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Latin Terms and Phrases Glossary

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Latin terminology, origins, meanings, translations and usage examples.

Latin terminology, origins, meanings, translations, usage

Below is a list of Latin terms which (to varying degrees) are still used in English.

Some of this Latin terminology is very common in general speech and written communications; other Latin terms are more rarely used, in specialized situations, notably for example in law, science, and education/academia.

Latin terminology, expressions and phrases feature widely in the English language. The modern meanings and usage, while evolved and adapted, mostly still generally reflect the original literal translations.

Latin is a regarded as a 'dead' language because it is not used as a main language in day-to-day communications and life.

Latin however remains very much alive as a highly significant language, especially in technical references.

Here are just a few examples of Latin terms which are used very widely in English, including some extremely common abbreviations:

  • ad hoc
  • alias
  • bona fide
  • e.g. (exempli gratia)
  • etc. (et cetera )
  • i.e. (id est)
  • N.B. (nota bene), and
  • P.S. (post script)

There are many more very familiar Latin terms in the listing below, together with the literal/original meanings, and modern usage examples.

For a 'dead' language, the resilience of Latin is extraordinary. Its resilience would be extraordinary were Latin a living language.


Latin is still taught to millions of students around the world, and will continue to be for a very long time to come.

Fundamentally this is because:

  • Latin is the (or a) main and most recent root language for many major world languages.
  • Also, for centuries, in fact for two millennia, Latin been a main language of scholarship and academia.

More specifically:

  • Latin has for many centuries been used widely in law. Law is crucial to governance and leadership, society and civilization, diplomacy and international relations, business, trade, and commerce, finance, the military, and therefore so is Latin.
  • Latin has for many centuries been the language of the Christian religion, notably of Roman Catholicism. Christianity became an empire of sorts, which in its own way for centuries effectively ruled most of the world.
  • Latin has for many centuries been a crucial language for all of the sciences, therefore Latin has been crucial also to innovation, invention, exploration, transport, discovery, medicine, health, anatomy, every human and animal condition, and life itself.
  • Particularly related to the above, Latin terminology remains the underpinning language of living things and the biological taxonomy which organizes our understanding of every living thing on the planet.
  • Latin, chiefly via French, had a significant influence in the development of the English language. The conventional English alphabet (along with those of the Romance languages) is known as the Latinate alphabet, because its origins are in ancient Latin. (The 'Romance' languages notably include Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian.)
  • Latin phrases and words have entered (directly and unchanged) the English language, and many other languages too - and the words, rules and structures of Latin have determined - and continue to determine - the way that new words are created.

Latin is obviously vital for the operation of many fundamental professions and disciplines, and for the rest of us, Latin remains fascinating and helpful in the understanding of our day-to-day language, especially the Latin expressions and terminology which survive and arise in business, technical definitions, law, education, grammar, and science, etc.

Here is the listing of Latin terms, including some very common popular phrases, and lots of less common specialized, yet fascinating terminology:

