Latin Phrases in Common Usage in English

This page was last updated on May 14, 2020

The following table is a list of some Latin Phrases in common English usage. The list is not comprehensive; rather it represents phrases I have encountered in various readings and research. Please send any comments to However, caveat lector: While I enjoy challenges, I am not a translator and canít help with translations


If the desired phrase is not here, one might try finding a copy of Latin for the Illiterati, Exorcizing the Ghosts of a Dead Language, by Jon R. Stone, published by Routledge, 1996. This is an excellent source of Latin translations.

Another excellent source of phrases is A Dictionary of Latin Words and Phrases, by James Morwood, published by Oxford University Press, 1998.

Other web sites offering translated Latin phrases include the following:

Legends and Inscriptions on British Coins

The Phrases


A to E

F to O

P to Z

A Mari Usque Ad Mare

From sea to sea (Motto of Canada)

A Posteriori

Reasoning from effects to causes

A Priori

Reasoning from causes to effects

Ad Astra

To the stars

Ad Eundem

Of admission to the same degree at a different university

Ad Hoc

For this purpose

Ad hominem

To the individual. Relating to the principles or preferences of a particular person, rather than to abstract truth. Often used to describe a personal attack on a person.

Ad Libitum

At one's pleasure, usually abbreviated ad lib

Ad Litem

For a lawsuit or action

Ad Nauseam

To a sickening extent

Ad Referendum

Subject to reference

Ad Rem

To the point

Ad Vitam

For life

Ad Vitam Aeternam

For all time

Ad Vitam Paramus

We are preparing for life (My high school's motto!)

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God

Alea iacta est

The die is cast. Spoken by Julius Caesar as his troops crossed the Rubicon River in 49 B.C.E.

Anno Domini

In the year of our Lord. Usually abbreviated A.D. (ablative of time)

Annuit Coeptis

He (God) has favoured our undertakings (part of the great seal of the United States, usually seen on the back of a U.S one dollar bill)

Annus Bisextus

Leap year

Ante Bellum

Before the war. Usually used to describe the United States before the U.S. Civil War (1861-65). Typically spelled antebellum in English.

Ante Meridiem

Before noon. Usually abbreviated A.M.

Armis Exposcere Pacem

They demanded peace by force of arms. An inscription seen on medals.

Ars Gratia Artis

Art for art's sake. The motto of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Audere Est Facere

To dare is to do. Motto of the British football team, Tottenham Hotspur ('Spurs)

Bona Fide

In good faith, sincerely

Carpe Diem

Enjoy the day; pluck the day when it is ripe. Seize the day.

Caveat Emptor

Let the buyer beware

Ceteris Paribus

All things being equal

Cogito Ergo Sum

I think, therefore I am (Rene Descartes)

Corpus Delicti

Literally the body of the crime. The substance or fundamental facts of crime.

Cum Catapultae Proscriptae Erunt Tum Soli Proscripti Catapultas Habebunt

When catapults are outlawed, then only outlaws will have catapults.

De Mortibus Nil Nisi Bonum

Of the dead say nothing but good.

Dei Gratia

By the grace of God. This appears on all British, Canadian, and other British Commonwealth coins and is usually abbreviated D.G. (see Fidei Defensor and Indiae Imperator)

Desiderantes meliorem patriam

They desire a better country. Motto of the Order of Canada.

Deus Ex Machina

Literally God from a machine. Describes a miraculous or fortuitous turn of events in a work of fiction.

Deus Vobiscum

God be with you.

Dies Irae

Day of wrath; Day of judgement

Dies natalis


Discere Docendo

To learn through teaching

Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus

Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon. This is the motto of Harry Potterís alma mater, Hogwartís school of witchcraft and wizardry

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

It is sweet and proper to die for oneís country. This is from Horaceís Odes. Dulce et decorum est is the title of a poem written by Wilfred Owen in 1917. The phrase is also enscribed in the entablature of the rear entrance of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater.

Dum spiramus tuebimur

While we breathe, we shall defend. Motto of the U.S 133rd Field Artillery Regiment.

E Pluribus Unum

From many, one (Motto of United States of America)

Equitare, arcum tendere, veritatem dicere

To ride, to shoot [a bow], to tell the truth. The motto on the flyleaf of Karen Blixenís novel, Out of Africa. The motto comes from Tacitusís Latin translation of Herodotusís history of the Persian wars.

Errare Humanum Est

To err is human

Et Alia

And others

Et Cetera

And the rest. Often abbreviated etc. or &c.

Ex Cathedra

From the chair, i.e. Speaking from a Bishop's seat or professional chair, speaking with authority. A Cathedra is the seat reserved for a Bishop in a cathedral.

Ex Gratia

Done or given as a favour and not under any compulsion

Ex Libris

From the Library (of).

