List of Latin phrases (A)

This page lists English translations of notable Latin phrases, such as veni vidi vici and et cetera. Some of the phrases are themselves translations of Greek phrases, as Greek rhetoric and literature reached its peak centuries before the rise of ancient Rome.

This list covers the letter A. See List of Latin phrases for the main list.


ab absurdofrom the absurdSaid of an argument either for a conclusion that rests on the alleged absurdity of an opponent's argument (cf. appeal to ridicule) or that another assertion is false because it is absurd. The phrase is distinct from reductio ad absurdum, which is usually a valid logical argument.
ab abusu ad usum non valet consequentiaan inference from an abuse to a use is not validRights abused are still rights; confer abusus non tollit usum.
ab aeternofrom the eternalLiterally, "from the everlasting", "from eternity", and "from outside of time". Philosophically and theologically, it indicates something, e. g., the universe, that was created from outside of time. Sometimes the phrase is used incorrectly to denote "from time immemorial", "since the beginning of time", or "from an infinitely remote time in the past", i. e., not from without time but from a point within time.
ab antiquofrom the ancientFrom ancient times.
a bene placitofrom one well pleasedOr, "at will" or "at one's pleasure". This phrase, and its Italian (beneplacito) and Spanish (beneplácito) derivatives, are synonymous with the more common ad libitum (at pleasure).
ab epistulisfrom the lettersRegarding or pertaining to correspondence.
ab extrafrom beyond/withoutA legal term denoting derivation from an external source, rather than from a person's self or mind, this latter source being denoted by "ab intra".
ab hincfrom here onAlso sometimes written as "abhinc".
ab imo pectorefrom the deepest chestOr "from the bottom of my heart", "with deepest affection", or "sincerely". Attributed to Julius Caesar.
ab inconvenientifrom an inconvenient thingNew Latin for "based on unsuitability", "from inconvenience", or "from hardship". An argumentum ab inconvenienti is one based on the difficulties involved in pursuing a line of reasoning, and is thus a form of appeal to consequences. The phrase refers to the legal principle that an argument from inconvenience has great weight.
ab incunabulisfrom the cradleThus, "from the beginning" or "from infancy". Incunabula is commonly used in English to refer to the earliest stage or origin of something, and especially to copies of books that predate the spread of the printing press circa AD 1500.
ab initiofrom the beginningOr, "from the outset", referring to an inquiry or investigation. In literature, it refers to a story told from the beginning rather than "in medias res" ("from the middle"). In law, it refers to a thing being true from its beginning or from the instant of the act, rather than from when the court declared it so. An annulment is a judicial declaration of the invalidity or nullity of a marriage ab initio; i. e., that the pseudo marriage was "no thing" (in Latin, "nullius", from which the word "nullity" derives) and never existed, except perhaps in name only. In science, the phrase refers to the first principles. In other contexts, it often refers to beginner or training courses. "Ab initio mundi" means "from the beginning of the world".
ab intestatofrom an intestateFrom a decedent, i. e., a dead person, who died without executing a legal will. Confer ex testamento.
ab intrafrom withinFrom the inside; the opposite of ab extra.
ab invitounwillingly
ab iratofrom an angry manOr, "by an angry person"; used in law to describe a decision or action that is detrimental to those whom it affects and is motivated by hatred or anger instead of reason. The form irato is masculine; however, this does not limit the application of the phrase to men: rather, "person" is meant because the phrase probably elides "homo" ("man/person"), not "vir" ("men").
ab originefrom the sourceFrom the origin, beginning, source, or commencement; i. e., "originally". It is the source of the word aboriginal.
ab ovo usque ad malafrom the egg to the applesFrom Horace, Satire, 1.3. Means "from beginning to end", based on the Roman main meal typically beginning with an egg dish and ending with fruit; cf. the English phrase soup to nuts. Thus, ab ovo means "from the beginning", and can connote thoroughness.
absens haeres non eritan absent person will not be an heirThe legal principle that a person who is not present is unlikely to inherit.
absente reo (abs. re.)[with] the defendant being absentA legal phrase denoting action "in the absence of the accused".
absit iniuria"let injury be absent"Expresses the wish that no insult or injury be presumed or done by the speaker's words, i. e., "no offense". Also rendered absit iniuria verbis ("let injury be absent from these words"). Contrast with absit invidia.
absit invidia"let ill will/envy be absent"Said in the context of a statement of excellence: unlike the English expression "no offense", absit invidia is intended to ward off envious deities who might interpret a statement of excellence as hubris. Also extended to absit invidia verbo, ("may ill will/envy be absent from these words"). Contrast it with absit iniuria verbis. An explanation of Livy's usage.
