Skip to main content

Latin phrases We Still Use Today

By May 8, 2017Language

Every language belongs to a particular language family and this family tree is indeed huge with extensive branches. Latin; a language belonging to the Italian branch of the Indo-European language family, and the mother of romance languages like Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese is considered a dead classical language today. Originally spoken in the Italian Peninsula and once widespread throughout the Roman Empire, it is now a language very rarely used in everyday communication or for official purposes. Though linguists consider this as a dead language, one can say that it lives on in its descendants like Italian, French and even English.

In everyday parlance, one does not have time to pay attention to the history, pronunciation or literal meaning of words and phrases. But a glance at the list below will give you an idea of how much Latin we all still use- be it in law or medicine, the arts or philosophy, or even economics.

Some entire Latin phrases have become so naturalized in English that we use them, in full, without a second thought—like alter ego (other self), carpe diem (seize the day), cum laude (with praise), etc.

Et cetera: This is probably the most common Latin phrase that we all use in writing. This is the actual spelling but we use the abbreviated form etc. Meaning and the others it is used to denote that a list of things could continue ad infinitum and that for the sake of brevity it’s better to just wrap things up with a simple etc.

Vice Versa: Another commonly used phrase in written as well as oral communication is vice versa which translates as the positions being reversed.

Ad infinitum: You might be able to guess what this phrase means simply through its similarity to the word we use in English. It means to infinity and can be used to describe something that goes on, endlessly.

Mea culpa: This Latin phrase that translates literally to my fault is a fancier, less outdated way of saying my bad.

Persona non grata: From the Latin meaning an unacceptable person this term designates someone who’s no longer welcome in a social or business situation.

In vitro: We are familiar with this term from medical vocabulary because of modern fertility treatments, but in Latin, in vitro actually means in glass and any biological process that occurs in the laboratory rather than in the body or a natural setting can be called in vitro.

In vivo: In vivo on the other hand, means within the living and the two most common examples of this kind of experimentation are animal testing and clinical trials.

Other common phrases from the same field are-

Post mortem: after death
Post partum: after childbirth
Rigor mortis: stiffness of death

Law, judiciary, politics and the education corps too use a lot of Latin vocabulary-

Ad hoc: for this purpose
Bona fide: in good faith
Ex tempore: without preparation
Lingua franca: common language
Prima facie: at first sight
Alias: an assumed name or pseudonym
Sub poena: under penalty of
Curriculum vitae: the course of one’s life-in business/ a lengthened resume
Versus: against
Circa: around/ approximately
Status Quo: current situation
Habeas Corpus: a court order instructing that a person under arrest be brought before a judge
Verbatim: in the exact same words

The list must definitely include the phrases very often used in mathematics, literature as well as economics like

Ceteris paribus: all things being equal
Post scriptum: written later (abbreviated as P.S.)
Ante meridiem: before noon (A.M.)
Post meridiem: after noon (P.M.)
Per annum: by the year
Per capita: by the person

Even a common word like audio that we might be using multiple times a day, comes from Latin, meaning I hear. We are very familiar with the word veto too, hearing about countries using this power ever so often. Veto literally means I forbid.

The above list is just a short summary of the most common terms around us. There are many more that can still be listed.

You will often notice Latin, French and Spanish phrases used randomly by people who are just trying to show off, or by the media to make news pieces and advertisements fancier. But using expressions from other languages without knowing the literal meaning can at times result in embarrassment.

This is no more a concern, as now; we all are a little more conscious about our lingua franca!

Leave your vote

One Comment

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.