List of Latin terms, phrases, and expressions

Latin terms in the English language - technical, legal, popular, fascinating

Latin term literal translation meaning in use
abacus tray/counting table ancient calculator
abdomen belly/gluttony belly
ab extra / intra from beyond/inside (legal terms) 'ab extra' refers to information from external sources (instead of self or mind) - 'ab intra' refers to information from the self or mind
ab origine / aborigine from the first original inhabitants, from the source, origin, etc - (derivation of the modern word 'aborigine')
ab irato from an angry man actions/words by an angry person - (a legal term, similar to 'in the heat of the moment')
ab ovo from the egg from the beginning
absente reo (abs. re.) (with) the defendant being absent (legal term) - in the absence of the accused
a capite ad calcem from head to heel thoroughly/completely/from top to bottom - more loosely expressed 'from head to toe'
Achilles (Achilles heel) ancient Greek hero weakness - (a Greek word used in Latin - the metaphor refers to the legend of the hero Achilles, as a baby held by the heel and dipped into the river Styx by his mother Thetis to make him immortal, leaving his heel vulnerable, such that when shot there by an arrow he died, hence the 'Achilles heel' or simply 'Achilles' is a person's main weakness)
acta est fabula the drama has been acted out it's all over/it's finished/the end
A.D. (anno domini) in the year of the Lord denotes that the year is since Christ's birth in the Julian and Gregorian calendars - contrasting with B.C. (Before Christ), which signifies years 'Before Christ', which are counted backwards - there is no zero year
ad hoc to/for this improvised/devised/applied spontaneously or purely for the purpose ('just for this')
a fortiori with strength all the more so, with greater reason
ad hominem to the man personally directed - (as when criticizing someone)
ad infinitum to infinity endlessly/for ever/without limit
ad interim (ad int) for the meantime in the interim/meantime/temporary/stand-in/
ad lib (ad libitum) with freedom freely, improvised, spontaneously created - now most commonly an instruction or freedom to 'improvise' in performance, communication
ad litteram to the letter precisely/according to the 'letter of the law'
ad nauseam to (produce) sea-sickness to the point of causing nausea/unbearably tedious
a priori / a posteriori from what comes before/ after (these terms mainly refer to philosophical or mathematical assertions) - an 'a priori' fact is self-evident, known without need of direct specific experience/evidence (for example 'snow is cold') - an 'a posteriori' fact is based on observed evidence or experience, etc (for example snow fell in Ireland on [a particular date])
ad referendum (ad ref) to/for referring for further consideration (elsewhere)
ad rem to the thing to the matter in hand/directly relevant
adsum I am here present (formal answer to a rollcall)
aegrotat he is ill doctor's note - medical excuse/qualification awarded when exams are missed due to sickness
Aesop writer of fables (see Aesop's Fables)
aetatis (aetat or aet) aged (number of years) aged... or 'of the age...' (precedes the age of someone/something)
affidavit he/she has declared under oath a sworn statement made voluntarily by a person, recorded by a qualified person, usually for legal purposes, such as admission in a court case
agenda (agenda sunt or agendum est) things that must be moved forward list of items for a meeting, order of discussion, set of aims, motivational factors - agenda now has a wide range of meanings, after initially referring to a meeting schedule
Aiax/Ajax hero of Trojan War a metaphor for size and stength
Albion Britain the ancient Greek word for Britain
alia iacta est / iacta alia est the die is cast the die is cast - beyond the point of possible return, fully committed come what may - see the die is cast and  cross the Rubicon in cliches origins - the phrase is attributed to Julius Casear, 49BC, on his invasion of Rome from Gaul - as with many other Latin phrases the 'i' of iacta is alternatively a 'j', so that the word was/is jiacta (although some say Caesar spoke this phrase in Greek anyway..)
alias dictus (alias) at another time called otherwise known as/also known as/aka
alibi elsewhere a submission or claim, typically supported by proof/evidence, that an accused person was at a different place from the scene and time of a crime
alieni generis of a different kind of a different kind/of another type
alpha A (the letter) denotes the first of something, for example alpha-male (dominant male), or alpha-test (the initial release of technology/software among developers, prior to finalizing specification/features and beta-test, being final testing among users)
alma mater nourishing mother one's college or university
alter ego other self/other I secondary personality/other self/trusted friend
alumnus nursling/foster child graduate or student of educational institution (alumna, alumni, alumnae are respectively female, plural and female plural)
a mensa et toro from table to bed legal separation (divorce)
amicus curiae friend of court an objective or neutral advisor in legal process
amor love love
amore carens love without loveless
amor vincit omnia love conquers all love conquers all
amor proximi love one's neighbour love thy neighbour/love your neighbour (US neighbor)
anno Domini year of our Lord (AD)/since BC (before Christ)
annus horribilis/terribilis/ mirabilis horrible/terrible/ wonderful year (different dramatic ways to refer to good/bad years)
ante bellum before war pre-war (which war depends on context/situation)
ante meridiem (a.m.) before midday before noon/morning/AM/am
apex summit, crown peak, top, pinnacle
appendix supplement supplement (extra document/body of text/information) - separately in anatomy an obsolete sac in humans connecting to large intestine - from appendere, 'hang upon'
aqua vitae water of life (metaphorical reference to) a local/national/special drink - (used variously to refer to different drinks, typically local or national or particularly enjoyed from the speaker's view, commonly for example: wine, whisky/whiskey, brandy, ale, etc
arbiter judge, witness judge, controller, arbitrator, umpire
ars gratia artis art for art's sake art for art's sake - art that is free from non-artistic pressures/aims (e.g., profit, politics, etc)
Artium Baccalaureus Arts Bachelor Bachelor of Arts/AB/BA/(university degree)
Artium Magister Arts Master Master of Arts/MA/AM/(higher university degree)
aureo hamo piscari to fish with a golden hook 'money talks'/money gets results
Aurora Borealis goddess of the northern dawn the 'Northern Lights' atmospheric display, at certain times in the night sky far north - Aurora is the Roman goddess of the dawn - Borealis meaning northen in Latin is taken from the Greek Boreas, god of the north wind - Aurora Australis is literally 'goddess of the southern dawn', and refers to the 'Southern Lights' (being the equivalent phenomenon in the southern hemisphere) - australis means southern in Latin
australis southern the origin of the name Australia - from 'terra australis', southern land
ave Maria hail Mary hail Mary
a vinculo matrimonii (free) from the bond of marriage complete divorce (sometimes abbreviated to 'a vinculo')
beta B (the letter) notably 'beta-test', referring to the external release (to users) of machinery/technology/software (of completed specification/features) in the final stage of testing - compared with 'alpha-test' which is controlled release among developers aimed at fixing the features/specification prior to beta release
bis in die (b.i.d.) twice in a day medical abbreviations - (for example instructions for taking tablets)
bona fide good faith in good faith/honestly/genuine/real
Britannia Britain Britain
cadit quaestio the question falls argument collapses/the central legal argument has collapsed (so move on)
caeteris (ceteris paribus) other things being equal all things equal/other things being equal
campus plain (grassland) university and its grounds
carpe diem seize the day enjoy the opportunity/make the most of the chance - (the full quote is 'carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero' = 'enjoy today, trusting little in tomorrow' - from Horace's Odes)
casus foederis fall (action) (due to) league/alliance situation causing action under a treaty
causa sine qua non a cause without which not a necessary condition
cave/cave canem beware/beware of the dog beware, caution, take care, attention/beware of the dog
caveat let one beware a stipulation, condition, warning, exclusion, limit, etc - typically in formal contracts, also in verbal agreements
caveat emptor let the buyer beware buyer beware/responsibility is with buyer
caveat venditor let the seller beware seller beware/responsibility is with seller
cerebrum brain front part of brain - considered advanced compared with early human brains and additional to animal brains - hence cerebral refers to intellectual rather than emotional or physical thought/behaviour/effect
certiorari to be made certain a writ issued by a higher court for documents from a lower court for the purpose of reviewing the lower court process/decision
cetara desunt the rest are missing parts of the (written/created) work have not been found (despite research)
ceteris (caeteris paribus) all other things being equal assuming that no external factors alter the central question/point, conditional on there being no effect from variable external elements - (a qualifying statement establishing fixed conditions around a proposition, to enable a firm argument to be made)
