28 common Latin phrases you really ought to know

Roman soldier depicting Latin phrasesNumerous Latin phrases and abbreviations have endured the test of time to still feature in English today, especially in the field of business and law.

Yet many of them are incorrectly used, largely because people don’t always understand their specific purpose and meaning.

So, to make sure you get top marks next time you drop one of these Latin phrases into your writing or conversation, here’s a quick recap of what they mean (along with their direct translations).

addendum (‘that which is to be added’) = an extra item added at the end of a book or text

ad hoc (‘to this’) = formed, arranged or done for a specific, immediate purpose

ad infinitum (‘to infinity’) = endlessly, forever

ad nauseam (‘to the point of disgust’) = repeating something until it makes one (feel) sick

alter ego (‘another I’) = another (secret) identity

bona fide (‘good faith’) = authentic, genuine, sincere

carpe diem = seize the day

caveat emptor (‘let the buyer beware’) = it’s the buyer’s responsibility to check out an item before purchase

ergo = therefore (best known from the phrase “Cogito, ergo sum” meaning “I think, therefore I am”)

in loco parentis (‘in place of a parent’) = assuming the authority and responsibilities of a parent in a legal capacity

in situ (‘in position’) = in the original or appropriate position

mea culpa (‘my guilt’) = my fault

per capita (‘by heads’) = per person

per se (‘through itself’) = by, in or of itself; intrinsically

persona non grata (‘person not pleasing) = an unwelcome or undesirable person

pro bono (‘for the good’) = work undertaken without compensation

pro forma (‘for the sake of form’) = as a matter of form or politeness; a standard document or form

pro rata (‘for the rate’) = in proportion

re (‘by the thing’) = referring to; regarding

quid pro quo (‘something for something’ or ‘this for that’) = a favour or advantage granted in exchange for something else

sic (‘thus’) = just so; used to indicate that a preceding quotation is copied exactly, including any spelling, grammatical or factual mistakes

stet (‘let it stand’) = used as an instruction on a printed proof to ignore a correction

status quo (‘the state in which’) = the existing state of affairs

tempus fugit = time flies

terra firma (‘solid land’) = solid ground

verbatim (‘word for word’) = in exactly the same words as were used originally

vice versa (‘with position turned’) = the other way around

vox populi = voice of the people

Over to you

Have you any favourite Latin phrases that you’re particularly fond of? Or did you learn any new ones here? Please do let me know in the comments.

(Photo courtesy of Simon Howden via Freedigitalphotos.net)

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