absit omenlet an omen be absentOr, "let this not be a bad omen". Expresses the wish that something seemingly ill-boding does not turn out to be an omen for future events, and calls on Divine protection against evil.
absolutum dominiumabsolute dominionTotal, if not supreme, power, dominion, ownership, and sovereignty.
absolvoI acquitA legal term pronounced by a judge to acquit a defendant following his trial. Te absolvo or absolvo te, translated, "I forgive you," said by Roman Catholic priests during the Sacrament of Confession, in Latin prior to the Second Vatican Council and in vernacular thereafter.
abundans cautela non nocetabundant caution does no harmFrequently re-phrased as "one can never be too careful".
ab uno disce omnesfrom one, learn allFrom Virgil, Aeneid, Book 2, 65-6. Refers to situations where a single example or observation indicates a general or universal truth. Visible in the court of the character King Silas in the American television series Kings.
ab urbe condita (a.u.c.)from the city having been foundedOr, "from the founding of Rome", which occurred in 753 BC, according to Livy's count. It was used as a referential year in ancient Rome from which subsequent years were calculated, prior to being replaced by other dating conventions. Also anno urbis conditae (a.u.c.); literally "in the year of the founded city".
abusus non tollit usummisuse does not remove useThe misuse of some thing does not eliminate the possibility of its correct use.
ab utilifrom utilityUsed of an argument.
abyssus abyssum invocatdeep calleth unto deepFrom Psalms 42:7; some translations have "sea calls to sea".
a caelo usque ad centrumfrom the sky to the centerOr, "from Heaven all the way to the center of the Earth". In law, it may refer to the proprietary principle of Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos ("Whosesoever is the soil, it is his up to the sky and down to the depths [of the Earth]").
a capite ad calcemfrom head to heelFrom top to bottom; all the way through; or from head to toe. Equally, a pedibus usque ad caput.
accipe hoc take thisMotto of the 848 Naval Air Squadron, British Royal Navy.
accusare nemo se debet nisi coram Deono one ought to accuse himself except in the presence of GodA legal principle denoting that an accused person is entitled to plead not guilty, and that a witness is not obligated to respond or submit a document that would incriminate himself. A similar phrase is nemo tenetur se ipsum accusare ("no one is bound to accuse himself"). See right to silence.
a contrariofrom the oppositeEquivalent to "on the contrary" and "au contraire". An argumentum a contrario ("argument from the contrary") is an argument or proof by contrast or direct opposite.
acta deos numquam mortalia falluntmortal actions never deceive the godsOvid, Tristia, 1.2.97: si tamen acta deos numquam mortalia fallunt, / a culpa facinus scitis abesse mea. ("Yet if mortal actions never deceive the gods, / you know that crime was absent from my fault.")
acta est fabula plauditeThe play has been performed; applaud!A common ending to ancient Roman comedies; Suetonius claimed in The Twelve Caesars that these were the last words of Augustus; Sibelius applied them to the third movement of his String Quartet No. 2, so that his audience would recognize that it was the last one, because a fourth would be ordinarily expected.
acta non verbaDeeds Not WordsMotto of the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
acta sanctorumDeeds of the SaintsAlso used in the singular preceding a saint's name: Acta Sancti ("Deeds of Saint") N.; a common title of hagiography works.
actiones secundum fideiaction follows belief"We act according to what we believe (ourselves to be)."[1]
actus me invito factus non est meus actusthe act done by me against my will is not my act
actus non facit reum nisi mens sit reaThe act does not make [a person] guilty unless the mind should be guilty.The legal principle of the presumption of mens rea in a crime.
actus reusguilty actThe actual crime that is committed, as distinguished from the intent, thinking, and rationalizing that procured the criminal act; the external elements of a crime, as contrasted with the mens rea, i. e., the internal elements.
ad absurdumto absurdityIn logic, to the point of being silly or nonsensical. See also reductio ad absurdum. Not to be confused with ab absurdo ("from the absurd").
ad abundantiamto abundanceIn legal language, used when providing additional evidence to an already sufficient collection. Also used commonly, as an equivalent of "as if this wasn't enough".
ad actato the archivesDenoting the irrelevance of a thing.
ad altiora tendoI strive towards higher things
ad arbitriumat will, at pleasure
ad astrato the starsName or motto, in whole or part, of many organizations, publications, et cetera.
ad astra per asperato the stars through difficultiesOr, "a rough road leads to the stars", as on the Launch Complex 34 memorial plaque for the astronauts of Apollo 1. Motto of the State of Kansas and other organisations.
