAT WAS VERY IMPORTANT!

  • Léo Fernandes

    Can somebody explain me the mean of “Ignis Sanctum”?
    Sacred fire, I guess.

  • L. McKay

    Hello,
    I’m looking for a Latin quote I wrote down once, and am unable to find it. Something like:

    Let us go on to better things….

    OR

    Let us go on to other things…

    Melior (or some variation, thereof) was used in it… Would anyone be able to help? Thank you.

  • Arlene

    Hey, just a question when you have time- how do you say “A good day to die” in latin ,please and a most emphatic thank you!

  • mary l ross

    I have a question if you could please answer. Does Dios tu amat mean GOD lOVES YOU?

  • PreciseEdit

    This information is “maximus beautimus.”

    [FYI: This is not real Latin, but it’s fun to say.]

  • keith elvin

    what does fortiter occupa portam mean

  • Gusti Gould

    Your site is very interesting and useful. Could you please take me out of my ignorance and tell me the Latin equivalent of “immediately”. I have heard many people mistakenly employ “ipso facto” when they want to say “right away”.
    Thank you very much,
    Gusti Gould

  • Peter

    Arlene: I think I’d say bona dies cadiendus (could use moriendus, but cadere has more the sense of being killed in battle rather than just dropping dead, etc., which I assume is what you want)
    mary l ross: yes and no: you mean deus te amat (dios isn’t a word, and tu is nominative (subject) case)
    keith elvin: an exhortation to “take the gate bravely”;
    Gusti Gould: statim – like you see on your favourite medical drama “do such-and-such, stat!”

  • Nick

    I’m trying to find the translation for “over my dead body”

    I used an online translation machine and it gave me “super meus mortuus somes” which I believe is wrong.

    Thanks in advanced!

  • Peter

    Yes, it’s just translated each word in the nominative case (except for “body” – I can’t imagine why it would come up with “somes” – that isn’t Latin. σῶμα (soma) is Greek, though).

    A literal translation: super corporem mortuum meum/super cadaverem meum (but of course it’s not a Latin idiom)

  • Chantelle

    I am a new reader and was so impressed to find this article! You guys did a great job. Some suggested additions if possible:

    – pro rata
    – inter alia
    – circa

    Thanks!

  • elmer

    pattern of latin word and basic to speaks of latin word how to get this latin word

  • yupyup

    Derma is not latin, it is Greek

  • Alex

    Can someone help me with the latin translation of:
    “It’s a crazy World, so we are part of it”

  • swapan Halder

    Its a great learning center. Kindly send me regularly.

  • michael

    im doing a puzzle and they want me to unscramble these letters to form a famous latin phrase; om it lti mul mu ne ta; mo nia nov. can someone help me please thanks

  • Anya

    i love latin cos i am in a school that is k12 and i am taking latin love it

  • mike

    im taking latin 2 so bona fortuna to all who speak it 😀

  • mike

    latin rox

  • mike

    latin latin latin yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

  • PHILIIP TRAVER

    I need to translate the phrase “Pick Those Nits” into latin. At least the ide if not exactly.

  • hi

    this rules i want to learn latin

  • Tony Hearn

    I have an observation to add re [Latin ablative singular of ‘res’ and thus needing no period/full stop!] ‘alea iacta est’. The phrase Suetonius ascribes to Julius Caesar is ‘iacta alea est’, though we may let that pass, as it is so commonly quoted the other way round. But the meaning has nothing to do with casting metal, as the translation ‘the die is cast’ might suggest to the unwary. The reference is to the game of dice as played by the Romans.

  • tommy

    are there more definitions to this list or is the definitions on this list it. cause i have to do a word search and i cant find the words

  • James

    As a law student I find this very helpful for translation when sifting through judgments.

    Thanks!

  • puy

    Nice list… but I think you missed one, and its of my favorite ; Credo quia absurdum – “I believe because it is absurd”…

    You’ll find it on the novel “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder.., a novel about history of philosophy. Great ones!!!

  • Joe Galvez

    I find this info most rewarding. I am a student in my first year in college and this kind of laguage is very interesting for myself.

    JOJO

    Thanks

  • TERRY

    can someone unscramble these letters to form a famous latin phrase, I playing a game called Magic Encyclopedia.
    Thank you.

  • anthony

    i would like to know what anthony/tony also martin is in latin would someone please help, i would be greatfull

  • Goran Dimovski

    How it is said on latin when someone speaks a lot, but he isn`t telling anything(no one can understand him).??? Please answer me :):)

  • Lisa

    I am playing the game magic encyclopedia and need to unscramble letters to form a famous latin phrase. Please help me. they are om-it-lti-mul-mu-ta;-mo-ne-nia-nov.thanx

  • Geoff

    Re is not an abbreviation of res. It is the ablative singular form of the word, meaning ‘with the matter.’ The word res is
    s nominative singular and nominative and accusative plural.

  • Shae

    how do you say, “just have faith” in latin

  • Assur

    I ran into this site by chance, very good. I am not very well versed in Latin nor Greek. Perhaps because i’m from Mesopotamia, but i really like the site.