citius altius fortius faster higher stronger motto of the modern Olympic games  
confer (cf.) compare compare (with)/see also (as appears widely in dictionaries, etc)
circa (ca. or c.) around about/approximately/roughly (referring to a quantity, date, time, etc)
codex treetrunk/wooden block manuscript/code of laws
cogito ergo sum I think therefore I exist I think therefore I exist, or I think therefore I am - (originally recorded by French philosopher René Descartes, 1596-1650 - in Discourse on the Method, part IV, 1637-44, written mostly in French but with parts in Latin)
coitus interruptus going together interruption withdrawal before ejaculation (for contraception or other reason)
coitus more ferarum sex in the way of wild beasts (medical/humorous reference to) 'doggy style' sexual intercourse - historians assert that the expression in its Latin form was used in ancient Rome
compos mentis of sound mind in full possession of mental powers, sane (cf. non compos mentis) 
con (contra) against against
coniunctis / conjunctis viribus with united powers (acting) with united powers (towards a commonly agreed aim)
consensus agreement agreement (among a number of people) - (note that this word is related to the English word consent, not to census, which misunderstanding often produces the misspelling 'concensus')
consensus adacium agreement of audacious/rash men a conspiracy
consensus facit legem consent makes law (a principle that) any agreement between parties may be legally binding provided it does not violate law
consensus gentium agreement wide/general wide agreement/generally accepted belief or views
consensus omnium agreement of all agreement of all/general agreement
cornu copiae horn of plenty cornucopia/abundance (from various Greek legends, most popularly: The baby Zeus, hiding from his baby-eating father Cronus, was suckled as an infant by a goat/nursemaid, Amalthea. Zeus, having the strength of a god, accidentally broke off one of Amalthea's horns, which he then endowed with the power to produce unending nourishment (and anything else desired) for its owner
corrigenda items to be corrected (draws attention to) corrections required in a manuscript before publishing
cui bono/malo? who will gain/lose? who stands to benefit/lose (from a particular action/situation)? - expressions in criminal investigation or other speculation - in attempting to reveal motive/responsibility
cum grano salis with a grain of salt take (a comment) with a grain of salt/add a note of caution to a comment (in Roman times and more recent history too, salt was very valuable and symbolic of something not to regard lightly - Roman soldiers were paid in salt - salarium - hence the expression 'worth his salt' (someone is worthy of his/her wage)
(summa/magna) cum laude with (greatest/great) praise traditionally highest/2nd, and 3rd grades in a US university degree
curriculum vitae the course of (one's) life a resume or job/personal history/(commonly abbreviated to CV)
cursor runner, courier positional marker on an electronic display
de bonis asportatis carrying goods away  old legal term for larceny, which has largely been superseded by the term theft
de bono et malo of good and bad (of a decision) come what may/for good or bad/'whatever'
decimus a tenth from which 'decimate' originates - strictly
de dicto / de re of (the) word / of (the) thing (technical clarification of the nature of a statement so as to differentiate) - the wording of the statement/(as distinct from) the thing that the statement refers to - these are two contrasting terms used in philosophical discussion/works differentiating between the form of the statement and what the statement refers to - (while quite subtle and technical, these two terms are useful in highlighting the difference between the qualities of a statement as distinct from the truth or otherwise of what the statement seeks to convey) - for example many children's statements can be criticized 'de dicto', while being brilliant 'de re' - (note that there are more complex applications of these terms)
de die in diem (diem ex die) from day to day continuously/day in, day out/without a break
de facto of fact in reality/in practice (especially contrasted with something which exists in in a lesser way theory or in law, see de jure/iure)
dei gratia by the grace of god by the grace of god (traditionally implying a divine right, such as a monarch's title/status)
de jure (de iure) according to law existing legally/legally sanctioned/legally approved
delineavit drawn by (of a work of art) created by (followed by the artist's name)
delerium tremens trembling delirium the DTs/bodily shaking caused by nervous disorder from alcohol abuse
denarius/denari/denarii small common Roman silver coin in English money history 'D' or 'd' for denarius came to denote pence in pre-decimalisation pounds shillings pence (LSD) - (the denari equated loosely to a labourer's daily pay) - the L and S in LSD also originated from ancient Latin, 'libra' and 'solidus nummus'
deo volente (d.v.) god willing god willing - if possible
deus ex machina god out of a machine person/thing/event which suddenly unexpectedly resolves a problem - also a contrived resolution of a plot in a dramatic work such as a play or film
de nihilo nihil from nothing comes nothing nothing comes from nothing/don't expect something to come from nothing
de novo anew anew, refreshed
deperire / depereo hopelessly in love (to be) utterly/helplessly/hopelessly in love (with someone/something)
divide et impera divide and rule divide your opponents to defeat them (a maxim adopted and popularized by Machiavelli)
doce ut discas learn by teaching teach in order to learn
docendo discimus learning by teaching we learn something by teaching it to others
doctus cum libro learned with a book having knowledge without practical experience
Domine, dirige nos Lord, direct us Lord/God, direct us (God is our guide) - traditional official motto of London
Dominus vobsicum/Dominus tecum God be with you (plural)/God be with you (singular) God be with you (all)/God be with you (to an individual) - a traditional way to say farewell or goodbye
dramatis personae the persons of the drama cast of characters (in a play or film, or situation, etc)
dum spiro spero while I breathe, I hope while there is life in me I can still hope
dum tacent clamant though they are silent they cry aloud their silence speaks volumes (usually referring to silence being an effective admission or indication of guilt or fault)
dum vita est spes est while there is life there is hope while there's life there's hope
dura mater tough mother (medical/biological term for) the outer membrane of the brain and spinal cord - the Latin term is itself derived from an earlier fuller Arabic term, loosely 'thick mother of the brain'
ecce homo behold the man considered by advocates, and represented by artists, of biblical history, as the words of Pontias Pilate in presenting Jesus Christ to the crowd after flagellation prior to crucifixion
ecce signum behold the sign look at the proof - examine the evidence - the proof is in front of you, so look at it
e contrario on the contrary on the contrary - actually, the opposite is true
editio cum notis variorum edition with various notes a technical academic/scholar term referring to a version of text which contains different interpretations and notes and comments from experts
editio princeps first edition the first printed edition (of a book especially)
e.g. (exempli gratia) for the sake of example for example, or for instance
emeritus a soldier who has served his time honourably/honorably and earned his discharge denoting the title holder (for example a professor) has retired and retains the title (plus the word 'emeritus') as a mark of having served with distinction - the original meaning derives from soldiers in the Roman army, from the verb 'mereri', to earn
emerita (female form of emeritus) (a relatively modern adaptation of the conventional emeritus male/general form above)
e pluribus unum one out of (from) many one (big thing) made from many smaller parts - motto of the USA
ergo therefore therefore - and so it follows that.. (linking a cause or situation with a result or conclusion)
errare humanum est to err is human people occasionally naturally make mistakes - popularized by Alexander Pope's 'An Essay on Criticism' which stated 'To err is human; to forgive, divine' - this is an acceptance of human weakness
et al (et alii/et aliae/et alia) and others (abbreviation - male/female/neuter full versions) and other men/women/factors (et al is the abbreviation - et alii is 'and other men'; et aliae is 'and other women'; et alia is 'and other things' - traditionally speech etiquette suggested that "...educated people do not ever actually say 'et al', instead they say 'and others'...")
etc (et cetera) and the rest and so on - typically replacing potentially additional items in a listing of similar factors
et nunc et semper now and for ever from now on
et seq (et sequentes/sequentia) and the following... usually abbreviated 'et seq' - (or seqq, sqq)
et tu, Brute you also, Brutus realization, acknowledgment, and accusation that an apparent trusted friend or ally is actually an enemy - the expression was popularized by Plutarch's and Shakespeare's telling of the killing of Julius Caesar by conspirators including his previous friend Brutus
et ux (et uxor) / et vir and wife / and husband (legal terms meaning) and wife / and husband