ad augusta per angustato rise to a high position overcoming hardships
ad captandum vulgusin order to capture the crowdTo appeal to the masses. Often said of or used by politicians. An argumentum ad captandum is an argument designed to please the crowd.
ad clerumto the clergyA formal letter or communication in the Christian tradition from a bishop to his clergy. An "ad clerum" may be an encouragement in a time of celebration or a technical explanation of new regulations or canons.
a Deucalionefrom or since DeucalionA long time ago. From Gaius Lucilius, Satires, 6, 284.
ad eundemto the sameAn ad eundem degree, from the Latin ad eundem gradum ("to the same step" or "to the same degree"), is a courtesy degree awarded by a university or college to an alumnus of another. It is not an honorary degree but a recognition of the formal learning for which the degree was earned at another college.
ad fontesto the sourcesA motto of Renaissance humanism and the Protestant Reformation.
ad fundumto the bottomSaid during a generic toast; equivalent to "bottoms up!" In other contexts, it generally means "back to the basics".
ad hocto thisGenerally means "for this", in the sense of improvised or intended only for a specific, immediate purpose.
ad hominemto the manOr, "at the man". Typically used in argumentum ad hominem, a logical fallacy consisting of criticizing a person when the subject of debate is the person's ideas or argument, on the mistaken assumption that the soundness of an argument is dependent on the qualities of the proponent.
ad honoremto the honourGenerally means "for the honour", i. d., not for the purpose of gaining any material reward.
ad infinitumto infinityEnduring forever. Used to designate a property which repeats in all cases in mathematical proof. Also used in philosophical contexts to mean "repeating in all cases".
ad interim (ad int)for the meantimeAs in the term "chargé d'affaires ad interim", denoting a diplomatic officer who acts in place of an ambassador.
ad kalendas graecasat the Greek CalendsAttributed by Suetonius in The Twelve Caesars to Augustus. The Calends were specific days of the Roman calendar, not of the Greek, and so the "Greek Kalends" would never occur. Similar to "when pigs fly".
ad libitum (ad lib)toward pleasureLoosely, "according to what pleases" or "as you wish"; libitum comes from the past participle of libere, "to please". It typically indicates in music and theatrical scripts that the performer has the liberty to change or omit something. Ad lib is specifically often used when someone improvises or ignores limitations. Also used by some restaurants in favor of the colloquial "all you can eat or drink".
ad litemto the lawsuitA legal phrase referring to a party appointed by a court to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party who is deemed incapable of representing himself. An individual who acts in this capacity is called a guardian ad litem.
ad lucemto the lightMotto of Oxford High School (Oxford), the University of Lisbon, Withington Girls' School, Little Flower Academy and St. Bartholomew's School, Newbury, UK
ad maiorem Dei gloriam or ad majorem Dei gloriam (AMDG)to the greater glory of GodMotto of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Edward Elgar dedicated his oratorio The Dream of Gerontius "A.M.D.G."
ad melioratowards better thingsMotto of St. Patrick's College, Cavan, Ireland.
ad mortemto deathA medical phrase serving as a synonym for death.
ad multos annosto many yearsA wish for a long life; similar to "many happy returns".
ad nauseamto seasicknessOr, "to the point of disgust". Sometimes used as a humorous alternative to ad infinitum. An argumentum ad nauseam is a logical fallacy whose erroneous proof is proffered by prolonged repetition of the argument, i. e., the argument is repeated so many times that persons are "sick of it".
ad oculosto the eyesMeaning "obvious on sight" or "obvious to anyone that sees it".
ad pedem litteraeto the foot of the letterThus, "exactly as it is written"; similar to the phrase "to the letter", meaning "to the last detail".
ad perpetuam memoriamto the perpetual memoryGenerally precedes "of" and a person's name, and is used to wish for someone to be remembered long after death.
ad pondus omnium (ad pond om)to the weight of all thingsMore loosely, "considering everything's weight". The abbreviation was historically used by physicians and others to signify that the last prescribed ingredient is to weigh as much as all of the previously mentioned ones.
ad quod damnumto whatever damageMeaning "according to the harm" or "in proportion to the harm". The phrase is used in tort law as a measure of damages inflicted, implying that a remedy, if one exists, ought to correspond specifically and only to the damage suffered (cf. damnum absque iniuria).
ad referendum
(ad ref)
to be proposed [before the Senate]Loosely "subject to reference": provisionally approved, but still needing official approval. Not the same as a referendum.
ad remto the matterThus, "to the point", without digression.
ad sumushere we areMotto of the Brazilian Marine Corps.
ad susceptum perficiendumin order to achieve what has been undertakenMotto of the Association of Trust Schools.
