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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

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  • 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
    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
    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
    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
    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:)
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels) recently posted…Bella ToscanaMy Profile

  • 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.
    Tara recently posted…The Art of Keeping in Touch While You’re AbroadMy Profile

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