ex animo from the heart sincerely
ex astris scientia from the stars, knowledge 'From the Stars, Knowledge' - a contrived retrospective Latin expression created as the maxim of the Starfleet Academy in the film/TV franchise Star Trek.
ex cathedra from the chair with authority - refers to statements made by experts, or claimed to be (cathedra referred to a teacher's chair before it more famously meant the Pope's chair)
excud (excudit) he/she who struck this (made by) made by... a traditional printer's or engraver's term preceding the name of the creator/maker/writer
ex dolo malo (ex dolo malo non oritur actio) an action (in court) does not arise from fraud a Latin legal term equating to 'fraud' - deriving distortedly from the full original sense that a court action cannot be viable if based on a fraud
excelsior ever upward ever upward
exeat let him/her go forth permission to be absent - traditionally an exeat granted permission for a priest to leave a monastery - the term also extended to absence from a university
exempli gratia (e.g.) for the sake of example for example, or for instance
ex facie from the face a legal term used typically when referring to an obviously unreliable document - the term in this context equates to 'obviously' or 'needing no further examination'
ex gratia out of goodness payment or reward given freely without obligation
exit he/she goes out a single actor leaves the stage
ex libris from the books from the library of... (owner's name)
ex mero motu out of pure simple impulse spontaneously - (implication being no external influence)
ex nihilo nihil fit nothing comes from nothing nought comes from nought -
ex parte from a party from one side only - only one side is represented at a legal hearing (the other side is absent)
ex pede Herculem from the foot, a Hercules from a small sample the whole thing can be estimated - an early principle of extrapolation or projection, said to derive from Pythagoras' calculations in estimating the size of Hercules from his foot size, in turn inferred from the scale of the Olympia stadium
experto credite experience gives credibility trust one who has the experience - from experience a person has credibility
ex post facto from what happens afterwards knowledge or law after an event applied retrospectively to the event - similar to 'with the benefit of hindsight', or the sense of 'knowing now what we did not know then'
exuent / exuent omnes they go out / they all go out they leave the stage - stage direction terminology
ex ungue leonem from a claw, the lion from a small sample the whole thing can be estimated - equating to ex pede Herculem
ex uno disce omnes from one deduce all from a small sample the whole thing can be estimated - equating to ex pede Herculem
facta non verba actions speak louder than words actions speak louder than words - judge by deed not what is said
fecit (F.) he/she made (it) made by... (creator's name) - traditional term used by artists/makers - separately F may stand for 'filius', meaning 'son'
felo de se felon of himself suicide
festina lente hasten slowly more haste less speed
fiat lux let there be light let there be light - (alternatively represented by the rarer Latin 'lux sit')
Fidei Defensor (Fid Def or fd) Defender of the Faith Title first given to Henry VIII of England by Pope Leo X in 1521. Removed by Rome c.1530 after Henry divorced catholic Catherine of Arragon, and reinistated later in his reign as defender of the protestant faith. The title endures to modern times, shown in official references and on British coins, usually abbreviated FD.
fide et amore by faith and love by faith and love
Fidei Defensor (FD) Defender of the Faith traditional additional title of English/British monarchs, given by the Vatican - often abbreviated to FD
floruit (fl) he/she flourished when a historical character was most productive/active - used in biographical information, especially if birth/death dates are unknown, the 'fl' symbol appears with the year(s) of his/her prominence
fons et origo source and origin the source and origin (of something)
fronti nulla fides appearance is not reliable appearances can be deceptive - or 'don't judge a book by its cover'
fugit hora flies the hour time flies - time passes quickly
genius loci spirit of the place the atmosphere of somewhere including its influence on visitors
gradatim ferociter by degrees, ferociously Motto of Jeff Bezos' private spaceflight company Blue Origin, which officially treats "Step by step, ferociously" as the English translation
grammatici certant grammarians dispute (are disputing) experts are discussing (a case/matter/dispute) - this refers to situations that are subject to official review before a decision or resolution is made
gratias tibi ago thank you thank you
habeas corpus (you) shall have the (arrested person's) body in court a legal order for an arrested person to attend court, especially from the accused standpoint, so that unless lawful grounds are offered for detention then the person must be released
hic et nunc here and now here and now - immediately, forthwith -for example when demanding immediate payment
hic jacet / iacet here lies here lies (the body of..) - a tombstone term
hic situs est this is the place this is the place
hic sunt dracones / leones here be dragons/lions unchartered territory - these are very old references to unchartered territories, used on maps, and since then popularized in dramatic works
hoc anno in this year in this year
hoc loco in this place here
honoris causa for the sake of honour/honor denotes an academic or other qualification given on merit, rather than by official examination
hora fugit the hour flies time passes quickly - time is pressing
hora somni (h.s.) at the hour of sleep at bedtime - (medical term)
horribile dictu horrible to say a warning before telling an awful or upsetting description/report
iacta / jacta alea est the die is cast the die is cast - the decision/commitment is made and irreversible (see the die is cast in cliches origins)
ianuis / januis clausis with closed doors behind closed doors (referring to a legal hearing or court or meeting)
ibid. (ibidem) in the same place in the same source referenced in the previous entry - (an academic referencing mechanism to save space and unnecessary repeating of the same detail when citing sources)
id. (idem) the same the same author (as previously referenced) - an academic space-saving device used in citing authors
(i.e.) id est that is (to say more clearly...) in other words, in more detail, or to say more clearly and fully.. (this very common term is often misused in place of 'e.g.' (for example), whereas 'i.e.' means that clarification of a previous point is to follow
in medias res into the middle of things the way a dramatic work such as a play or story begins
INRI (Iesus [Jesus] Nazarenus Rex Iudaeoreum [Juaeoreum]) Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews -
ignorantia legis neminem excusat ignorance of the law does not excuse ignorance of the law is no defence/defense for breaking the law
ignorantia non excusat ignorance does not excuse ignorance is not an excuse (for wrong-doing) - the implication is that a person's moral code should not have to rely on specific instruction to avoid wrong deeds
in absentia in (one's) absence denotes action against or award to someone in their absence, for whatever reason - for example criminal convictions and academic awards
in aertenum for ever for ever, in perpetuity
in articulo mortis in the grasp of death (a statement made) at the point of death - traditionally statements made 'in articulo mortis' have at times been considered additionally believable because the person had nothing to gain at that stage from lying - alternative to 'in extremis'
in camera in a chamber in private - typically court/legal proceedings which exclude public and press
incipit here begins denoting the start of old/ancient texts
(bis/ter/quater) in die (b.i.d./t.i.d./q.i.d.) (twice/three times/four times) in a day medical abbreviations - (for example instructions for taking tablets)
in dubio (in dubio pro reo ) in doubt, for the accused the defendant has the benefit of the doubt - innocent until proven guilty
in esse in being actually existing - contrasting with 'in posse'
in extenso in full word for word, fully and entirely - referring to a text or paper of some sort, emphasize there has been no edit/removal
in extremis in end at death - at the point of (a person's) death - alternative to 'in articulo mortis' - mostly significant in assessing reliability of statements made by the deceased in relation to a case
in fine (i.f.) in the end at the end of (a stated reference or page, etc)
in flagrante (in flagrante delicto) in flaming crime (caught) in the act (of wrong-doing) - often referring to the discovery of sexual liaisons and adulterous relationships
in foro in forum in court (legal term) 
infra below (see note) below - directs readers to explanatory detail below the item concerned, often preceded with 'vide' (see) - infra is also a prefix meaning below, under, beneath, 'sub', lower than, etc (infrastructure, infrared, etc) - broadly contrasting with 'ultra' (beyond/to extreme degree)
infra dignitatem/infra dig below dignity beneath (a person's) dignity or normally expected standards, referring to actions or behaviour/behavior
in futuro in future in the future
in illo ordine (i.o.) in that order respectively
in limine on the threshold about to happen
in loco parentis in place of a parent guardianship or responsibility for a minor
