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Latin Terms in English Use

Use this list of Latin words and terms in English use for Grade 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 elementary, middle school and high school students and kids to learn and understand a selection of commonly used Latin words and Latin Terms in English language.


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Note: There are three ways to pronounce Latin: the ancient Roman pronunciation (not accurately reconstructed until the early 1900's), the Italian-like pronunciation used by the Catholic Church, and the English-like pronunciation still used by lawyers. For example, Caesar is pronounced KAI-sahr in the Roman system, CHAY-sahr in the Church, and SEE-zer in the English system.

The pronunciations given here are in the English system, except for a few words that occur mainly in Church Latin. Be prepared to hear wide variation in the ways all of these words are pronounced.

A Words

a fortiori (Latin):
(a for-ti-OR-eye)
For a still stronger reason; all the more. Example: We must promote fairness to protect the weak and a fortiori to protect ourselves.

ad hominem (Latin):
(ad HOME-in-nem)
Against the person. Example: An ad hominem arguement is an argument that attacks a person's character or qualifications rather than refuting when the person is saying.

alter ego (Latin):
(ALL-ter EE-go)
Another self; a bosom friend. Example: Throughout his life, D. H. Lawrence searched for a man who would be his alter ego.

amicus curiae (Latin):
(a-MIKE-us CUR-i-ee)
A friend of the court, a personor group who gives advice or presents a brief in a legal case in which he or she is not involved. Example: As amicus curiae the American Civil Liberties Union presented a brief in the Larsen case.

annus mirabilis (Latin):
(AN-nus mir-RAB-i-lis)
A wonderful year; a year in which great events occur. Example: His annus mirabilis was 1922, the year he completed the Quartet in G Minor, the Symphony in D Minor, and his opera, The Tocsin.

a posteriori (Latin):
(a pos-teer-i-OR-eye)
Reasoning from effect to cause; applied to conclusions drawn fromthe study of facts. Example: Scientific reasoning often works a posteriori, going from observations to theories.

C Words

casus belli (Latin):
(CASE-us BELL-eye)
A reason for declaring war. Example: Hilter seldom bothered to find a casus belli before attacking a nation.

corpus delicti (Latin):
(COR-pus dee-LICK-teye)
The body of the crime; a legal phrase meaning evidence that a crime has been committed. Sometimes the expression is mistaken to mean the body of the victim. Example: Without a corpus delicti the district attorney cannot seek an indictment.

E Words

ex cathedra (Latin):
(ex ka-THEE-dra)
From the throne; by the authority of one's position. Often used in connection with the Pope. Example: The pronouncement was made ex cathedra and must be obeyed.

F Words

flagrante delicto (Latin):
(fla-GRANT-ee dee-LICK-toe)
While the crime is blazing in the very act; red-handed. Example: Since the cashier was caugh flagrante delicto, his attorney could not present a defense and was forced to enter a plea for mercy.

H Words

hic jacet (Latin):
(hick JASE-et)
Here lies; an epitaph.
Hic jacet my wife Amanda.
Stranger, do not sigh.
At last she knows peace
And so do I.

Homo sapiens (Latin):
(HO-mo SAY-pi-ens)
Rational man; the biological name for the human species. Example: We sometimes forget that Homo sapiens is not the only earth dweller.

I Words

in extenso (Latin):
(in ex-TEN-so)
At full length. Example: If he explains his case in extenso, the referee will find against him out of shear boredome.

in extremis (Latin):
(in ex-TREME-iss)
Near death; in the last extremity. Example: Hearing that the king was in extremis, the priest rushed to the palace to administer the last rites.

infra dignitatem (Latin):
(IN-fra dig-ni-TATE=em)
Colloquially shortened to infra dig; beneath one's dignity. Example: Believing that explanations were infra dignitatem, the royal governor merely issued orders.

In loco parentis (Latin):
(in LO-co pa-REN-tis)
In the place of a parent; acting as one's guardian. Example: During his brother's long illness, he acted in loco parentis for his nieces and nephews.

in re or re (Latin):
In reference to; concerning. Example: In re the Casson affair, a fir of actuaries has been hired to audit the books for the last five years.

in vacuo (Latin):
(in VACK-yoo-oh)
In a vacuum; without previous reference; without reference to surrounding or regard for reality. Example: He is always so preoccupied that he frequently makes remarkabe in vacuo and is annoyed becuase no one understands him.

In vitro (Latin):
(in VIT-ro)
In glass; in a test tube; in the laboratory. Example: As biology become more like chemistry, more biological experiments can be done in vitro so that animals need not suffer.

in vivo (Latin):
(in VIVE-oh or in VEEV-oh)
In a living organism (usually an animal or human). Example: Test tube studies suggest that this drug should kill viruses, but is effectiveness has never been demonstrated in vivo.

ipse dixit (Latin):
(IP-see DIX-it)
He himself has said it; an assertion without proof. Example: He talks incessantly, and his every statement is delivered as an ipse dixit.

