40 Latin Phrases So Genius You'll Sound Like a Master Orator
Forget carpe diem. Start dropping carpe vinum instead.
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 or whispering "in vino veritas" before spilling a secret over a few drinks. With that in mind, we've compiled the genius Latin phrases you could and should be using on a daily basis.
Common Latin Phrases
1. "Sapere aude."
A popular Latin school motto, this one means, "Dare to know." It's commonly associated with the Age of Enlightenment and may be the reminder you need to never stop learning, no matter your age.
2. "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. For instance, this common state motto—which also happens to adorn the memorial plaque for the astronauts who died on Apollo 1—can be used in conversation when you're having a terrible go of things, but you're confident a greater outcome awaits you.
3. "Carpe vinum."
We've all heard the phrase "carpe diem" a million times, but we'll do you one better: "Carpe vinum." Of all the Latin phrases to master, this one, which translates to "seize the wine," will certainly come in handy when you're eager to impress your waiter with a fancy foodie phrase or are doing your best Caligula impression after a few glasses of pinot noir.
4. "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.
5. "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.
6. "Audentes fortuna iuvat."
Want some inspiration to kill it on an upcoming job interview? Repeat, "Audentes fortuna iuvat" ("Fortune favors the bold.") to yourself a few times in the mirror before heading out the door.
7. "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.
8. "Ad meliora."
Today may not be going the way you want, but you can always boost your spirits by uttering "ad meliora," or, "Toward better things."
9. "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," which means, "I believe because it is absurd."
10. "In absentia lucis, Tenebrae vincunt."
While not quite the Washington Post's motto, this phrase comes pretty close. If you're ever channeling your inner superhero, try out this expression, which means, "In the absence of light, darkness prevails."
11. "Ars longa, vita brevis."
There's a reason we still admire the paintings and sculptures of long-dead masters, and luckily, one of the easiest-to-master Latin phrases just about sums it up: "Art is long, life is short."
Latin Phrases About Love
12. "Ut ameris, amabilis esto."
We can't expect to collect friends and admirers unless we're worth it. Affection and a good reputation have to be earned, according to this quote from Ovid. It means, "If you want to be loved, be lovable."
13. "Amore et melle et felle es fecundissimus."
Love is amazing, painful, and confusing at the same time, as those who spoke Latin apparently knew all too well. The next time you want to remind a friend of the exquisite agony that often accompanies a new relationship, use this phrase, which means, "Love is rich with honey and venom."
Latin Phrases About Death
14. "Omnes una manet nox."
From Horace's Odes, this Latin phrase translates into, "One night is awaiting us all," and serves as a reminder that we're all mere mortals. "One night," in this context, means the night of our deaths.
15. "Vivamus, moriendum est."
A quote attributed to the philosopher Seneca, this Latin phrase means, "Let us live, since we must die." Life is short, basically, so we might as well enjoy it while we can.
16. "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.
17. "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.
Cool Latin Phrases
18. "Astra inclinant, sed non obligant."
If you're dealing with someone who's obsessed with their own horoscope, you may want to tell them this. It means, "The stars incline us, they do not bind us." In other words, even if there's a plan, we all have free will.
19. "Timendi causa est nescire."
Seneca was well ahead of his time when he wrote, "Timendi causa est nescire." If you're talking to someone who is afraid of the unknown, remind them that "ignorance is the cause of fear."
20. "Finis coronat opus."
Translating to, "The end crowns the work," this phrase is useful any time you're tempted to judge a project—whether it's yours or someone else's—when you're still in the middle of it.
21. "Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit."
Difficult times are daunting in the moment, but you never know how time passed will change your opinion of them. Also from the Aeneid, by Virgil, this phrase means, "Perhaps even these things will be good to remember one day," and it may be a helpful motto to keep you going.
22. "Malum consilium quod mutari non potest."
Are you terrible at deviating from your to-do list, even when circumstances evolve? You may want to write, "Malum consilium quod mutari non potest" at the top of your bullet journal. This quote from Syrus means, "Bad is the plan that cannot change."
23. "Destitutus ventis, remos adhibe."
Meaning, "If the winds fail you, use the oars," this phrase is a reminder that there's usually a Plan B. Just because a task isn't as easy as you thought it would be doesn't mean that it's not achievable—though it may take a little more elbow grease than you expected.
24. "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.
25. "Dulce periculum."
Do you live life on the edge? Then "dulce periculum" might just be your new motto. It means "danger is sweet," and dropping this phrase in casual conversation certainly lets people know what you're about.
26. "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.
27. "Factum fieri infectum non potest."
For those eager to make it clear that they don't give second chances, keep "factum fieri infectum non potest" in your back pocket. This phrase, which means, "It is impossible for a deed to be undone," also serves as a grave reminder for your friends when they say they're about they're about to do something rash.
28. "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.
29. "Qui totum vult totum perdit."
While Wall Street may have told us that greed is good, the Latin language begs to differ. 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."
30. "Faber est suae quisque fortunae."
Of all the Latin phrases in the world, there's one perfect for picking yourself up when you feel like the stars aren't aligning in your favor. Just remember: "Faber est suae quisque fortunae," or, "Every man is the artisan of his own fortune."
31. "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.
32. "Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixture dementia fuit."
Many a great idea or seemingly impossible 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."
33. "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.
34. "Lupus non timet canem latrantem."
Need a quick way to make it clear that you won't be intimidated by a bully? Simply tell them, "Lupus non timet canem lantrantem." This means, "A wolf is not afraid of a barking dog."
35. "Non ducor duco."
When you're eager to remind your subordinates at work who's in charge, toss a "non ducor duco" their way. Meaning, "I am not led; I lead," this phrase is a powerful way of letting others know you're not to be messed with.
36. "Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt."
Sometimes, people's opinions can't be changed. When that's the case, drop a "fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt," which translates to: "Men generally believe what they want to."
37. "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.
38. "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, which means, "Of mortal men, none is wise at all times."
39. "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?"
40. "Mea navis aëricumbens anguillis abundant."
Of course, not all Latin phrases are useful—some are just funny. This one, in particular—a translation of a humorous saying from Monty Python's "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch, simply means, "My hovercraft is full of eels." And for more fun language facts, sign up for our daily newsletter.