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Everyday Expressions from Latin

Posted by Judy on Aug 10th 2021

As many of the baby boomers who took Latin way-back-when know, the ancient language provided a good foundation for building vocabulary and studying the Romance languages: French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. (Many think Romanian is the modern language closest to Latin.). About half of the words in modern English words are of Latin origin. Many common expressions come straight from the Romans:

  • Ad libitum (ad lib): freely, without a script
  • Alter ego: another self
  • Bona fide: in good faith
  • Carpe diem: seize the day
  • Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware
  • Circa: about, approximately
  • E pluribus unum: from many, one (still imprinted on some US coins)
  • Emeritus: honorary, by reason of merit
  • Ex libris: from the books of, from the library of
  • Ex post facto: after the fact
  • Habeas corpus: legal writ to limit imprisonment by bringing a prisoner into court
  • In memoriam: in memory of
  • Magna cum laude: with great honor
  • Magnus opus: masterpiece or great work
  • Mea culpa: my fault
  • Non compos mentis: of unsound mind
  • Non sequitur: a statement that does not follow logically from what preceded it
  • Per annum: per year
  • Persona non grata: undesirable person
  • Pro bono: for the good, free of charge
  • Quid pro quo: a thing for a thing
  • Status quo: existing state of affairs
  • Terra firma: firm ground
  • Via: by way of
  • Vice versa: with order or meaning reversed