Ex Officio

According to Office

Ex Post Facto

After the fact

Ex Tempore

Off the cuff, without preparation

Exempli Gratia

For the sake of example, for instance. Usually abbreviated e.g.

Exeunt Omnes

All go out. A common stage direction in plays

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F to O

Facta Non Verba

Deeds not words

Fide Suorum Regnat

"He reigns by the faith of his people" Inscription on the 1939 Canadian silver dollar, minted to commemorate the 1939 Royal tour.

Fidei Defensor

Defender of the Faith. This is usually abbreviated F.D. or Fid. Def. and appears on the obverse of British coins. (see Dei Gratia)

Flagrante Delicto

Literally while the crime is blazing. Caught red-handed, in the very act of a crime.

Floreat Regina

May the Queen flourish, or Long Live the Queen. The motto of the City of Regina, Saskatchewan Canada, the Queen City.

Gens una sumus

We are one people.

Gloria In Exelsis Deo

Literally, Glory to God in the highest. Highest in this phrase means heaven, i.e. Glory to God in Heaven

Habeas Corpus

Literally that you have a body. A writ requiring that a detained individual be brought before a court to decide the legality of that individual's detention.

Habemus Papam

We have a father. The cheer raised by the waiting crowds when a pope is elected.

Homo nudus cum nuda iacebat

Naked they lay together, man and woman. Quoted in The Name of the Rose, First day, Sext. Cum nuda is an ablative of accompaniment and nuda itself is an example of a substantive.


In the same place (in a book). Abbreviation for ibidem.


See ibid.

Id Est

That is to say. Usually abbreviated i.e.


Jesus. There is no 'J' in classic Latin.

Iesus Hominum Salvator

Usually abbreviated IHS this means Jesus is the saviour of all people.

Iesus Nazerenus Rex Iudaeorum

Usually abbreviated INRI. The title card placed on Christ's cross by Pontius Pilate (John 19:19), it means Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

In Absentia

In their absence

In Actu

In practice

In Camera

In secret or private session; not in public

In Capite

In chief

In Extenso

At full length

In Extremis

In the last agonies

In Forma Pauperis

In the form of a poor person; in a humble or abject manner

In Infinitum

To infinity; without end

In Limine

On the threshold, at the very outset

In Loco

In the place of

In Loco Parentis

In the place of a parent

In Medias Res

Into the midst of affairs

In Memoriam

To the memory of

In Nubibus

In the clouds; not yet settled

In Partibus Infidelium

In parts inhabited by unbelievers

In Perpetuum

To all time

In Pontificalibus

In the proper vestments of a pope or cardinal

In Propria Persona

In his or her own person

In Situ

In its original place; in position

In Statu Quo

In the same state

In Terrorem

As a warning; in order to terrify others

In Toto

As a whole, absolutely, Completely

In Transitu

In passing, on the way

In Utero

In the uterus

In Vacuo

In a vacuum or empty space

In Vino Veritas

Truth comes out under the influence of alcohol.

In Vitro

In a test tube (literally glass)

In Vivo

Within the living organism

Indiae Imperator

Emperor of India. Usually abbreviated Ind. Imp. Appeared on the obverse of British and British Empire coins before 1948.

Integer Vitae Scelerisque Purus

Blameless of life and free from crime

Inter Alia

Amongst other things

Inter Alios

Amongst other persons

Inter Caesa et Porrecta

There's many a slip twixt cup and lip

Inter Nos

Between ourselves

Inter Partes

Made between two parties

Inter Pericula Intrepidi

Fearless in the face of Danger. Motto of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment

Inter Se

Between or among themselves

Inter Vivos

Between living persons

Invictus Maneo

I remain undefeated

Ipse Dixit

Unproven assertion resting on the speaker's authority (literally He himself said)

Lapsus Linguae

A slip of the tongue

Lingua Franca

A common language

Lupus in Fabula

Speak of the devil

Lux Mea Christus

Christ is my light

Magna est veritas et praevalibit

Truth is great and it will prevail.

Manus in Mano

Hand in hand

Manus Manum Lavat

Literally Hand washes Hand. Taken to mean One hand washes the other or scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

Margaritas ante Porcos

Pearls before swine

Mea Culpa

Through my own fault

Mea Maxima Culpa

Through my very great fault

Mea navis aŽricumbens anguillis abundant

My hovercraft is full of eels!

Melitae Amor

Love of Malta

Membrum Virile

The virile member; penis.

Memento Mori

A reminder of death, such as a skull (literally remember that you have to die)

Memento Vivere

A reminder of life (literally remember that you have to live)

Missa Solemnis

Literally, Solemn Mass. The High Mass.

Mitto tibi navem prora puppique carentem

I send you a ship without a bow or a stern. This is a rebus puzzle by Cicero. A ship, navem, without its first and last letter spells ave, which means greetings in Latin.