ad terminum qui praeteriitfor the term which has passedA legal phrase for a writ of entry ad terminum qui praeteriit ("for the term which has passed").[2]
ad undasto the wavesEquivalent to "to Hell".
ad unumto one
ad usum Delphinifor the use of the DauphinSaid of a work that has been expurgated of offensive or improper parts. The phrase originates from editions of Greek and Roman classics which King Louis XIV of France had censored for his heir apparent, the Dauphin. Also rarely "in usum Delphini" ("into the use of the Dauphin").
ad usum proprium (ad us. propr.)for one's own use
ad utrumque paratusprepared for either [alternative]Motto of Lund University, with the implied alternatives being the book (study) and the sword (defending the nation in war) and of the United States Marine Corps' III Marine Expeditionary Force
ad valoremaccording to valueUsed in commerce to refer to ad valorem taxes, i. e., taxes based on the assessed value of real estate or personal property.
ad victoriamto victoryMore commonly translated "for victory", it was a battlecry of the Romans.
ad vitam aeternamto eternal lifeAlso "to life everlasting"; a common Biblical phrase.
ad vitam aut culpamfor life or until faultA phrase describing the term of a political office as ending upon the death of the officer or his commission of a sufficiently grave immorality and/or legal crime.
addendumthing to be addedAn item to be added, especially as a supplement to a book. The plural is addenda.
adaequatio intellectus et reicorrespondence of the mind and realityOne of the classic definitions of "truth". When the mind has the same form as reality, we think truth. Also found as adaequatio rei et intellectus.
adaequatio intellectus nostri cum reconformity of our minds to the factA phrase used in epistemology regarding the nature of understanding.
adsumI am hereEquivalent to "Present!" or "Here!" The opposite of absum ("I am absent").
adversus solem ne loquitordo not speak against the SunOr, "do not argue what is obviously/manifestly incorrect".
advocatus diaboliDevil's advocateSomeone who, in the face of a specific argument, voices an argument that he does not necessarily accept, for the sake of argument and discovering the truth by testing the opponent's argument. Confer the term "arguendo".
aegri somniaa sick man's dreamsHorace, Ars Poetica, 7. Loosely, "troubled dreams".
aetatisof age / agedOften abbreviated to "aetat.", or more frequently further to "aet."; meaning "of age _ [years]" or "aged _ [years]". E. g., "aetatis 36" denotes being "36 years old".
aetatis suaeof his age (followed by an ordinal number)Thus, "at the age of _ [years]". Appears on portraits, gravestones, monuments, et cetera. Usually preceded by anno (AAS), "in the year [of his age/life] _". Sometimes shortened to aetatis, aetat.", or even "aet. Frequently combined with Anno Domini, giving a date as both the theoretical age of Jesus Christ and the age of the decedent; e. g., Obiit anno Domini MDCXXXVIo (tricensimo sexto), [anno] aetatis suae XXVo (vicensimo quinto) ("he died in the 1636th year of the Lord, [being] the 25th [year] of his age[/life]").
a falsis principiis proficiscito set forth from false principlesLegal phrase; Cicero, De Finibus, 4.53.
affidavithe assertedA legal term from "fides" ("faith"), originating at least from Medieval Latin to denote a statement under oath.
a fortiorifrom the strongerLoosely, "even more so" or "with even stronger reason". Often used to lead from a less certain proposition to a more evident corollary.
age quod agisdo what you are doingMore often translated as "do well whatever you do". Literally translated, it means "do what you do"; figuratively it means "keep going, because you are inspired or dedicated to do so". This is the motto of several Roman Catholic schools. It was also used by Pope St. John XXIII in the sense of "do not be concerned with any other matter than the task in hand"; he was allaying worry of what would become of him in the future: his sense of "age quod agis" was "joy" regarding what is presently occurring and "detachment" from concern of the future. (Pope St. John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, pages 154-5)
agere sequitur (esse)action follows beingMetaphysical and moral principle that indicates the connection of ontology, obligation, and ethics.[1]
Agnus DeiLamb of GodLatin translation from John 1: 36, when St. John the Baptist exclaimed "Ecce Agnus Dei!" ("Behold the Lamb of God!") upon seeing Jesus Christ; it refers both to the innocence of a lamb and to Christ being a sacrificial lamb after the Jewish religious practice.
alea iacta estthe die has been castOr, in Greek, ἀνερρίφθω κύβος anerrhíphthō kýbos; said by Julius Caesar upon crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC, according to Suetonius. The original meaning was similar to "the game is afoot", but its modern meaning, like that of the phrase "crossing the Rubicon", denotes passing the point of no return on a momentous decision and entering into a risky endeavor where the outcome is left to chance.
alenda lux ubi orta libertaslight [is] to be nourished where liberty [has] arisen.Or. "let learning be cherished". The motto of Davidson College.
aliasat another time, otherwiseAn assumed name or pseudonym; similar to alter ego, but more specifically referring to a name, not to a "second self".
alibielsewhereA legal defense where a defendant attempts to show that he was elsewhere at the time a crime was committed.