L Words

lapsus linguae (Latin):
(LAP-sus LING-wee)
A slip of the tongue. Example: the announcer made an embarrassing lapsus linguae and was immediately cut off the air.

M Words

mirabile dictu (Latin):
(mi-RAB-i-lee DIK-too)
Strange to say; marvelous to relate. Example: The mechanic jiggled a lever, and, mirabile dictu, the motor started without a cough or a groan.

Modus operandi (Latin):
(MO-du op-er-AND-eye)
Way of operating or working. Example: Sherlock Holmes's first step was often to identify the criminal's modus operandi.

modus vivendi (Latin):
(MO-dus viv-END-eye)
Mannor of living; temporary agreement; a way of coexisting with a person or nation despite fundamental disagreement. Example: The United States and Cuba do not cooperate in any way; they have still not found a modus vivendi.

N Words

ne plus ultra (Latin):
(nee plus UL-tra)
Nothing more beyond; perfection. Example: The Rolls Royce is the ne plus ultra of cars.

O Words

obiter dictum (Latin):
(O-bit-er DIK-tum)
The plural is obiter dicta. An incidental opinion by a judge or critic; not binding; a digression or an aside. Example: This book of obiter dicta is a delightful supplement to his critiques.

P Words

passim (Latin):
Here and there; applied towords used many times in a piece of writing. Example: Surprising rhymes occur passim in the first three versus.

pax vobiscum (Latin):
(PAX vo-BEES-kum)
Peace be with you. Example: Murmuring pax vobiscum, the anchorite genuflected before the queen.

persona non grata (Latin):
(per-SO-na non GRAH-ta)
An unacceptable person; an acceptable person is persona grata. These terms are frequently applied to official representatives of a country. Example: The American consul is persona non grata in Ruritania and will have to be recalled.

prima facie (Latin):
(PRIME-a FACE-ee-a)
On the face of or on the surface; at first view; on first appearance. Example: Possession of drugs is prima facie evidence of participation of illegal drug traffic.

pro bono publico (Latin):
(pro BO-no PUB-li-co)
For the public good; a favorite signature of those who write letters to editors of newspapers and magazines. Example: Pro bono work done by lawyers is work tehat they do as unpaid volunteers.

Pro tempore (Latin):
(pro TEMP-oh-free)
Often shortened to pro tem; temporarily; for the time being. Example: he is chairman pro tem of the Committee on Good and Welfare.

Q Words

quo (Latin):
(kway or kwah)
As; considered as. Example: There is nothing to be said for her hat quo hat, but it's a charming theatrical prop.

quid nunc (Latin):
(kwid nunk)
What now; one who is curious to know everything that passes; a gossip. Example: For years old Jones was the quid nunc on the faculty.

quondam (Latin):
Former. Example: Hurricane Goetz, a quondam ballet dancer, is a contender for the heavyweight championship in wrestling.

R Words

rara avis (Latin):
(RARE-a AY-vis)
A rare bird; an unusual specimen; an extraordinary person. Example: An honest politician is a rara avis.

reductio ad absurdum (Latin):
(free-DUCK-tee-oh ad ab-SUR-dum)
A reduction of an absurdity; carrying an argument or action to logical extremes. Example: Many conditions in Huxley's Brave New World are a reductio ad absurdum of conditions and tendencies already present in the world.

S Words

sanctum sanctorum (Latin):
(SANK-tum sank-TO-rum)
Holy of holies; innermost temple; the office of an awesome person. Example: it was five years before Mr. Bartle invited me into his sanctum sanctorum and implied that, if I worked hard, I might be made a member of the firm.

sine qua non (Latin):
(SINE-ee kwah NON)
Without which there is nothing; a prerequisite; an indispensable condition. Example: Mutual respect, if not love, is the sine qua non of a successful marriage.

stet (Latin):
Let it stand. Used in the printing industry to label things that have been marked out by accident and should not be deleted.

sub rosa (Latin):
(sub RO-sa)
Under the rose; privately; confidentially. Example: I have been told sub rosa that the Joneses are on the verge of separation.

sui generis (Latin):
(SOO-ee JEN-er-is)
Of his, her, its own kind; in a class by itself; unique. Example: This book is sui generis a masterpice, but it will not appeal to many.

V Words

vade mecum (Latin):
(VAY-dee MEE-kum)
Go withme; a manual or handbook; a book carried as a constant companion. Example: The Bible is the vade mecum of many Christians.

vox populi (Latin):
(VOKS POP-u-leye)
The vocie of the people; shortened to vox pop. This expression is one half of the expression Vox populi, vox Dei "the voice of the people is the voice of God." Vox pop is a favorite signature of letters in newspapers.


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