Nil desperandum – about Latin in English
The ancient Rome left us substantial heritage in many areas. We all take from its history, literature and language. Who hasn’t heard of the Roman emperors like Augustus or Marcus Aurelius? Many modern speakers derive ideas from their famous speeches. What about Horace or Virgil? Some of us might even know about the playwright Terence. Are we not familiar with the concept of ‘non omnis moriar’? The words (‘I shall not wholly die’) first appeared in the poetry of Horace himself. What about ‘fortis Fortuna adiuvat’ commonly known as ‘fortune favours the bold’? That one on the other hand comes from Terence. The examples can be multiplied here…
Everyday Latin words and phrases in English
Yes, there are some that we use every day:
- e.g. which stands for the Latin exempli gratia and means for example.
- etc or et cetera is another abbrevation used commonly. It means and so on.
- i.e. which is Latin id est and stands for that is.
- multi (plural from multus) – it is used to point to the numerosity of something, like in multicultural or multidimensional
One of the most popular Latin phrases known worldwide is carpe diem (seize the day), and again it’s known because of Horace.
We also have in flagrante meaning in the act of doing sth or caught red-handed.
Erratum is another Latin word and it relates to books. The word can be simply explained as an error. The book lovers will sometimes use a different ancient phrase ex libris to mark the ownership of a given book.
A lot of legal terms come from Latin. To name a few:
- pro bono – ‘for the good ‘- if a case is taken by a lawyer without expectation of being paid for that;
- postmortem – after somebody’s death;
- alibi – ‘elsewhere’ – a situation where someone can prove that they didn’t commit a given crime by offering the proof of being somewhere else;
- bona fide -’in good faith’.
A selection of Latin phrases worth knowing:
- In medias res (auditorem rapere) – this is a literary idea from Horace’s Ars poetica. It means that an author should draw its audience’s attention to the middle of action right from the beginning;
- Nomen est omen – a name bears significance and shows the characteristic features of its bearer;
- Nil desperandum – no need to despair – a very useful piece of advice 😉
- Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses – If you are silent, you remain being a philosopher. Basically don’t talk too much and don’t reveal all your thoughts;
- Ex Africa semper aliquid novi – there is always something new coming from Africa;
- Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur – ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’;
- Periculum in mora – one of my personal favourites 😊 – delay brings danger;
- Vitae sal amicitia – ‘friendship is the salt of life’;
- Amicus alter ego – ‘a friend is another self’;
- Oratores fiunt, poetae nascuntur – the poets are born, the speakers are made – you cannot practice to become a poet, but you can practice to become a speaker;
- O tempora! O mores! – ‘Oh, what times! Oh, what customs!’ – used to complain about the corruption of morals of the time
- Latet anguis in herba – there is a snake lurking in the grass, which metaphorically refers to the danger awaiting somewhere near;
- Panem et circenses! – ‘Bread and games!’ – poet Juvenal’s criticizing commentary on the needs of Roman people.
As you can see, Latin words are quite common in English. There are also some proverbs and sayings which survived to the present day. They can help us understand certain notions better or simply enrich our vocabulary. Why not try and use some?