His alibi is sound; he gave evidence that he was in another city on the night of the murder.
aliquid stat pro aliquosomething stands for something elseA foundational definition in semiotics.
alis aquilaeon an eagle's wingsA quotation from Isaiah, 40: "But those who wait for the Lord shall find their strength renewed, they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow faint."
alis grave nilnothing [is] heavy with wingsOr, "nothing is heavy to those who have wings". Motto of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
alis volat propriisshe flies with her own wingsMotto of the State of Oregon, adopted in 1987; it replaced the previous state motto of "The Union", which was adopted in 1957.
alma maternourishing motherA term used for the university one attends or has attended. Another university term, matriculation, is also derived from mater. The term suggests that the students are "fed" knowledge and taken care of by the university. The term is also used for a university's traditional school anthem.
alter egoanother IAnother self, a second persona or alias. Can be used to describe different facets or identities of a single character, or different characters who seem representations of the same personality. Often used of a fictional character's secret identity.
alterius non sit qui suus esse potestlet no man be another's who can be his ownThe final sentence from Aesop ascribed fable (see also Aesop's Fables) "The Frogs Who Desired a King" as appears in the collection commonly known as the "Anonymus Neveleti", in Fable 21B: De ranis a Iove querentibus regem). Motto of Paracelsus. Usually attributed to Cicero.
alterum non laedereto not wound anotherOne of Justinian I's three basic legal precepts.
alumnus or
pupilGraduate or former student of a school, college, or university. Plural of alumnus is alumni (male). Plural of alumna is alumnae (female).
a mari usque ad marefrom sea to seaThis translation ignores the word usque, which is an emphasis word, so a better translation is probably from sea even unto sea. From Psalm 72:8, "Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae" (KJV: "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth"). National motto of Canada.
amicus certus in re incertaa sure friend in an unsure matterEnnius, as quoted by Cicero in Laelius de Amicitia s. 64
amicus curiaefriend of the courtAn adviser, or a person who can obtain or grant access to the favour of a powerful group, e. g., the a Roman Curia. In current United States legal usage, an amicus curiae is a third party allowed to submit a legal opinion in the form of an amicus brief to the court.
Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas.Plato is my friend, but truth is a better friend.An assertion that truth is more valuable than friendship; attributed to Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1096a15 and Roger Bacon, Opus Majus, Part 1, Chapter 5.
amittere legem terraeto lose the law of the landAn obsolete legal phrase signifying the forfeiture of the right of swearing in any court or cause, or to become infamous.
amat victoria curamvictory favors careMotto of Baylor School, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Wellesley College Primary School, Eastbourne, New Zealand; and Victoria College, St. Helier Parish, Jersey, Channel Islands.
amor Dei intellectualisintellectual love of GodBaruch Spinoza
amor et melle et felle est fecundissimuslove is rich with both honey and venom
amor fatilove of fateNietzscheian alternative world view to that represented by memento mori ("remember you must die"): Nietzsche believed "amor fati" was more affirmative of life.
amor omnibus idemlove is the same for allVirgil, Georgics, 3.
amor patriaelove of the fatherlandOr, "love of the nation", i. e., patriotism.
amor vincit omnialove conquers allInscribed on a bracelet worn by the Prioress in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales; originally from Virgil, Eclogues, 10, 69: omnia vincit amor: et nos cedamus amori ("love conquers all: let us too surrender to love").
anglicein EnglishUsed before the anglicized version of a word or name. For example, "Terra Mariae, anglice, Maryland".
animus in consulendo libera mind unfettered in deliberationMotto of NATO.
anno (an.)in the yearAlso used in such phrases as anno urbis conditae (see ab urbe condita), Anno Domini, and anno regni.
anno Domini (A.D.)in the year of the LordAbbreviated from Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi ("in the year of Our Lord Jesus Christ"), the predominantly used system for dating years across the world; used with the Gregorian Calendar and based on the perceived year of the birth of Jesus Christ. The years before His birth were formerly signified by a. C. n (ante Christum natum ("before Christ was born")), but now use the English abbreviation "BC" ("before Christ"). For example, Augustus was born in the year 63 BC and died in AD 14.
