Notable idioms and concepts

Updated: 2023-11-11
Created: 2003-12-02

This document is an incomplete draft.

Eventually each idiomatic phrase will have a comment that explains how/why it is used and the concept it conveys.

A posteriori
From the consequences
A priori
From the antecedents
Ab falso quod libet
From false premises one can prove anything
Ab ovo
From the very beginning
Acta est fabula
“The play is over“
Ad Calendas graecas
On to the Greek Calendas
Ad hoc
For the special case
Ad maiora
To greater thing
Ad maiorem Dei gloria
For the greater glory of God
Ad usum Tironum
For the use of an apprentice
Alea jacta est
The dice are thrown
Ars longa, vita brevis
Art lasts, life is but brief
Asinus ad lyram
An ass playing the lyre
Audaces Fortuna juvat
Luck helps the daring
Audita altera parte
Having heard the representations of the other party
Aurea mediocritas
Golden middle
Aut aut
Or else...
Bis repetita placent
What is asked for twice is what people want
Brevi manu
Directly by hand
Captatio benevolentiae
Obtaining sympathy
Carthago delenda est
Carthagines must be destroyed
Casus belli
The starting point for the war
Cave canem
Beware the dog
Caveat emptor
The buyer be ware
Ceteris paribus
Other things being equal
Compos mentis
Of healthy mind
Compos suis
Master of himself
Contra spem
Against all hope
Coram populo
Before all the people
Cui prodest?
Who's going to benefit
Cuique suum
To each his own
Cuius regio, eius religio
From his king his religion
Cum grano salis
With a pinch of salt
Cum tacent, clamant
Their silence is a scream
Cupio dissolvi
I crave dissolution
De cuius
The deceased
De lana caprina
About goat's wool
De minimis non curat lex
The law does not bother with very small things
De profundis
Funeral march
Deo gratias
Thanks to God!
Docendo discitur
Teaching is learning
Deus ex machina
A God pops up
Dies irae
Day of judgement
Dignus non sum
I am not worthy
Dramatis personae
List of actors
Dulcis in fundo
The sweetness at the bottom
Dum spiro, spero
As I long as breath I'll hold hope
Dura lex sed lex
Harsh law, but it's the law
Ecce homo
Here is the man himself
Ego te baptizo carpam
I christen you carp
Errare humanum est
To err is human
Est modus in rebus
There should be a method to go about things
Estote parati! Parati sumus!
Be ready! Ready we are!
Et tu, Brute
You too, Brutus
Ex cathedra
From the lectern
Wide ranging side argument
Excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta
An unprompted excuse is an obvious self accusation
Exegi monumentum aere perennius
I created a monument that will last longer than if it were of bronze
Festina lente
Hasten but slowly
Fiat lux
Let there be light
Genius loci
The character of the place
Gutta cavat lapidem
Drops chisel stone
Habemus Papam
We have a new Pope
Hic Rhodus, hic salta
This be Rhodes, so here jump
Hic sunt leones
Here there are lions
Hodie mihi, cras tibi
Today me, tomorrow you
Homo hominis lupus
Man's a predator to another man
Homo novissimus
Self made man
Horribilis dictu
Horrible to say
Hypotheses non fingo
I don't invent assumptions
Impossibilia nemo tenetur
Nobody is bound by impossible commitments
Authorized for printing
In articulo mortis
As he was dying
In cauda venenum
The sting is in the tail
In memoriam
In memory of
In extremis
At the last minute
In flagrante delicto
Caught in the act
In hoc signo vinces
In this symbol you will win
In loco parentis
As if a parent
In media res
Skipping preliminaries
In partibus infidelium
Among the infidels
In situ
On that place
In toto
Inter nos
Between us
Ipse dixit
Himself said it
Ipsi testudines edite, qui cepistis
Those should eat the turtles who caught them
Ite, missa est
Go, this is the dismissal
Lapsus calami
A lapsus of the pen
Lapsus linguae
A lapsus of the tongue
Longa manus
The far reaching hand
Lupus in fabula
The proverbial wolf
Lusus naturae
A joke of nature
Magnum opus
Great work
Manus manum lavat
Washing one's hands
Mater semper certa, pater nunquam
The mother is always known, the father never
Melium est abundare quam deficere
It is better too much than too little
Mea culpa
I have sinned
Memento mori
Remember that you will die too
Memento vivere
Remember to have time to live
Mens rea
Criminal intent
Mens sana in corpore sano
Healthy mind in healthy body
Mirabile dictu
Amazing to say
Mirabile visu
Amazing to watch
Miserere mihi
Have pity on me
Morituri te salutant
The soon to be dead hail you
More uxorio
As if married
Mors tua vita mea
Your death, my life
Motu proprio
Of his personal initiative
Mutatis mutandis
Changing what's to be changed
