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 30 genius Latin phrases you could and should be using on a daily basis.
One of the most poular 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.
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.
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.
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, too.
Do you live life on the edge? Then “dulce periculum” might just be your new motto. Meaning, “Danger is sweet,” dropping this phrase in casual conversation certainly lets people know what you’re about.
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.
If your conspiracy theorist friend needs a good talking to, there are plenty of hilarious words to describe their condition other than asking how that tinfoil hat works. Instead, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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” (“Every man is the artisan of his own fortune”).
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.
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.
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.
Today may not be going the way you want, but you can always boost your spirits by uttering “ad meliora,” or, “Toward better things.”
Many a great idea or seemingly crazy 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.”
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.
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” (“I believe because it is absurd”).
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,” translated to mean, “A wolf is not afraid of a barking dog.”
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 you’re not to be messed with.
Sometimes, people’s opinions can’t be changed. When that’s the case, drop a, “Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt,” or, “Men generally believe what they want to.”
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.
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.”
While not quite the Washington Post’s new 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.”
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.
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.”
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, “Of mortal men, none is wise at all times.”
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?”
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.”