anno regniIn the year of the reignPrecedes "of" and the current ruler.
annuit cœptishe nods at things now begunOr, "he approves our undertakings". Motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States and, consequently, on the reverse of the United States one-dollar bill; in this context the motto refers to God.
annus horribilishorrible yearA recent pun on annus mirabilis, first used by Queen Elizabeth II to describe what a bad year 1992 had been for her, and subsequently occasionally used to refer to many other years perceived as "horrible". In Classical Latin, this phrase could actually mean "terrifying year". See also annus terribilis.
annus mirabiliswonderful yearUsed particularly to refer to the years 1665-6, during which Isaac Newton made revolutionary inventions and discoveries in calculus, motion, optics and gravitation. Annus Mirabilis is also the title of a poem by John Dryden written in the same year. It has since been used to refer to other years, especially to 1905, when Albert Einstein made equally revolutionary discoveries concerning the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, mass-energy equivalence, and the special theory of relativity. (See Annus Mirabilis papers)
annus terribilisdreadful yearUsed to describe 1348, the year the Black Death began to afflict Europe.
ante bellumbefore the warAs in status quo ante bellum ("as it was before the war"); commonly used in the Southern United States as antebellum to refer to the period preceding the American Civil War.
ante cibum (a.c.)before foodMedical shorthand for "before meals".
Ante faciem Dominibefore the face of the LordMotto of the Christian Brothers College, Adelaide
ante litterambefore the letterSaid of an expression or term that describes something which existed before the phrase itself was introduced or became common. Example: Alan Turing was a computer scientist ante litteram, since the field of "computer science" was not yet recognized in Turing's day.
ante meridiem (a.m.)before middayFrom midnight to noon; confer post meridiem.
ante mortembefore deathSee post mortem ("after death").
ante omnia armaribefore all else, be armed
ante prandium (a.p.)before lunchUsed on pharmaceutical prescriptions to denote "before a meal". Less common is post prandium ("after lunch").
a pedibus usque ad caputfrom feet to headOr, "completely"; similar to the English expressions "from tip to toe" and "from head to toe". Equally a capite ad calcem. See also ab ovo usque ad mala.
aperire terram gentibus open the land to nations Motto of Ferdinand de Lesseps referring to the Suez and Panama Canals. Also appears on a plaque at Kinshasa train station.
a posse ad esse from being able to being"From possibility to actuality" or "from being possible to being actual".
a posteriorifrom the latterBased on observation, i. e., empirical evidence; the reverse of a priori. Used in mathematics and logic to denote something that is known after a proof has been carried out. In philosophy, used to denote something known from experience.
apparatus criticustools of a criticTextual notes or a list of other readings relating to a document, especially in a scholarly edition of a text.
a priorifrom the formerPresupposed independent of experience; the reverse of a posteriori. Used in mathematics and logic to denote something that is known or postulated before a proof has been carried out. In philosophy, used to denote something is supposed without empirical evidence. In everyday speech, it denotes something occurring or being known before the event.
apudin the writings ofUsed in scholarly works to cite a reference at second hand.
aqua (aq.)water
aqua fortisstrong waterRefers to nitric acid.
aqua purapure waterOr, "clear water" or "clean water".
aqua regiaroyal waterRefers to a mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, thus called because of its ability to dissolve gold.
aqua vitaewater of life"Spirit of Wine" in many English texts. Used to refer to various native distilled beverages, such as whisky (uisge beatha) in Scotland and Ireland, gin in the Netherlands, brandy (eau de vie) in France, and akvavit in Scandinavia.
aquila non capit muscasan eagle does not catch fliesOr, "a noble or important person does not deal with insignificant matters".
arare litusto plough the seashoreDesiderius Erasmus, Adagia (AD 1508); meaning "wasted labor".
arbiter elegantiarumjudge of tastesOne who prescribes, rules on, or is a recognized authority on matters of social behavior and taste. Said of Petronius. Sometimes found in the singular as arbiter elegantiae ("judge of taste").
arcana imperiithe secrets of powerOriginally used by Tacitus to refer to the state secrets and unaccountable acts of the Roman imperial government.
arcanum boni tenoris animaeThe secret behind a good moodMotto of the Starobrno Brewery in Brno.
arcus senilisbow of an old personAn opaque circle around the cornea of the eye, often seen in elderly people.
arduus ad solemStriving towards the SunMotto of Victoria University of Manchester.
argentum albumwhite silverAlso "silver coin"; mentioned in the Domesday Book; signifies bullion or silver uncoined.
arguendofor arguingOr, "for the sake of argument". Said when something is done purely in order to discuss a matter or illustrate a point. E. g., "let us assume, arguendo, that your claim is correct."
