Sunday, 23 February 2014

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Donna Tartt quotes (showing 1-30 of 297)
“Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw,' that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“It's a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown I back, throat to the stars, "more like deer than human being." To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone.” 
― Donna Tartt
77 likes like
“Does such a thing as "the fatal flaw," that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature?” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
tags: first-sentence, literature 61 likes like
“Could it be because it reminds us that we are alive, of our mortality, of our individual souls- which, after all, we are too afraid to surrender but yet make us feel more miserable than any other thing? But isn't it also pain that often makes us most aware of self? It is a terrible thing to learn as a child that one is a being separate from the world, that no one and no thing hurts along with one's burned tongues and skinned knees, that one's aches and pains are all one’s own. Even more terrible, as we grow old, to learn that no person, no matter how beloved, can ever truly understand us. Our own selves make us most unhappy, and that's why we're so anxious to lose them, don't you think?” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
59 likes like
“I look at the blanked-out faces of the other passengers--hoisting their briefcases, their backpacks, shuffling to disembark--and I think of what Hobie said: beauty alters the grain of reality. And I keep thinking too of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful.

Only what is that thing? Why am I made the way I am? Why do I care about all the wrong things, and nothing at all for the right ones? Or, to tip it another way: how can I see so clearly that everything I love or care about is illusion, and yet--for me, anyway--all that's worth living for lies in that charm?

A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are.

Because--isn't it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture--? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it's a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what's right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: "Be yourself." "Follow your heart."

Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted--? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?...If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“But how,” said Charles, who was close to tears, “how can you possibly justify cold-blooded murder?’
Henry lit a cigarette. “I prefer to think of it,” he had said, “as redistribution of matter.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“ we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn't touch.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
tags: art 40 likes like
“Are you happy here?" I said at last.
He considered this for a moment. "Not particularly," he said. "But you're not very happy where you are, either.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
tags: henry, richard 39 likes like
“Well—I have to say I personally have never drawn such a sharp line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as you. For me: that line is often false. The two are never disconnected. One can’t exist without the other. As long as I am acting out of love, I feel I am doing best I know how. But you—wrapped up in judgment, always regretting the past, cursing yourself, blaming yourself, asking ‘what if,’ ‘what if.’ ‘Life is cruel.’ ‘I wish I had died instead of.’ Well—think about this. What if all your actions and choices, good or bad, make no difference to God? What if the pattern is pre-set? No no—hang on—this is a question worth struggling with. What if our badness and mistakes are the very thing that set our fate and bring us round to good? What if, for some of us, we can’t get there any other way?” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow, unhesitating, relentless. It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive. ” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“One likes to think there's something in it, that old platitude amor vincit omnia. But if I've learned one thing in my short sad life, it is that that particular platitude is a lie. Love doesn't conquer everything. And whoever thinks it does is a fool.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“Even if it meant that she had failed, she was glad. And if what she'd wanted had been impossible from the start, still there was a certain lonely comfort in the fact that she'd known it was impossible and had gone ahead and done it anyway.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Little Friend
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“I suppose the shock of recognition is one of the nastiest shocks of all.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
tags: self-discovery 31 likes like
“It is easy to see things in retrospect. But I was ignorant then of everything but my own happiness, and I don’t know what else to say except that life itself seemed very magical in those days: a web of symbol, coincidence, premonition, omen. Everything, somehow, fit together; some sly and benevolent Providence was revealing itself by degrees and I felt myself trembling on the brink of a fabulous discovery, as though any morning it was all going to come together–my future, my past, the whole of my life–and I was going to sit up in bed like a thunderbolt and say oh! oh! oh!” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“Some things are too terrible to grasp at once. Other things - naked, sputtering, indelible in their horror - are too terrible to really grasp ever at all.It is only later, in solitude, in memory that the realization dawns: when the ashes are cold; when the mourners have departed; when one looks around and finds oneself - quite to one's surprise - in an entirely different world.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
25 likes like
“Who was it said that coincidence was just God’s way of remaining anonymous?” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“Sometimes it's about playing a poor hand well.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“If I had grown up in that house I couldn't have loved it more, couldn't have been more familiar with the creak of the swing, or the pattern of the clematis vines on the trellis, or the velvety swell of land as it faded to gray on the horizon . . . . The very colors of the place had seeped into my blood.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“Anything is grand if it's done on a large enough scale.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
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“That life - whatever else it is - is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
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“What are the dead, anyway, but waves and energy? Light shining from a dead star?