in media res into the middle of things introductory statement before telling a story, or a the start of a play
in memoriam in memory in the memory of - (typically an inscription on a memorial stone or other material)
in ovo in the egg immature, undeveloped
in pectore in the breast in secret
in perpetuum for ever forever
in pleno in full in full, complete (typically referring to a payment)
in posse potentially potentially - contrasting with 'in esse'
in propria persona in person in person, personally
in re (re) in the matter of regarding - alternatively and more technically in legal matters (the full form 'in re') means that a case is uncontested 
in saecula saeculorum for ages of ages for ever and ever
in se in itself in itself (an alternative to 'per se' - by itself)
in situ in place in its natural location (contrasting with 'in vitro' - in glass [a glass test-tube])
instante mense (inst.) in the present month (substitute term for whatever the current month is - (for example "...your letter of 5th inst. refers...) - ult = last (month); prox = next (month)
in statu quo in the state in which (slightly different to 'status quo' - in statu quo refers to a situation at a specified time, relative to a subsequent or prior different situation, rather like saying 'in statu quo [the situation/condition/state] in the 1970s...' or 'in statu quo [the situation/condition/state] before the business was floated...' )
inter alia among other things among other things, included in other considerations
inter alios among other people among other people, included within a wider groups of people
inter nos between us between us, among ourselves, between ourselves
inter pares between equals between our peer group (of a discussion or circulated notes)
inter se between themselves between them, among themselves
inter vivos between the living (for example referring to transfer of property) between two living people, (as distinct from a transfer following someone's death)
in toto in total completely, wholly, fully, altogether
in vino veritas in wine the truth people speak freely when under the influence of alcohol, alcohol/wine loosens the tongue
in vitro in glass in a test-tube, (developed) in a laboratory or artificial environment - contrasting with 'in situ'
in vivo in life (developed/experimented) in a living thing/organism - contrasting with 'in vitro'
ipsissima verba the exact words verbatim - word for word - (referring to quoted remarks)
ipso facto by that fact as a direct immediate consequence of that fact/act
justitia omnibus justice for all justice to all, be fair to everyone
lapsus linguae error of tongue slip of the tongue, verbal mistake
lapsus memoriae error of memory mistaken memory, faulty recollection, remembered wrong
lex loci law of the place law of the land, local jurisdiction
lex non scripta law not written unwritten law, common law
lex scripta law written formal written statute
libra (lb and £) balance, set of scales, pound the origin of the £ pound sterling symbol and pound weight (lb) symbol - libra, meaning a set of weighing scales, (which separately became a sign of the Zodiac) meant a pound in weight, and (via late Middle Ages English) a pound in money (weight and money were directly related), being the origin of the traditional pre-decimalisation 'L' denoting the £ pound-sign in LSD (pounds shillings pence) - the S and D symbols were also derived from ancient Latin money terms - 'solidus nummus' and 'denarius' - separately libra means book (hence 'library')
licet it is allowed it is allowed/permitted/licensed
lis sub judice/iudice (sub judice) lawsuit before the judge case not yet decided
loco citato (loc. cit.) place cited (work) in the work/place/source previously referenced - (a referencing note used by scholars/writers/academics, to avoid repeating entire sources)
locum tenens (locum) place holding (person) deputy, substitute, temporary replacement (for example of a doctor)
locus classicus place classic (work) authoritative work/source/extract/text, the generally most highly regarded source (a referencing note referring to a work considered highly authoritative)
locus delecti place (of) crime scene of the crime, crime scene
locus in quo place in which place in question (where the incident in question happened)
loquitur (loq.) he/she speaks (script note that) a person speaks - (a dramatic/stage direction)
lucri causa gain cause for the sake of (monetary) reward/gain/enrichment - in hope of financial reward - 'profit driven' - motivated by money
magister artium (M.A.) master of arts Master of Arts - university degree - also abbreviated reversed, AM 
magna cum laude with great praise second honors/honours university degree (see cum laude)
magnum opus great work the/a major work of a creative (writer, composer, etc)
major great great, significant - major/maior is the Latin comparative of magnus, great
mala fide bad faith in bad faith - fraudulent - (contrasting with 'bona fide')
male captus, bene detentus wrongly captured, properly detained (controversial legal principle asserting that) improper arrest should not prevent proper detention and trial - (the principle is not universally enforceable)
malesuada fames persuaded to evil by hunger crime (that is) produced by hunger - (see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs)
malo animo with evil intent equating and evolving to the legal phrase 'with malice aforethought'
malum in se / malum prohibitum wrong in itself / wrong according to law (legal terms differentiating that something is) inherently wrong / wrong in law - (for example an ambulance which jumps a red light en route to an accident is committing an offence which is 'malum prohibitum', but not 'malum in se')
mandamus we command (a legal writ) instruction from a higher court to a lower court
manu propria (m.p.) (signed) by own hand (old rare term indicating that a signature was made) by the signatory's own hand - (where a signature is missing, or a printed document contains a copy of a signature)
mea culpa by my fault I am responsible for the problem - acknowledgment of guilt or blame
media middle (plural) media now means various things in English, notably the news and information industries ('mass media'), and ways or materials for communicating in the broadest sense - the origin is Latin, from the singular word medium, meaning middle, which caused the word to evolve in English to refer to an agency or means of doing something (the sense of a body or mechanism between two parties, acting as a tool, enabler, conduit, translator, communicator)
medicinae doctor (M.D.) doctor of medicine designation of a university degree and doctor of medicine, a general practitioner (GP)
membrum virile member male (reproductive organ) polite term for penis
memo (memorandum est) it must be remembered (that..) a written/audio or other note - (to self or more commonly others in a work group) - a 'memo' was the pre-internet age standard quick recorded paper communication between work people, typically from a manager to subordinates, or fellow-managers or superior staff - before desktop computers, memos were typically hand-written or dictated by managers and typed and copied using carbon paper (pre-1970s), later photocopiers (pre-1990s), by typists/secretaries - these intensive production methods ensured that old-style paper memos were generated and circulated in relatively tiny volumes compared to the billions of modern emails
mens sana in corpore sano sound mind, sound body sound in mind and body
mirabile dictu/visu wonderful to relate/see amazingly (to tell/see)
mobile vulgus movable public fickle group/people/crowd (referring to the whimsical changing nature and opinions/reactions of the general public or an audience - this is the derivation of the word 'mob')
modus operandi way of working method or process for a task or activity/service
modus vivendi way of living arrangement between people of differing needs, notably when living or working together, a compromise enabling cooperation
mox nox in rem soon night (so), to business/work do it, get it done, act now, 'JFDI'
multum in parvo much in little many good things in something small - (a general term for something compact or small which has extensive great qualities)
M M (mutatis mutandis) changed as had to be changed altered accordingly - (for example referring to changes having been made that were required to meet new circumstances or law)
nemine contradicente ('nem con') no one contradicting unanimously - 'nem con' is a commonly used term in meetings containing votes, where the motion or decision is agreed/passed with no objection (a less common term is 'nemine dissentiente', no one dissenting)
ne plus ultra no more beyond perfection, (at/to) the limit
ne quid mimis nothing in excess nothing to excess
nihil obstat nothing is an obstacle no obstacle, no objection, nothing wrong (so proceed, permit, licence, etc)
nil carborundum This is false Latin, originating in the British army as a comment on authority/commanders, taken to mean 'Don't let the bastards grind you down', however it is not real Latin. The expression is structured on the basis of the famous quote from Horace's 'Odes', I:vii:27 'Nil desperandum Teucro duce' - 'Do not despair with Teucer as your leader' - there are variations of the expression; all are false Latin) 
nil per os / non per os (n.p.o.) nothing by mouth (medical term) - 'nil by mouth' - no food/drink/anything for this patient to be consumed by mouth
nolens volens unwilling willing whether willing or not