argumentumargumentOr "reasoning", "inference", "appeal", or "proof". The plural is argumenta. Commonly used in the names of logical arguments and fallacies, preceding phrases such as a silentio (by silence), ad antiquitatem (to antiquity), ad baculum (to the stick), ad captandum (to capturing), ad consequentiam (to the consequence), ad crumenam (to the purse), ad feminam (to the woman), ad hominem (to the person), ad ignorantiam (to ignorance), ad invidiam (to hatred - appealing to low passions), ad judicium (to judgment), ad lazarum (to poverty), ad logicam (to logic), ad metum (to fear), ad misericordiam (to pity), ad nauseam (to nausea), ad novitatem (to novelty), ad personam (to the character), ad numerum (to the number), ad odium (to spite), ad populum (to the people), ad temperantiam (to moderation), ad verecundiam (to reverence), ex silentio (from silence), in terrorem (into terror), and e contrario (from/to the opposite).
ars celare artemart [is] to conceal artAn aesthetic ideal that good art should appear natural rather than contrived. Of medieval origin, but often incorrectly attributed to Ovid.[3]
ars gratia artisart for the sake of artTranslated into Latin from Baudelaire's "L'art pour l'art". Motto of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While symmetrical for the logo of MGM, the better word order in Latin is "Ars artis gratia".
ars longa, vita brevisart is long, life is shortSeneca, De Brevitate Vitae, 1.1, translating a phrase of Hippocrates that is often used out of context. The "art" referred to in the original aphorism was the craft of medicine, which took a lifetime to acquire.
arte et laboreby art and by labourMotto of Blackburn Rovers F.C.
arte et marteby skill and valourMotto of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME) Branch of the Canadian Forces.
Artis Bohemiae AmicisFriends of Czech ArtsAward of the Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic for the promotion of the positive reputation of Czech culture abroad.
asinus ad lyraman ass to the lyreDesiderius Erasmus, Adagia (AD 1508); meaning "an awkward or incompetent individual".
asinus asinum fricatthe jackass rubs the jackassUsed to describe 2 persons who are lavishing excessive praise on one another.
assecuratus non quaerit lucrum sed agit ne in damno sitthe assured does not seek profit but makes [it his profit] that he not be in lossRefers to the insurance principle that the indemnity can not be larger than the loss.
astra inclinant, sed non obligantthe stars incline us, they do not bind usRefers to the distinction of free will from astrological determinism.
auctores variivarious authorsUsed in bibliography for books, texts, publications, or articles that have more than 3 collaborators.
auctoritasauthorityThe level of prestige a person had in Roman society.
auctoritas non veritas facit legemauthority, not truth, makes lawThis formula appears in the 1668 Latin revised edition of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, book 2, chapter 26, p. 133.
audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeretslander boldly, something always sticksFrancis Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum (AD 1623).
audax at fidelisbold but faithfulMotto of Queensland, Australia.
audeamuslet us dare Motto of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment [CSOR] on their regimental coat of arms; of Otago University Students' Association, a direct response to the university's motto of sapere aude ("dare to be wise"); and of Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.
audemus jura nostra defenderewe dare to defend our rightsMotto of the State of Alabama, adopted in AD 1923; translated into Latin from a paraphrase of the stanza "Men who their duties know / But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain" from William Jones, "What Constitutes a State?"
audentes fortuna iuvatfortune favors the boldFrom Virgil, Aeneid, Book 10, 284, where the first word is in the archaic form audentis. Allegedly the last words of Pliny the Elder before he left the docks at Pompeii to rescue people from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79. Often quoted as audaces fortuna iuvat. Also the motto of the Portuguese Army Commandos and the USS Montpelier (SSN-765) in the latter form.
audere est facereto dare is to doMotto of Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
audi alteram partemhear the other sideA legal principle; also worded as audiatur et altera pars ("let the other side be heard also").
audio hostemI hear the enemyMotto of the 845 NAS Royal Navy.
audi, vide, tacehear, see, be silent
aurea mediocritasgolden meanFrom Horace's Odes, 2, 10. Refers to the ethical goal of reaching a virtuous middle ground between two sinful extremes. The golden mean concept is common to many philosophers, chiefly Aristotle.
auri sacra famesaccursed hunger for goldFrom Virgil, Aeneid, Book 3, 57. Later quoted by Seneca as quod non mortalia pectora coges, auri sacra fames ("what do not you force mortal hearts [to do], accursed hunger for gold").
