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beautiful latin words and phrases

I’m often asked why I study Latin.

Latin, a dead language.

My reply is always a nonchalant, ‘Oh, well it’s fun’ but perhaps it should be ‘Oh, well it’s useful’.

After all, is the cornerstone for many modern European languages.

Disregarding this, it is also the root for most medical and law words in the English language.

Nevertheless, the most important aspect of learning Latin is ‘those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it’. The Romans were great innovators; they gave us sewers, concrete and high rise apartment blocks.

However, they also had slaves, misogyny was rife and not everyone was allowed to vote. We can learn a lot about how to and how to not run a society from the Romans.

And what better way to understand a group of people than by understanding their language? 

So here are my top Latin words and phrases:

1. Carpe Diem

Seize the day.

Okay, let’s start with an easy one.

How is it even possible to rephrase Carpe Diem in English?

Don’t wait around.

Go out and chase your dreams.

Etc. etc. etc.

2. Carpe Noctem

Seize the night

Literally the opposite of Carpe Diem, this one is perfect for all those all nighters you have to pull when you’re too lazy to have done that 5000 word dissertation earlier in the term.

As the daughter of two night owls, I often struggle to fall asleep before 4am and so I prefer this one to Carpe Diem.

3. Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit.

From nothing comes nothing.

Work hard, play harder.

Without hard work and stamina, you won’t be able to achieve much. Nothing in life will just be ‘given’ to you.

4. Salve

Hello + Goodbye

This is the root for the french word salut and is used as a greeting for both hello and goodbye.

In case you ever get magically transported back in time, it may be useful to know how to greet a Roman!

5.Audere est Facere

To do is to dare

Famously used as the motto for Tottenham Hotspur F.C., the origins for the use of Latin mottos has a history dating all the way back to the middle ages. Universities (and therefore their mottos) were founded around Catholic Monasteries whose main language was Latin (and so it made sense for them use Latin mottos).

Over the years, prestigious institutions have carried on the tradition of using a Latin motto to distinguish themselves.

6. Semper Fidelis

Always faithful

Known around the world as the motto for the US marine corps, it was also used as the motto for the city of Exeter, UK (where I’m from) in the 17th Century.

7. Amor Omnia Vincit

Love conquers all

Do I even need to explain this one?!

8. Utinam Ne Illum Numquam Conspexissem

If only I had never seen him.

Confession time: this is literally my Tinder ‘bio’ because I’m really tragic like that (and I wonder why I’ve never been on a ‘Tinder’ date)!

9. Alis Propriis Volat 

She flies with her own wings

The actual phrase is gender neutral but is often translated as ‘she’ because the motto was originally used to describe nations (and countries are usually described as feminine).

Watch out for the double ‘i’ in Propriis; it is commonly misspelt in tattoos and logos…

10. Over to you

Got any good phrases to add?

Comment below!

beautiful latin words and phrases

Study Help:

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  • Reply
    Frances Dawa
    4th January 2019 at 4:19 pm

    It’s out of the context but those latin phrases sound like good book titles….okay I’m out

    • Reply
      Evelyn Meyer
      6th January 2019 at 7:41 pm

      Literally came here for some good book titles

  • Reply
    17th December 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Omnium Rerum Principia Parva Sunt
    The beginning of all things is small.

  • Reply
    7th December 2018 at 8:27 am

    Tempus Fugit- Time Flies
    And my favorite
    Literally translates to “Bridge of Donkeys”. Polite way of calling someone a Jackass.

  • Reply
    4th December 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Amor meus, pondus meum

    My love [is] my gravity – St. Augustine

    St. Augustine also says that ‘all the other emotions of the soul are caused by love.’ Anything we do is out of love of something. What do you love, that is the question?

  • Reply
    28th November 2018 at 4:24 pm

    My favourite is Amor fati love of one’s fate.

  • Reply
    Rockems Hazer
    11th November 2018 at 6:00 am

    Esperanto is more useful.

  • Reply
    10th November 2018 at 10:33 pm

    Qui tacet consentit.

    He who is silent consents.

  • Reply
    16th October 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Loved this article!! Thanks for writing it!! 🙂
    Just wanted to add the last line that pulls the
    first two together:
    Carpe Diem Carpe Noctem, Carpe Vitam

    Seize the day, seize the night, seize this life!

  • Reply
    1st October 2018 at 5:31 pm

    ad eundum quo nemo ante iit- (latin translation of Star Trek’s motto) to boldly go where no man has gone before

  • Reply
    1st September 2018 at 12:40 am

    Hell All, I’m looking for a wee bit of help. I have an antique bell with the names of four animals carved into it with accompanying images.
    I’ve easily deduced: LEO and AQVILA but am stuck on:
    ACNVS – the image is definitely a 4-legged animal
    ELICANVS- the image with it looks like a stork or perhaps pelican
    Thanks in advance!