That, by the way, is a phrase of Julian's. I remember it from a lecture of his on the Iliad, when Patroklos appears to Achilles in a dream. There is a very moving passage where Achilles overjoyed at the sight of the apparition – tries to throw his arms around the ghost of his old friend, and it vanishes. The dead appear to us in dreams, said Julian, because that's the only way they can make us see them; what we see is only a projection, beamed from a great distance, light shining at us from a dead star…

Which reminds me, by the way, of a dream I had a couple of weeks ago.

I found myself in a strange deserted city – an old city, like London – underpopulated by war or disease. It was night; the streets were dark, bombed-out, abandoned. For a long time, I wandered aimlessly – past ruined parks, blasted statuary, vacant lots overgrown with weeds and collapsed apartment houses with rusted girders poking out of their sides like ribs. But here and there, interspersed among the desolate shells of the heavy old public buildings, I began to see new buildings, too, which were connected by futuristic walkways lit from beneath. Long, cool perspectives of modern architecture, rising phosphorescent and eerie from the rubble.

I went inside one of these new buildings. It was like a laboratory, maybe, or a museum. My footsteps echoed on the tile floors.There was a cluster of men, all smoking pipes, gathered around an exhibit in a glass case that gleamed in the dim light and lit their faces ghoulishly from below.

I drew nearer. In the case was a machine revolving slowly on a turntable, a machine with metal parts that slid in and out and collapsed in upon themselves to form new images. An Inca temple… click click click… the Pyramids… the Parthenon.

History passing beneath my very eyes, changing every moment.

'I thought I'd find you here,' said a voice at my elbow.

It was Henry. His gaze was steady and impassive in the dim light. Above his ear, beneath the wire stem of his spectacles, I could just make out the powder burn and the dark hole in his right temple.

I was glad to see him, though not exactly surprised. 'You know,' I said to him, 'everybody is saying that you're dead.'

He stared down at the machine. The Colosseum… click click click… the Pantheon. 'I'm not dead,' he said. 'I'm only having a bit of trouble with my passport.'


He cleared his throat. 'My movements are restricted,' he said.

'I no longer have the ability to travel as freely as I would like.'

Hagia Sophia. St. Mark's, in Venice. 'What is this place?' I asked him.

'That information is classified, I'm afraid.'

1 looked around curiously. It seemed that I was the only visitor.

'Is it open to the public?' I said.

'Not generally, no.'

I looked at him. There was so much I wanted to ask him, so much I wanted to say; but somehow I knew there wasn't time and even if there was, that it was all, somehow, beside the point.

'Are you happy here?' I said at last.

He considered this for a moment. 'Not particularly,' he said.

'But you're not very happy where you are, either.'

St. Basil's, in Moscow. Chartres. Salisbury and Amiens. He glanced at his watch.

'I hope you'll excuse me,' he said, 'but I'm late for an appointment.'

He turned from me and walked away. I watched his back receding down the long, gleaming hall.” 
― Donna Tartt, The Secret History
tags: architecture, classics, death, dreams, museum, unhappiness 20 likes like
“Not quite what one expected, but once it happened one realized it couldn't be any other way.” 

― Donna Tartt, The Secret History

What do great men like Benjamin Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill have in common?

They all were proficient in Latin.

From the Middle Ages until about the middle of the 20th century, Latin was a central part of a man’s schooling in the West. Along with logic and rhetoric, grammar (as Latin was then known) was included as part of the Trivium – the foundation of a medieval liberal arts education. From Latin, all scholarship flowed and it was truly the gateway to the life of the mind, as the bulk of scientific, religious, legal, and philosophical literature was written in the language until about the 16th century. To immerse oneself in classical and humanistic studies, Latin was a must.

Grammar schools in Europe and especially England during this time were Latin schools, and the first secondary school established in America by the Puritans was a Latin school as well. But beginning in the 14th century, writers started to use the vernacular in their works, which slowly chipped away at Latin’s central importance in education. This trend for English-language learning accelerated in the 19th century; schools shifted from turning out future clergymen to graduating businessmen who would take their place in an industrializing economy. An emphasis on the liberal arts slowly gave way to what was considered a more practical education in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

While Latin had been dying a slow death for hundreds of years, it still had a strong presence in schools until the middle of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1960s, college students demanded that the curriculum be more open, inclusive, and less Euro-centric. Among their suggested changes was eliminating Latin as a required course for all students. To quell student protests, universities began to slowly phase out the Latin requirement, and because colleges stopped requiring Latin, many high schools in America stopped offering Latin classes, too.  Around the same time, the Catholic Church revised its liturgy and permitted priests to lead Mass in vernacular languages instead of Latin, thus eliminating one of the public’s last ties to the ancient language.