    If i may, one latin term i’m aware of that isn’t noted is;

    E pluribus unum = Latin for “Out of many one”
    Novus ordo seclorum = Latin for “New Order of the Ages”

  • Karen

    I’m trying to translate a couple of phrases into Latin and every website I go to gives a different answer soooooo I’m very confused now. I was wondering if you would have any idea how to get a correct translation??????

    The two phrases:

    I love you (I’m getting: te amo; ego amo te; ego diligo vos… oi!!! which one??? 🙂

    and

    Joined by God (I’m getting: iunctus per deus; deus iunctus nos; deus nos iunxit)

    I want to make sure I get the correct translation, but can’t get a consensus on either of them.

    Any help will be much appreciated.
    Thanks!!! 🙂

  • Peter

    @Karen: They’re all acceptable, but go with “te amo”; “ego” is Latin for “I”, but it’s implied by the form of the verb (“amo” means “I love”, “amas” means “you love”, etc.), so it only serves as an intensifier — “I love you” (as opposed to others who don’t, for example — the word order also emphasizes the “I” in that example). “Diligo” is more like “respect”. Oh, and “vos” in your third version is plural: “It is I who love/respect you guys” is the sense of that one.

    I’m not sure what “joined by god” is supposed to mean; the translations you have mean “joined by(the agency of) god”, something like “god joining us” (the word order makes no sense on its own) and “god joined us” (using a verb)

  • th21

    how do you say “all that i want i already have” in latin? i saw it in a book but i can’t remember it exactly…it’s something like

    omne que volo iam habeo

    thanks!! 🙂

  • ben lambert

    Hello i am trying to find a latin saying.
    The queen of england used it when talking about princess diana’s death and i belive it was used by a king henry(not sure which one) about when he fell off a horse.
    The moment that something important happens in a person life and it changes them forever.
    thanks for any help, ben.

  • Jaques

    Latin uses declensions not conjugations, this may save some confusion in looking for the correct terms in latin this example I was lazy enough to grab from Wikapedia…a website of not great credibilty when it comes to the rats of this world usually whitewashed there.
    aqua, -ae
    water f. agricola, -ae
    farmer m.
    Singular Plural Singular Plural
    Nominative aqua –a aquae –ae agricola –a agricolae –ae
    Vocative aqua –a aquae –ae agricola –a agricolae –ae
    Accusative aquam –am aquās –ās agricolam –am agricolās –ās
    Genitive aquae[1] –ae aquārum –ārum agricolae –ae agricolārum –ārum
    Dative aquae –ae aquīs –īs agricolae –ae agricolīs –īs
    Ablative aquā –ā aquīs –īs agricolā –ā agricolīs –īs
    Locative aquae -ae aquīs –īs agricolae -ae agricolīs –īs

    “Vulgar” or common(place) Latin is the formant of French and Italian and much can be realised through similarities. The construction of localised sentences and ideas (colloquialisms) are often not able to be directly translated. Whilst English has a massive advantage in its taking words from may languages precison in expression is much more found say in a good knowledge of French idion…seen in the largest French dictionnaries such as th large Collins Robert or even the smaller “Gasques”. Serious attention to Latin and greek derivation is a great help in understanding English words..especially ones you may have never seen before Latin is used in medicine the vatican and in law because…as a”dead” landuage” it doesn’t suffer the perversion of meaning through common misuse becoming the “norm” or “an alternative meaning” over time.

  • denise

    I really need to know how would you say in latin: April the eight of two thousand and ten.

    Thanks!

  • chuck

    trying to find a phrase that contain these scrambled parts

  • Pro Vobis

    For those who think Latin is worthless, consider this: Take away Latin and you take away 50% of the English vocabulary.

  • Bryon

    Thank you Daniel, I really enjoyed this article and found it very enlightening. I only wish u had more singular definitions. Which is not to say there isn’t enough. I find it much easier to try and comprehend the language with one word at a time, obviously lol.. Instead of just a lot of phrases, like most other sites. It is very hard to pick up any language in phrases especially when you have no prior experience or knowledge of the given course of study. And yes, correct me if I’m wrong, but my thought process is that if one knew latin, then many other languages would or could come easier. Or that I might be able to at least figure out or have a better chance of understanding other languages, while also improving understanding and comprehension of other cultures writing and speech through the latin root comprehension. Once again thank you very much for your article here and the bloging also, i only hope that some of there meanings were correct also.

  • mbossert

    Melina:um-mm i don’t really know how to enunciate these…. a little help??

  • mbossert

    And, I just started to learn latin, and I am really Clueless!! Some tips and some pointers would be useful!

  • Aria

    So “Finding Nemo” means “finding nobody”? But he DID find Nemo… where was Pixar going with this?

  • Makenna

    I need to know te words from english used today and words fromlater in the days also used from latin and i need the meanings for both so i can do a S.S. project 🙂 if so write backkkkk HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA

  • Mondli

    I need a particular phrase about delegation. It has words like de delegato de delegato omni potes. It means you cannot delegate what has been delegated to you (something like that).

    Please help

  • John

    Alea iacta est bene sequitur forma!

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