non compos mentis not of sound mind  not in possession of full mental powers, mentally unstable/unreliable, (less formally) not thinking straight, contrasting logically with 'compos mentis'
non liquet (it is) not proven legal term meaning that a judgment is not possible due to legal ambiguity or inadequacy - also interpreted to mean 'not clear' and 'not evident'
non obstante notwithstanding notwithstanding, nevertheless, in spite of
non prosequitur he does not proceed judgment in favour/favor of a defendant when the plaintiff fails to act within a legal time limit
non sequitur it does not follow a statement/conclusion which is not actually proven or demonstrated by the preceding evidence/argument/justification - an inadequately supported claim
nota bene (N.B.) note well note well, take note, attention - (introducing and emphasizing what follows)
nudum pactum a nude pact invalid agreement - (legal term for a contract made with insufficient financial or other consideration, so making it non-binding and unenforceable)
nunc pro tunc now for then retrospective, back-dated, retroactive (referring to the effective date or application of an agreement or contract or award, etc)
obiter dictum/dicta incidental remark/remarks an incidental/aside remark by a judge having no effect on the matter in hand, but which may influence future related issues
oculus dexter (O.D.) / oculus sinister (O.S.) right eye / left eye abbreviations used by Ophthalmology (medical attention for eyes)
olet lucernam (it) smells of the lamp a negative assessment of a creative work for having taken too long to produce, or being over-worked (the metaphor referring to working late through the night and 'burning the midnight lamp')
omnia vincit amor love conquers all love conquers everything
onus probandi the burden of proving the burden of proof
opere citato (op. cit.) in the work cited referencing term used where a work has previously been referenced, so avoiding the need for repeating the entire reference source
opus magnum a great work reverse version of 'magnum opus'
pace tua (pace) by your leave with respect to (... other[s] with an opinion that the speaker is about to criticize/contradict) - with your permission
pari passu (at) equal pace referring to two or more tasks conducted in the same timescales
pari ratione for like reason (and so for) the previous/same reason given... (some sort of action or decision is taken)
particeps criminis partner (in) crime accomplice (in a criminal act)
pass. (passim) throughout throughout
paucis verbis (in) few words briefly
pax vobiscum peace be with you peace be with you
pendente lite (while the) legal case is pending the case is undecided (so comment is not possible)
per annum by the year annually, (rate) for a year
per capita by the head for each person, individually
per centum (percent) by the hundred rate for a hundred
per contra for the opposite on the other hand, conversely,
per diem by each day daily, day-rate
per mensem by each month monthly
per procurationem (P.P. or per pro) to take care of P.P. denotes that a signature in a document, usually at the end of a letter, is that of an assistant or secretary, on behalf of the writer/sender of the letter - (precise position of usage varies, either before the assistant's signature, or before the name of the official signatory/writer)
per se by itself intrinsically, exclusively, specifically
persona grata person pleasing welcome guest, approved individual
persona non grata person not pleasing unwelcome guest, barred/banned individual
placet (it) pleases yes, approved, agreed
plebeius (plebs) the common people (insulting term for) the lower classes (implying a lack of taste, intelligence, breeding, refinement, etc)
posse comitatus (posse) power of a county a posse, group of volunteers - (this is the derivation of the word 'posse' - originally a group of men, over age fifteen, assembled from a county, for a lawful purpose - 'posse' was literally 'be able'; comitatus was county)
post cibum (p.c.) after food (medical term/instruction) - after eating
post hoc, ergo propter hoc after this, therefore (it is assumed) because of this (acknowledgment of) the potentially flawed logic in assuming a causal link between a situation/event and one which follows it (usually in the absence of any better information)
post meridiem (pm) after noon afternoon, evening (see 'ante meridiem', [am])
post mortem after death autopsy, examination of corpse to determine case of death
post mortem auctoris (p.m.a.) after the death of the author legal term typically used in connection with intellectual property rights - (for example copyright generally expires a given period after the creator's death)
post script (PS) after writing a footnote written after the preceding message but before sending, PS
prima facie at first sight at first appearing, on initial evidence - (a legal term referring to initial yet potentially or arguably sufficient evidence)
pro bono publico (pro bono) for the public good for the public good
pro forma for form (formality) as a matter of formality, a standard document - (originally in law a formal process which did not necessarily serve practical purpose, and this sense evolved top extend to documents, and then to standard documentation)
pro parte in part (typically referring to) part of (a group)
pro rata/rate by rate proportionately, in proportion - (in the same ratio, whether less or more)
pro se for oneself to defend oneself in court without formal legal representation - alternatively 'pro per'
pro tempore (pro tem) (for) temporarily temporarily, for the while, a temporary situation, replacement, etc
punctatim in points point by point
QED (quod erat demonstrandum) which was to be demonstrated proof/evidence has been provided as intended - this is the proof - (traditionally appended to a mathematical solution)
quantum amount a required or allowed quantity - (for example a debt payable) - also used in various latin phrases to mean 'as much as' - more scientifically quantum in physics means: 'a discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents'
quid nunc? what now? what now? - also the derivation of the traditional English word 'quidnunc', meaning a gossip or overly inquisitive person
qui docet discit who teaches learns a good way to learn something is to teach it to someone else
quid pro quo something for something (else) something which is given in return for another thing - (loosely refers to an exchange, a reciprocal arrangement, an agreed deal or swap, in the same spirit as 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'
quieta non movere don't move the settled leave settled things to be - let sleeping dogs lie
qui scribit bis legit who writes, twice reads writing something is more memorable than merely reading it - i.e. if you write something you will will remember it better than simply reading it - (a learning/teaching method and maxim)
qui tacet consentit who is silent consents remaining silent or failing to respond may be taken as agreement - the concept has real practical effect, and also to a degree influence in legal situations too
quod erat demonstrandum (QED) which was to be demonstrated proof/evidence has been provided as intended - this is the proof - (traditionally appended to a mathematical solution)
qoud est (q.e.) which is which is
quod vide (q.v.) which see see (for explanation, clarification, comparison, or interest a relevant cross-referenced point - (most commonly abbreviated, 'q.v.', in scholarly/academic works - the term essentially directs a reader to more detail elsewhere in the same work about the word/phrase given with 'q.v.')
quorum of whom a specified minimum number of members, directors or delegates, etc., required for an official assembly (such as a parliament or council or board of directors or committee member, etc) to be able to conduct its affairs, for example take votes and make decisions - the term entered English in the 15th/16th century, from the full Latin phrase used at the start of commissions for committee members, "quorum vos ... unum esse volumus," loosely meaning, "of whom we specify that ... be one"
rara avis rare bird an unusual thing of person - the derivation of the metaphor 'rare bird' - (first recorded and popularized in Latin by Juvenal, in Satires, vi:165 - "rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno" - "a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan")
ratum et consummatum confirmed and completed (in church law) a consummated marriage - a marriage that has not yet been consummated is merely 'ratum tantum' (confirmed only, and can be dissolved, 'super rato'
re thing regarding, concerning, relating to... (the term precedes the name of a subject which is to be discussed or described, etc - from the full Latin form 'res', 'thing')
rebus sic stantibus things thus standing as things/matters stand, in the current situation - (normally a legal statement prefacing the fact or assertion that a point of law remains effective or in force
recto / verso right / left right/left pages of a book - from the full forms 'recto folio' and 'verso folio' 'on the right leaf' and 'on the left leaf'
regnat populus ruling people the people rule
regina/rex queen/rex denoting the queen/king or crown, notably in legal cases equating to the state versus another party, e.g., Regina v. Smith
requiescat in pace (R.I.P.) (may he/she) rest in peace rest in peace (singular) - the plural (may they rest in peace) is 'requiescant in pace'