While it’s no longer a requirement for a man to know Latin to get ahead in life, it’s still a great subject to study. I had to take classes in Latin as part of my “Letters” major at the University of Oklahoma, and I really enjoyed it. Even if you’re well out of school yourself, there are a myriad of reasons why you should still consider obtaining at least a rudimentary knowledge of the language:

Knowing Latin can improve your English vocabulary. While English is a Germanic language, Latin has strongly influenced it. Most of our prefixes and some of the roots of common English words derive from Latin. By some estimates, 30% of English words derive from the ancient language. By knowing the meaning of these Latin words, if you chance to come across a word you’ve never seen before, you can make an educated guess at what it means. In fact, studies have found that high school students who studied Latin scored a mean of 647 on the SAT verbal exam, compared with the national average of 505.

Knowing Latin can improve your foreign language vocabulary. Much of the commonly spoken Romanic languages like Spanish, French, and Italian derived from Vulgar Latin. You’ll be surprised by the number of Romanic words that are pretty much the same as their Latin counterparts.

Many legal terms are in Latin. Nolo contendere. Mens rea. Caveat emptor. Do you know what those mean? They’re actually common legal terms. While strides have been made to translate legal writing into plain English, you’ll still see old Latin phrases thrown into legal contracts every now and then. To be an educated citizen and consumer, you need to know what these terms mean. If you plan on going to law school, I highly recommend boning up on Latin. You’ll run into it all the time, particularly when reading older case law.

Knowing Latin can give you more insight to history and literature. Latin was the lingua franca of the West for over a thousand years. Consequently, much of our history, science, and great literature was first recorded in Latin. Reading these classics in the original language can give you insights you otherwise may have missed by consuming it in English.

Moreover, modern writers (and by modern I mean beginning in the 17th century) often pepper their work with Latin words and phrases without offering a translation because they (reasonably) expect the reader to be familiar with it. This is true of great books from even just a few decades ago (seems much less common these days – which isn’t a hopeful commentary on the direction of the public’s literacy I would think). Not having a rudimentary knowledge of Latin will cause you to miss out on fully understanding what the writer meant to convey.

Below we’ve put together a list of Latin words and phrases to help pique your interest in learning this classical language. This list isn’t exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve included some of the most common Latin words and phrases that you still see today, which are helpful to know in boosting your all-around cultural literacy. We’ve also included some particularly virile sayings, aphorisms, and mottos that can inspire greatness or remind us of important truths. Perhaps you’ll find a Latin phrase that you can adopt as your personal motto. Semper Virilis!

Latin Words and Phrases Every Man Should Know

a posteriori from the latter -- knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence
a priori from what comes before -- knowledge or justification is independent of experience
faber est suae quisque fortunae every man is the artisan of his own fortune --
quote by Appius Claudius Caecus
acta non verba
deeds, not words
ad hoc
to this -- improvised or made up
ad hominem
to the man -- below-the-belt personal attack rather than a reasoned argument
ad honorem
for honor
ad infinitum
to infinity
ad nauseam
used to describe an argument that has been taking place to the point of nausea
ad victoriam
to victory -- more commonly translated into "for victory," this was a battle cry of the Romans

alea iacta est
the die has been cast
at another time -- an assumed name or pseudonym
alma mater
nourishing mother -- used to denote one's college/university
amor patriae
love of one's country
amor vincit omnia
love conquers all

annuit cœptis
He (God) nods at things being begun -- or "he approves our undertakings," motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States and on the back of the United States one-dollar bill

ante bellum
before the war -- commonly used in the Southern United States as antebellum to refer to the period preceding the American Civil War

ante meridiem
before noon -- A.M., used in timekeeping
aqua vitae
water of life -- used to refer to various native distilled beverages, such as whisky (uisge beatha) in Scotland and Ireland, gin in Holland, and brandy (eau de vie) in France
arte et marte
by skill and valour 

astra inclinant, sed non obligant
the stars incline us, they do not bind us -- refers to the strength of free will over astrological determinism

audemus jura nostra defendere
we dare to defend our rights -- state motto of Alabama
audere est facere
to dare is to do