auribus teneo lupumI hold a wolf by the earsA common ancient proverb, this version from Terence. It indicates that one is in a dangerous situation where both holding on and letting go could be deadly. A modern version is "to have a tiger by the tail".
aurora australissouthern dawnThe Southern Lights, an aurora that appears in the Southern Hemisphere. It is less well-known than the Northern Lights (aurorea borealis). The Aurora Australis is also the name of an Antarctic icebreaker ship.
aurora borealisnorthern dawnThe Northern Lights, an aurora that appears in the Northern Hemisphere.
aurora musis amicadawn is a friend to the musesTitle of a distich by Iohannes Christenius (1599–1672): "Conveniens studiis non est nox, commoda lux est; / Luce labor bonus est et bona nocte quies." ("Night is not suitable for studying, daylight is; / working by light is good, as is rest at night."); in Nihus, Barthold (1642). Epigrammata disticha. Johannes Kinckius. 
aurum potestas estgold is powerMotto of the fictional Fowl Family in the Artemis Fowl series, written by Eoin Colfer.
auspicium melioris aevihope/token of a better ageMotto of the Order of St Michael and St George and of Raffles Institution in Singapore.
aut Caesar aut nihileither Caesar or nothingDenotes an absolute aspiration to become the Emperor, or the equivalent supreme magistrate, and nothing else. More generally, "all or nothing". A personal motto of Cesare Borgia. Charles Chaplin also used the phrase in The Great Dictator to ridicule Hynkel's (Chaplin's parody of Hitler) ambition for power, but substituted "nulles" for "nihil".
aut consiliis aut enseeither by meeting or the swordI. e., either through reasoned discussion or through war. It was the first motto of Chile.
aut cum scuto aut in scutoeither with shield or on shieldOr, "do or die" or "no retreat". A Greek expression («Ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς») that Spartan mothers said to their sons as they departed for battle. It refers to the practices that a Greek hoplite would drop his cumbersome shield in order to flee the battlefield, and a slain warrior would be borne home atop his shield.
aut imiteris aut oderisimitate or loathe itSeneca the Younger, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, 7:7. From the full phrase: "necesse est aut imiteris aut oderis" ("you must either imitate or loathe the world").
aut neca aut necareeither kill or be killedAlso: "neca ne neceris" ("kill lest you be killed").
aut pax aut bellumeither peace or warThe motto of the Gunn Clan.
aut simul stabunt aut simul cadentthey will either stand together or fall togetherSaid of two situations that can only occur simultaneously: if one ends, so does the other, and vice versa.[4]
aut viam inveniam aut faciamI will either find a way or make oneHannibal.
aut vincere aut morieither to conquer or to dieA general pledge of victoria aut mors ("victory or death"). Motto of the Higgenbotham and Higginbottom families of Cheshire, England, United Kingdom; participants in the War of the Roses. Also the motto for the United States 1st Fighter Wing, Langley Air Force Base, in Virginia.
ave atque valehail and farewellCatullus, Carmen 101, addressed to his deceased brother.
ave Europa nostra vera patriahail Europe, our true fatherlandAnthem of Imperium Europa.
Ave Imperator, morituri te salutantHail, Emperor! Those who are about to die salute you!From Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars, Claudius 21. A salute and plea for mercy recorded on one occasion by naumachiarii–captives and criminals fated to die fighting during mock naval encounters. Later versions included a variant of "We who are about to die", and this translation is sometimes aided by changing the Latin to nos morituri te salutamus.
Ave MariaHail, MaryRoman Catholic prayer of intercession asking St. Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ to pray for the petitioner.
ave mater AngliaeHail, Mother of EnglandMotto of Canterbury, England, United Kingdom.


  1. 1 2 James T. Bretzke, Consecrated Phrases: a Latin Theological Dictionary: Latin Expressions Commonly Found in Theological Writings (Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 10. ISBN 0-8146-5880-6, ISBN 978-0-8146-5880-2.
  2. William Blackstone, Commentary on the Laws of England, Book 3, Chapter 10: Of Injuries to Real Property, and First of Dispossession, or Ouster, of the Freehold, Footnote 47.
  3. Peter Jones (2006). Reading Ovid: Stories from the Metamorphoses. Cambridge University Press. p. 223. ISBN 0-521-84901-2.
  4. "Quando i politici si rifugiano nel latino", La Repubblica, 7 July 2004.


  • Adeleye, Gabriel G. (1999). Thomas J. Sienkewicz; James T. McDonough, Jr., eds. World Dictionary of Foreign Expressions. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0865164223. 
  • Hardon, John, Fr. Modern Catholic Dictionary. 
  • Stone, Jon R. (1996). Latin for the Illiterati. London & New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415917751. 
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