Mollia Tempora Fandi

Times favourable for speaking

Morior Invictus

I die undefeated

Mutatis Mutandis

With the necessary changes

Nihil Sub Sole Novum

Nothing new under the sun

Noli me vocare, ego te vocabo

Donít Call me. Iíll Call You

Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum

Don't let the bastards grind you down. Not true Latin, as the words Bastardes and Carborundorum are not Latin words, like copacetic.

Non Compos Mentis

Not of sound mind.

Non Sequitur

An inference or conclusion which doesn't follow from its premises (literally It Does Not Follow)

Non Timetis Messor

Don't Fear the Reaper

Nosce te ipsum

Know thyself

Novus Ordo Seclorum

A new order of the ages (appears on the U.S. one-dollar bill)

Nunc Dimittis

Literally Now you send forth. Abbreviation of Luke 2:29.

Omnia Mihi Lingua Graeca Sunt

It's all Greek to me.

Optimus Parentibus

To my excellent parents. A common dedication in a book.

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P to Z


Pater Noster

Our Father. The first words of the Lord's Prayer in Latin.

Per Accidens

By Accident

Per Annum

By the Year

Per Ardua Ad Astra

Through Difficulty To The Stars. Motto of the RCAF, RAF and RAAF.

Per Capita

By heads

Per Consequens

By Consequence

Per Contra

On the other side

Per Diem

By the day

Per Fas et Nefas

By right and wrong

Per Incurium

Through carelessness

Per Mensem

Every Month

Per Pares

By his peers

Per Procurationem

By Proxy or Deputy

Per Saltum

By a leap or all at once

Per Se

By or in itself

Per Stirpes

By stocks or families

Persona non Grata

Unacceptable Person

Post Coitem

After sexual intercourse

Post Mortem

After death

Post Partum

After childbirth

Post Scriptum

Written later. A postscript, usually abbreviated P.S.

Post Tenebras, Lux

After darkness, light

Praemonitus, Praemunitus

Forewarned is Forearmed

Prima Facie

At first sight; on the face of it.

Primus Inter Pares

First Among Equals

Pro Bono Publico

For the public good

Pro Forma

For form's sake

Pro Hac Vice

For this occasion only

Pro Rata


Pro Re Nata

For an occasion as it arises

Pro Tanto

So far

Pro Tempore


Quid Pro Quo

One thing for another; something for something

Quis Custodiet ipsos custodes

Who shall guard the guards?

Quo Vadis, Domine?

Where are you going, Lord?

Quod Vide

Which See, usually abbreviated q.v.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

Which was to be demonstrated. Usually abbreviated Q.E.D.

Quod Erat Faciendum

Which was to be done.

Quod Erat Inveniendum

Which was to be found out.

Requiescat in Pace

May he rest in peace. Usually abbreviated R.I.P.

Res ipsa loquitur

Literally the thing speaks for itself.A principle in tort law that describes circumstances where negligence in an accident or injury can be inferred without direct evidence.

Romani Ite Domum

Romans go home!

Semper Fidelis

Always Faithful. Motto of the United States Marine Corps and H.M.S. Exeter

Senatus Populusque Romanus

The senate and people of Rome. Often abbreviated SPQR. Seen as a tattoo on Russell Crowe's left arm in the movie, Gladiator.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Thus ever to tyrants. The motto of the State of Virginia. John Wilkes Booth is supposed to have shouted this phrase as he jumped to stage of Ford's Theater after shooting Abraham Lincoln.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Thus passes away the glory of the world.

Sine Die

Without a day being specified

Sine Qua Non


Sperate Miseri Caveat Felices

When miserable, hope; When happy beware

Sub Poena

Under penalty of Ö. The source of the English word subpoena which is a writ issued by a court requiring one's attendance at that court.

Sub Rosa

Secretly or in confidence. Literally means under the rose.

Tam similis quam lac lacti est

as similar as milk is to milk, like two peas in a pod

Tempus Fugit

Time flies

Ubique Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt

Everywhere That Right And Glory Lead. Motto of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Canadian Artillery.

Ultima Ratio

Final sanction

Ultra Vires

Beyond the powers or legal authority

Ut humiliter opinor

In my humble opinion

Veni, Vidi, Vici

I came, I saw, I conquered

Ventis Secundis

Literally with favourable winds. With an aft (favourable) wind. The motto of H.M.S. Hood. These words were supposedly spoken by Admiral Sir Samuel Hood during the battle of Martinique.

Via Dolorosa

The way of sorrow. The route in Jerusalem followed by Jesus Christ to his crucifixion.

Vice Versa

The positions being reversed


That is to say; To wit; Namely

Vincit qui patitur

He conquers who endures

Vita mutatur, non tollitur

Life is changed, not taken away

Vivat Regina

Long live the queen

Vivat Rex

Long live the king


Abbreviation of Videlicet


By way of postscript, the motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Maintiens le Droit, which is French, not Latin. It is translated variously as maintain the right, uphold the right, or uphold the law.

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