I hear
aurea mediocritas
golden mean -- refers to the ethical goal of reaching a virtuous middle ground between two sinful extremes

auribus teneo lupum
I hold a wolf by the ears -- a common ancient proverb; indicates that one is in a dangerous situation where both holding on and letting go could be deadly; a modern version is, "to have a tiger by the tail"

aut cum scuto aut in scuto
either with shield or on shield -- do or die, "no retreat"; said by Spartan mothers to their sons as they departed for battle
aut neca aut necare
either kill or be killed
aut viam inveniam aut faciam
I will either find a way or make one -- said by Hannibal, the great ancient military commander
barba non facit philosophum
a beard doesn't make one a philosopher
bellum omnium contra omnes
war of all against all
bis dat qui cito dat
he gives twice, who gives promptly -- a gift given without hesitation is as good as two gifts

bona fide
good faith
bono malum superate
overcome evil with good
carpe diem
seize the day
caveat emptor
let the buyer beware -- the purchaser is responsible for checking whether the goods suit his need
around, or approximately
citius altius fortius
faster, higher, stronger -- modern Olympics motto
cogito ergo sum
"I think therefore I am" -- famous quote by Rene Descartes
contemptus mundi/saeculi
scorn for the world/times -- despising the secular world, the monk or philosopher's rejection of a mundane life and worldly values

corpus christi
body of Christ
corruptissima re publica plurimae leges
when the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous -- said by Tacitus 
creatio ex nihilo
creation out of nothing -- a concept about creation, often used in a theological or philosophical context
cura te ipsum
take care of your own self -- an exhortation to physicians, or experts in general, to deal with their own problems before addressing those of others

curriculum vitae
the course of one's life -- in business, a lengthened resume
de facto
from the fact -- distinguishing what's supposed to be from what is reality
deo volente
God willing
deus ex machina
God out of a machine -- a term meaning a conflict is resolved in improbable or implausible ways
dictum factum
what is said is done 

disce quasi semper victurus vive quasi cras moriturus
learn as if you're always going to live; live as if tomorrow you're going to die
discendo discimus
while teaching we learn
docendo disco, scribendo cogito
I learn by teaching, think by writing
ductus exemplo
leadership by example
ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt
the fates lead the willing and drag the unwilling -- attributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca

dulce bellum inexpertis
war is sweet to the inexperienced
dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
it is sweet and fitting to die for your country
dulcius ex asperis
sweeter after difficulties 

e pluribus unum
out of many, one -- on the U.S. seal, and was once the country's de facto motto
veteran -- retired from office
et alii
and others -- abbreviated et al.
et cetera
and the others
et tu, Brute?
last words of Caesar after being murdered by friend Brutus in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," used today to convey utter betrayal
ex animo
from the heart -- thus, "sincerely"

ex libris
from the library of -- to mark books from a library
ex nihilo
out of nothing
ex post facto
from a thing done afterward -- said of a law with retroactive effect

fac fortia et patere
do brave deeds and endure
fac simile
make alike -- origin of the word "fax"
flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo
if I cannot move heaven I will raise hell -- Virgil's Aeneid

fortes fortuna adiuvat
fortune favors the bold 

fortis in arduis
strong in difficulties
gloria in excelsis Deo
glory to God in the highest
habeas corpus
you should have the body -- a legal term from the 14th century or earlier; commonly used as the general term for a prisoner's legal right to challenge the legality of their detention

habemus papam
we have a pope -- used after a Catholic Church papal election to announce publicly a successful ballot to elect a new pope

historia vitae magistra
history, the teacher of life -- from Cicero; also "history is the mistress of life"

hoc est bellum
this is war 
homo unius libri (timeo)
(I fear) a man of one book -- attributed to Thomas Aquinas

honor virtutis praemium
esteem is the reward of virtue
hostis humani generis
enemy of the human race -- Cicero defined pirates in Roman law as being enemies of humanity in general

humilitas occidit superbiam
humility conquers pride
igne natura renovatur integra
through fire, nature is reborn whole 

ignis aurum probat
fire tests gold -- a phrase referring to the refining of character through difficult circumstances

in absentia
in the absence
in aqua sanitas
in water there is health
in flagrante delicto
in flaming crime -- caught red-handed, or in the act
in memoriam
into the memory -- more commonly "in memory of"
in omnia paratus
ready for anything 

in situ

in position -- something that exists in an original or natural state

in toto
in all or entirely
in umbra, igitur, pugnabimus
then we will fight in the shade -- made famous by Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae and by the movie 300
in utero
in the womb
in vitro
in glass -- biological process that occurs in the lab
incepto ne desistam
may I not shrink from my purpose
intelligenti pauca
few words suffice for he who understands
invictus maneo
I remain unvanquished
ipso facto
by the fact itself -- something is true by its very nature
labor omnia vincit
hard work conquers all