Nemo propheta in patria
Nobody is believed to be a prophet in his own town
Nescio vos
I don't know you
Nolens volens
Unwilling or willing
Noli me tangere
Don't touch me
Noli prohicere maccaritas ad porcos
Don't throw pearls to pigs
Nomen omen
This name is destiny
Non plus ultra
Absolutely the best The extreme limit
Non possumus
We cannot
Non sequitur
it does not follow
Nondum matura est
Oh well it's not yet ripe
Oderint dum metuant
They can hate me as long as they are afraid
Odi et amo
I hate her yet love her
O tempora o mores
What times, what behaviour!
Ob torto collo
With a twisted neck
Obiter dictum
Said in passing
Omnia vincit amor
Love overcomes everything
Optimum cibi condimentum fames est
The best sauce for any food is hunger
Ora et labora
Pray and work
Ora pro nobis
Pray for us
Ore rotundo
With blarney
Panem et circenses
Bread and entertainment
Parva spes, sed spes
A small hope, still there is hope
Pax vobiscum!
Peace be with you
Pecunia non olet
Money does not smell
Perinde ac cadaver
Obey as if a zombie
Poma mala bona maculant
The bad apples ruin the good ones
Pons asinorum
Bridge for asses
Post factum
After the event
Post hoc ergo propter hoc
Effect follows cause
Post illa verba textus
marginal note
Prima facie
At first look
Primum non nocere
First don't cause harm
Pro domo sua
In pursuit of his interest
Pro forma
For the sake of form
Pro tempore
For the time being
Promoveatur ut amoveatur
Promove to get rid of
Pulsate et aperietur vobis
Knock and the door will be opened for you
Quae sunt Caesaris, Caesari
Give to the emperor what is the emperor's
Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus
Sometimes even Homer dozes
Qui tacet consentire videtur
Who stays silent is seen as agreeing
Quid pluris
A bit more...
Quid pro quo
The price for that
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
Who watches the watchers?
Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat
Those that a god wants to destroy they make mad
Rara avis
A rarity
Rari nantes in gurgite vasto
A few figures lost in the immensity of the waves
Redde mihi legiones
Give me back my legions
Redde rationem
The giving of accounts
Repetita iuvant
Repetitions are useful
Requiem aeternam dona eis
Give them eternal peace
Requiescat in pace
May he rest in peace
Rem acu tetigisti
You put the needle on the topic
Res nullius
Nobody's property
Risus abundat in ore stultorum
The mouth of the stupid is full of laughs
Scripta manent, verba volant
What's written abides, talk flies away
Semel in anno licet insanire
Once per year it is acceptable to be mad
Servus servorum
The servant of the servants
Sic transit gloria mundi
Fleeting is fame in this world
Sine qua non
Without which, impossible
Sol lucet omnibus
The Sun gives light for everybody
Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant
They make a desert and call that peace
Sub rosa
Under the rose
Sub specie veritatis
Speaking of the actual truth
Sui generis
In its own class
Superior stabat lupus
The wolf was upstream
Sursum corda
raise your hearts
Suum cuique tribuere
Give each his own
Tabula rasa
Blank page
Tempus fugit
Time move quickly
Terra firma
Solid ground
Tertium non datur
There is not third possibility
Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes
I am wary of the Greeks even when they bring presents
Ubi maior minor cessat
In the presence of the greater the lesser loses importance
Una tantum
Once in a very long while
Urbis et orbis
To the City and the World
Usque tandem
Until when
Vade retro Satanas
Go away, Satan
Vae victis
Woe to the vanquished
Vanitas vanitatum
Vanity of vanities
Varium et mutabile semper femina
Women are always of many and variable hearts
Venenum in auro bibitur
It is more likely to drink poisoned wine from a golden cup
Veni, vidi, vici
I came, I saw, I won
Vox clamantis in deserto
A voice shouting in the emptyness
Vox populi, vox dei
Voice of the people, voice from God

Non Latin

Carta canta
Written documents sing
Tirem innanz
Let's go on
Conosco i miei polli
I know my chicken
La logica delle cose
The logic of the situation
Sa di sale lo pane altrui
Salty indeed is foreign bread
Ofele fa el to meste
Brolley maker, stick to your trade
Chto delat?
What to do?
Ti draso?
What to do?
Panta rei
Everything changes
Meden agan
Nothing in excess
Lathe biosas
Live unnoticed
Skene pas ho bios
Life is a stage
Pathemata mathemata
One learns from suffering
Όταν ὁ δαίμων ἀνδρὶ πορσύνῃ κακά, τὸν νοῦν ἔβλαψε πρῶτον
But when a spirit plots against a man, it first inflicts some hurt upon his mind.