res ipsa loquitur the thing itself speaks self-evidently, obviously, the facts/circumstances speak for themselves - (a legal term referring to self-evident proof of something)
salus populi suprema lex esto the good of the people is the supreme law people's welfare must come first (in governance and business, etc) - the expression is translated in various similar ways, and used as a maxim/motto by many civil/state/services authorities to mean that the priority of governance is the health/needs of ordinary people ('the greater good') - the expression origin is usually attributed to Roman philosopher and politician Cicero's work De Legibus (bk III: III; viii), as 'Ollis salus populi suprema lex esto'.
salvo errore et omissione (s.e.e.o.) save for error and omission traditional caveat (as would be inserted by a bookkeeper or auditor) featuring in formal statements of financial accounts
scientia est potentia knowledge is power knowledge is power
scilicet (scire licet) one is permitted to know namely, that is to say, i.e. - prefaces an explanation or clarification - scilicet is the Latin abbreviated form of scire licet
scripsit/sculpsit he/she wrote it/carved it denoting author/sculptor - the term appears after the writer's name on the work
semper fidelis/idem always faithful/the same (thing) always faithful/always the same or unchanging
sensu lato / sensu stricto meaning wide / tight in the wide sense / in the strict sense
seq. (sequens, sequentes, or sequitur) the following the following - to introduce a remark or list, like the words: 'as follows' - the word sequitur has the additional alternative meaning: 'it follows logically', or 'therefore'
seriatim in (a) series one of a series, part of/in a series - a scholarly or technical academic term referring to a published work which is part of a series
sic thus, so as used/written originally - denotes that the word or phrase which precedes 'sic' is quoted exactly as originally used/written/spelled by the quoted source - typically used within a quoted passage or extract to indicate that a misspelling or poor grammar or wrong word was in the source material
sine die without a day until an unspecified time/date/day, no date has been set (for another meeting or resumption) - typically referring to the status of discussions/meetings, that there is no date agreed for further action
sine loco (s.l.) / sine anno (s.a.) / sine nomine (s.n.) without place / date / without a name without place / date /author or publisher - normally referring to a referenced book or paper for which place / date of publication / author or publisher are unknown - (these terms may becombined with the word 'et', and, for example 'sine loco et anno', without place and date
sine mora without delay without delay
sine prole  without children childless, no children, or the legal term 'without issue' - often referring to a deceased person who had no offspring
sine qua non without which not an absolutely necessary requirement or condition, an indispensable factor
solidus nummus (Roman) solid coin in English money history the S in LSD (pounds shillings pence) derived from the Roman coin 'Solidus' (prior to 1387 in English translations shown as 'Solidy', and also shown more recently in English as 'Solidi' and 'Solidii', being Latin plural versions) - the Solidus was originally an Imperial Roman coin introduced by Constantine (c.274-337AD), so called from the full Latin 'solidus nummus', meaning solid coin - the L and D in LSD also derived from Latin terms 'libra' and 'denarius'
socius criminis partner criminal partner in crime, accomplice
sponte sua/sua sponte of own accord self-determining, voluntarily
stare decisis stand by decided things uphold previous ruling/decision - apply precedent
status quo situation in which current situation, normality, conditions unchanged
status quo ante situation in which was situation as was/before (an event)
stereo solid hi-fi system or reproduced sound of at least two speakers/channels - initially adopted into English referring to a surround-sound effect, evolving to mean two different channels combining to produce a double-sided sound effect
stet let it stand a proof reading/editing term which instructs the printer or designer to ignore the edit in question - (equating to an instruction to reinstate the original part, i.e., before the edit - for example to reverse the crossing out or alteration of a word) - stet is from the Latin word stare, stand
sub judice/sub iudice under a judge under consideration by a judge/court (and therefore not to be discussed or published - this refers to a legal case or facts within a case, and seeks to avoid any influence or prejudice on the process
sub nomine under the name (of) refers to the name of the person/party taking action - 'in the name of'
sub poena under penalty a writ requiring a person to appear in court - originally fully under penalty of a fine/imprisonment/etc., so that the potential punishment would appear after the words sub poena, which is nowadays usually rendered as a single word, subpoena
sub rosa under the rose in secret, behind closed doors, privately - (referring to proceedings of some sort - the legal term is an old metaphor based on the rose being once a symbol of secrecy)
sub verbo (s.v.) under the word under the word/heading, a referencing term directing the reader to information contained beneath the word entry or heading in question elsewhere in the publication, for example as in a dictionary - used as 's.v. [word/heading]' = see the information under [word/heading]'
sui generis of its own kind unique, in a class/classification of its own, utterly distinctive and original
sui juris/iuris of his/her own volition able to take responsibility - equating to asserting that a person was legally responsible for his/her action
summa summary traditional term for the summary of a subject in a printed/text work
summa cum laude with highest distinction/praise highest distinction (referring to a university degree qualification award) - see 'cum laude' and 'magna cum laude', respectively the 3rd and 2nd highest grades
suo jure/iure in (one's/its) own right independently, in one's/its own right
suo moto/tempore by own motion/in own time spontaneously/in one's or its own time
supra/vide supra above/see above see above - scholarly technical term simply directing the reader to the text above
terra firma firm land solid earth, dry land (as different to the sea or waters or air) - typically referring to being safely or surely on land, for example 'back on terra firma' (after a plane or sea journey, or parachute leap)
usus est magister optimus practice is the best teacher practice makes perfect
ultra vires beyond the powers beyond (one's/its) legal powers - typically legally referring to a court or official body which acts outside of its limits/authority
ut infra/supra as below/above as below/above - citing/referencing terms
varia lectio/lectiones variant reading/readings an alternative way(s) of reading/interpreting a document or work
variorum of various people denoting comments/interpretations by various people, or denoting a publication which contains different interpretations/readings of the original work - consequently a variorum or variorum edition refers to a publication which provides variant readings/interpretations of, and comments by different scholars on, a work of some sort
veni, vidi, vici I came, I saw, I conquered victory was easy - a confident claim of a supposedly simple speedy triumph, attributed to Julius Caesar telling of his defeating Pharnaces, King of Pontus, 47BC (not his invasion of Britain as some believe) - according to Seutonius this motto was carried ahead of Caesar's advancing forces in subsequent campaigns, mainly to emphasize the speed of victory - in modern renderings the claim may also imply nonchalance, casualness, ease, arrogance, etc
verbi gratia ( or VG) for the sake of a word for example
versus (vs., V) against against, between - usually when matching or comparing two competing things, enemies, arguments, etc
veto I forbid to disallow or prevent something - (or noun form) the act of forbidding something or refusing permission
via a way by way of, a way, a path/road, passing through, connecting
via media middle way the middle path - (compromise, moderation)
vice versa in-turned position conversely, the other way around, reversed, exchanged
victor ludorum/victrix ludorum winner of the games male/female sport champion - the term is also used as a name of a trophy awarded to a winner or an event
vide see see.. (something/somewhere) - used in referencing and elsewhere
videlicet (viz.) permitted to see namely, to wit
vis inertiae power of inaction power of inertia - a much under-rated strategic concept by which the impulse to react to provocation/threat is resisted - and instead a positive decision is made to take no action - which can produce surprisingly better results than reacting aggressively and quickly without much thought for the consequences - the notion of 'vis inertiae' recognizes the fact that often provocative/threatening situations tend to subside or implode, as history commonly tells
viva voce with living voice orally - typically refers to an oral/spoken examination
vixit he/she lived... he/she lived (for a number of years) - common gravestone term
vox pop (vox populi) voice of the people comments from the general public, public opinion - 'vox pops' is now a common media term referring to impromptu interviews with members of the public
ultra beyond to extreme degree - broadly contrasting with 'infra', below/lower than


