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While Latin hasn’t been regularly spoken or written for hundreds of years, save for the occasional scholarly text, its legacy is still felt throughout the lexicon of both Romance and Germanic languages today. Whether you’re launching an ad hominem attack or adding etcetera to the end of a list, it’s likely you’re peppering your speech with Latin phrases without even knowing it.
That said, we can do better than exclaiming “veni, vidi, vici” following a win at Scrabble. With that in mind, we’ve compiled the genius Latin phrases you could and should be using on a daily basis.
“Acta non verba.”
If you want to make it clear that you won’t stand for lip service, toss “acta non verba” into your everyday language. Meaning, “Deeds, not words,” this phrase is an easy way to make it clear that you don’t kindly suffer those whose behavior doesn’t match their words.
“Acta deos numquam mortalia fallunt.”
If you’ve ever wanted to strike fear into the heart of your enemies (or just want a good comeback for when you catch someone cheating on game night), try out this expression. Meaning “Mortal actions never deceive the gods,” this Latin phrase certainly fits the bill.
“Ad astra per aspera.”
One of the most popular Latin phrases, meaning, “Through adversity to the stars,” this utterance is generally used to describe the overcoming of adversity resulting in a favorable outcome. It can be used in conversation when you’re having a terrible go of things, but you’re confident a greater outcome awaits you.
“Alea iacta est.”
Latin phrases don’t get much more iconic than “Alea iacta est,” or “The die is cast,” an expression reportedly uttered by Julius Caesar as he crossed Italy’s Rubicon river with his army. Of course, it works equally well when you’ve got the wheels in motion for a brilliant plan that doesn’t involve civil war, too.
Do you live life on the edge? Then “dulce periculum” might just be your new motto. Meaning, “Danger is sweet,” dropping this phrase in casual conversation certainly lets people know what you’re about.
“Condemnant quo non intellegunt.”
If your conspiracy theorist friend needs a good talking to, hit them with a quick “Condemnant quo non intellegunt.” This phrase, meaning “They condemn that which they do not understand,” is the perfect burn for those who proudly espouse their less-than-logic-backed views and offer little supporting evidence.
“Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.”
Finding yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place? Pump yourself up by letting forth an “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.” This phrase, which translates to, “I will either find a way or make one,” is famously attributed to Carthaginian general Hannibal, one of history’s most famous military leaders.
“Qui totum vult totum perdit.”
If you want to refute an acquaintance’s obsession with having it all, hit them with a “Qui totum vult totum perdit,” or, translated, “He who wants everything loses everything.”
“Aquila non capit muscas.”
If social media pettiness and idle gossip feel beneath you, try adding “Aquila non capit muscas” to your vocabulary. The phrase, which means, “The eagle does not catch flies,” is a particularly cutting way to remind others that you’re not about to trouble yourself with their nonsense.
“Faber est suae quisque fortunae.”
This one’s perfect for picking yourself up when you feel like the stars aren’t aligning in your favor and reminding you that a man’s character is his destiny. Just remember, “Faber est suae quisque fortunae” (“Every man is the artisan of his own fortune”).
“Natura non constristatur.”
While it’s natural to be upset over storm damage to a house or dangerous conditions that cause a flight to be canceled, Latin speakers were sure to make it clear that nature doesn’t share our feelings. “Natura non constristatur,” which means “Nature is not saddened,” is the perfect phrase to remind yourself or others just how unconcerned with human affairs Mother Nature truly is.
“Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.”
From Virgil’s Aeneid, this phrase, which means “If I cannot move Heaven, I will raise Hell,” is the perfect addition to the vocabulary of anyone whose halo is nonexistent.
Today may not be going the way you want, but you can always boost your spirits by uttering “ad meliora,” or, “Toward better things.”
“Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixture dementia fuit.”
Many a great idea or seemingly crazy prediction has been initially laughed off by those who don’t understand it. When that happens to you, remind your detractors, “Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixture dementia fuit,” or, “There has been no great wisdom without an element of madness.”
“Barba tenus sapientes.”
That guy who proclaims himself to be a genius, but seems to only reiterate derivative remarks? He’s “Barba tenus sapientes,” or “As wise as far as the beard.” In other words, this guy might seem intelligent at first, but it’s all a façade.
“Creo quia absurdum est.”
Occam’s razor isn’t always the best way to judge a situation. In times where belief alone trumps logic, drop a “Creo quia absurdum est” (“I believe because it is absurd”).
“Lupus non timet canem latrantem.”
Need a quick way to make it clear that you won’t be intimidated? Simply tell them, “Lupus non timet canem lantrantem,” translated to mean, “A wolf is not afraid of a barking dog.”
“Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc.”
The motto of the fictional Addams Family, this phrase means, “We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” Also perfect for use in any conversation where you’re eager to terrify someone else.
“De omnibus dubitandum.”
Do you think the truth is out there? Do you think there are government secrets that threaten our very existence? If so, this phrase, which means “Be suspicious of everything,” should be a welcome addition to your lexicon.
“Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit.”
Just because you think you’re a relatively sage person doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily on the ball at all times. As many a Latin speaker might remind you with this phrase, “Of mortal men, none is wise at all times.”
“Quid infantes sumus.”
If you feel like you’re being underestimated, don’t be afraid to spit, “Quid infants sumus?” at those who might not see your potential. While it’s not exactly a scathing insult, it’s pretty amusing to know the Latin phrase for, “What are we, babies?”
Interested in Roman history? Check out this class!