Last Updated on 3rd July 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Latin is a beautiful Romance language from which many of our languages in Europe stem from today. Latin quotes can be found all over the place from mottos to car stickers and so if you’re looking for some Latin words and sayings to use yourself, then you’ve come to the right place.
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.
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
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 Bona Fide
With good faith.
#Bonus Over to you!
Got any good phrases to add?