Contact us if you can suggest an additional phrase/expression for the above collection.


Interesting Latin place names

Several ancient Latin placenames survive into modern times with similar or related meanings. Here are some examples, together with other Latin names that are interesting in their own right, if not surviving at all.

Latin place
Anglia England
Aquae Sullis Bath
Batavi Holland
Cambria Wales
Etruria Tuscany
Gallia France/Gaul
Hafnia Copenhagen
Helvetia Switzerland
Hibernia Ireland
Hierosolyma Jerusalem
Jersey Caesaria
Byzantium Istanbul
Libya NW Africa
Lusitania Portugal
Magnus Portus Portsmouth
Mauretania Morocco/Algeria
Caledonia Scotland
Seres China
Vectis Isle of Wight


Latin numbers in English words

Latin numbers feature originally in many English words. Here are the main examples. The key elements are those which most commonly arise in English words. These meanings are helpful for understanding unfamiliar words which contain these elements. (Note that the months of the year were named when the calendar contained only ten months.)

# cardinal ordinal English key element
1 unus primus one un/prim
2 duo secundus/alter two duo/alter
3 tres tertius three tre/tert
4 quattor quartus four quat/quart
5 quinque quintus five quin
6 sex sextus six sex
7 septem  septimus seven sept
8 octo octavus eight oct
9 novem  nonus nine nov/non
10 decem decimus ten dec
100 centum centesimus hundred cent
1000 mille millesimus thousand mille


Roman Latin numerals

Roman numerals used symbols from the Latin alphabet, and are still used today in traditional/official/dramatic works, and on clocks and watches. There are differing and unproven views as to the original shapes and evolution of these symbols. The simplest theories are that the symbols represented hand signals (Alfred Hooper, 1945, whereby 1-4 = fingers; V = thumb, plus fingers; X = two crossed thumbs) or separately they are notches or cuts in tally sticks (surviving traditionally in parts of Europe today), so that 1-4 = single cuts; 5 = double cut; 10 = cross-cut. Beyond these propositions other concepts are too complex to summarise here. The C and M symbols were likely later influenced by the Latin word equivalents, centum and mille. The numbering system operates according essentially to the basic rules that:

  • letters may be repeated up to three times (which represents three times the number); the exception is that IIII is valid as 4, although IV is far more usual
  • symbols right are added; left are subtracted; only single figures may be subtracted - for example 79 = LXXIX
  • the subtracted figure must be no less that one tenth of the larger figure - for example IX = 9, but IC is not a valid expression of 99 (instead properly 99 is XCIX) - another way to understand this rule is that left-positioned/subtracted figures must always be the next smallest unit, i.e., you can't subtract a I (1) from a L (50), or a V (5) from a C (100), etc.
  • a bar above a figure = 1,000 greater
I 1
V 5
X   10
L 50
C 100
D 500
M 1,000


A brief history of Latin

Latin is the language of ancient Rome, whose empire covered most of Europe around the beginning of the first millennium, and particularly the period of the Roman Empire's strongest dominance, c.300BC-300AD.

The Latin language of the Roman civilization was derived from the much older main Proto-Indo-European language (PIE), dated as far back as the 10th millennium BC, extending from the Indian sub-continent through Europe (hence its name - proto means first, see proto), coinciding with the basic colonization of European lands, although precise history of this remains subject to much debate and ongoing research. Nevertheless, Proto-Indo-European is considered to be the fundamental root language of all European languages and is certainly the root of Latin.

Linguistic history suggests that by around the 3rd millennium BC the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language had diverged into separate branches.

One of these branches became early or ancient Latin, established in the Italian peninsular (i.e., modern Italy).

(Incidentally Latin was influenced by the older ancient Greek language, which also evolved from PIE, and which subsequently characterized the later Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire until the 1400s, following the disintegration of the Roman/Western Roman Empire by 480AD. This explains separately the significance and prevalence of Greek in the etymology of many modern languages such as English.)

Having become a little local language in central western Italy (as was towards the end of the first millennium, and which became Rome) Latin simply grew and spread with the awesome development and power of Roman Empire, prior to which, and without which, Latin was was and would likely have remained, a minority language, and might not have survived at all.

In fact Latin obviously failed to survive as a living language, but it has survived and become arguably the world's most significant 'dead' language, because it was so embedded in governance and science and education, that the world could not function and develop without it.

see also

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BusinessBalls has been used by over 120 million people during the last decade. The website provides leadership, management, and compliance training for individuals and organisations. For over a quarter of a century, we have supported aspiring managers and leaders from all around the world — Find out more. The use of this material is free for self-development, developing others, research, and organisational improvement. Please reference authorship and copyright of material used, including link(s) to and the material webpage. 

Disclaimer: Reliance on this material and any related provision is at your sole risk. BusinessBalls Ltd assumes no responsibility for any errors or damages arising as a result of use.

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