  • Reply
    Phoenix Ngcobo
    2nd July 2018 at 2:34 am

    Cogito Ergo Sum – I Think Therefore I Am

    • Reply
      17th July 2018 at 12:12 am

      Bibo ergo sum

      • Reply
        Times New Roamin'
        24th September 2018 at 4:04 am

        Bibo ergo ebrius sum

  • Reply
    Sam Samuels
    22nd June 2018 at 4:07 pm

    In veritas dolor – truth through pain

  • Reply
    Shannon Roble
    19th June 2018 at 2:45 am

    Nosce Te Ipsum ~ Know Thyself

  • Reply
    7th June 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Ad astra per aspera – “through hardship to the stars”

  • Reply
    21st May 2018 at 2:02 am

    Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.- and perhaps one day it will help to remember these things

  • Reply
    Lee Caballero
    7th April 2018 at 8:03 pm

    ALETHEIA…Not only to know the truth but to tell yourself the truth!

  • Reply
    Kenroy A. Smith
    26th March 2018 at 11:02 pm

    Nil Sine Magno Labore: Nothing is achieved without hard work!

    • Reply
      2nd May 2018 at 5:13 pm

      Appopinquare non animum recouparare: To approach and lose your mind

  • Reply
    23rd March 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Amare et sapere vix deo conceditur. – “Even a god finds it hard to love and be wise at the same time.”

  • Reply
    7th March 2018 at 8:21 pm

    Memento Viveri
    Remember to live.. don’t be carried away with challenges life throws at you, take time to smile and enjoy beautiful life

  • Reply
    15th July 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Nil manet semper

    (There are no sweeter words than this)

  • Reply
    11th July 2017 at 5:06 pm

    In Omnia Paratus (Ready for anything) I love this phrase from Gilmore Girls <3

    • Reply
      14th March 2018 at 10:34 am

      Wow… That’s good one.

  • Reply
    Dilyana Bukurova
    10th May 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Hello, that’s a beautiful article!
    Can I ask for some help, an advice. I would like to have a tattoo with my family’s first letter names in latin words that form a nice sentence with great meaning if possible.. The letters are G, S, D, V . Can you think of beautiful latin words with those letters? Thank you in advance!! ♡

    • Reply
      Phoenix Ngcobo
      2nd July 2018 at 3:09 am

      I’m not sure you can create a word with that since there are no vowels to form “actual” words with

      Maybe try with the first and second letters of their names

  • Reply
    3rd May 2017 at 12:18 am

    “Amor ex oculis oriens
    in pectus cadit.”

    Love is borne by the eye and sinks into the heart.

    • Reply
      14th March 2018 at 10:41 am

      Wow Angelinna that’s beautiful… Thanks for sharing

    • Reply
      14th March 2018 at 10:43 am

      Wow… Angelinna that’s beautiful, tgabks for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply
    Oran McDuffs
    21st January 2017 at 9:16 pm

    amicitia tutela a ligno,

    friendship is a protective tree

  • Reply
    1st October 2016 at 12:21 am

    Love this! I studied Latin for 10 years and always got weird looks when I said I enjoyed it. So glad to see that someone else appreciates it! 🙂

  • Reply
    28th August 2016 at 5:49 am

    I love it! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Sharon Bivens
    3rd June 2016 at 12:07 am

    Spero means I hope.
    Dum spiro spero-while I breathe I hope

    • Reply
      Cecilia Liv
      1st August 2016 at 6:10 pm

      This is very beautiful. Thank you very much

    • Reply
      24th December 2017 at 4:46 am

      This is beautiful

    • Reply
      27th April 2018 at 3:18 pm

      One of the first Latin phrases I was told (over 30 years ago) and the one I remember best. Maybe because it is so beautiful.

  • Reply
    Pierre-André d'Ornano
    10th January 2016 at 10:50 am

    Dura lex sed lex

  • Reply
    Pierre-André d'Ornano
    10th January 2016 at 10:50 am

    Sic transit gloria mundi

  • Reply
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    7th January 2016 at 7:49 pm

    per aspera ad astra!:) I learned Latin for two years in high school:)

  • Reply
    12th November 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Wow, I love this list! I knew some of the Latin phrases, but not their English translations. Most I just didn’t know. I love Audere est Facere.

    • Reply
      mbr hilltop
      15th December 2017 at 4:32 am


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