laborare pugnare parati sumus
to work, (or) to fight; we are ready
labore et honore
by labor and honor
leges sine moribus vanae
laws without morals [are] vain
lex parsimoniae
law of succinctness -- also known as Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one

lex talionis
the law of retaliation
magna cum laude
with great praise

magna est vis consuetudinis
great is the power of habit
magnum opus
great work -- said of someone's masterpiece

mala fide
in bad faith -- said of an act done with knowledge of its illegality, or with intention to defraud or mislead someone; opposite of bona fide

malum in se
wrong in itself -- a legal term meaning that something is inherently wrong 

malum prohibitum
wrong due to being prohibited -- a legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law
mea culpa
my fault
better things -- carrying the connotation of "always better"

memento mori
remember that [you will] die -- was whispered by a servant into the ear of a victorious Roman general to check his pride as he paraded through cheering crowds after a victory; a genre of art meant to remind the viewer of the reality of his death
memento vivere
remember to live
memores acti prudentes futuri
mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be
modus operandi 
method of operating -- abbreviated M.O.
montani semper liberi
mountaineers [are] always free -- state motto of West Virginia
morior invictus
death before defeat
morituri te salutant
those who are about to die salute you -- popularized as a standard salute from gladiators to the emperor, but only recorded once in Roman history
morte magis metuenda senectus
old age should rather be feared than death
mulgere hircum
to milk a male goat -- to attempt the impossible 
multa paucis
say much in few words

nanos gigantum humeris insidentes
dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants -- commonly known by the letters of Isaac Newton: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants"
nec aspera terrent
they don't terrify the rough ones -- frightened by no difficulties, less literally "difficulties be damned" 
nec temere nec timide
neither reckless nor timid
nil volentibus arduum
nothing [is] arduous for the willing
nolo contendere
I do not wish to contend -- that is, "no contest"; a plea that can be entered on behalf of a defendant in a court that states that the accused doesn't admit guilt, but will accept punishment for a crime
non ducor, duco
I am not led; I lead
non loqui sed facere
not talk but action
non progredi est regredi
to not go forward is to go backward
non scholae, sed vitae discimus
we learn not for school, but for life -- from Seneca
non sequitur
it does not follow -- in general, a comment which is absurd due to not making sense in its context (rather than due to being inherently nonsensical or internally inconsistent), often used in humor
non sum qualis eram
I am not such as I was -- or "I am not the kind of person I once was"

nosce te ipsum
know thyself -- from Cicero

novus ordo seclorum
new order of the ages -- from Virgil; motto on the Great Seal of the United States
nulla tenaci invia est via
for the tenacious, no road is impassable
obliti privatorum, publica curate
forget private affairs, take care of public ones -- Roman political saying which reminds that common good should be given priority over private matters for any person having a responsibility in the State

panem et circenses
bread and circuses -- originally described all that was needed for emperors to placate the Roman mob; today used to describe any entertainment used to distract public attention from more important matters

para bellum
prepare for war -- if you want peace, prepare for war—if a country is ready for war, its enemies are less likely to attack
parvis imbutus tentabis grandia tutus
when you are steeped in little things, you shall safely attempt great things -- sometimes translated as, "once you have accomplished small things, you may attempt great ones safely"

pater familias
father of the family -- the eldest male in a family 
pecunia, si uti scis, ancilla est; si nescis, domina
if you know how to use money, money is your slave; if you don't, money is your master
per angusta ad augusta
through difficulties to greatness
per annum
by the year
per capita
by the person
per diem
by the day
per se
through itself
persona non grata
person not pleasing -- an unwelcome, unwanted or undesirable person
pollice verso
with a turned thumb -- used by Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator
post meridiem
after noon -- P.M., used in timekeeping
post mortem
after death
thing having been written afterward -- in writing, abbreviated P.S.
praemonitus praemunitus
forewarned is forearmed
praesis ut prosis ne ut imperes
lead in order to serve, not in order to rule
primus inter pares
first among equals -- a title of the Roman Emperors 

pro bono
for the good -- in business, refers to services rendered at no charge
pro rata
for the rate
quam bene vivas referre (or refert), non quam diu
it is how well you live that matters, not how long -- from Seneca 
as if or as though
qui totum vult totum perdit
he who wants everything loses everything -- attributed to Seneca 
quid agis
what's going on? -- what's up, what's happening, etc. 
quid pro quo
this for that -- an exchange of value
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
whatever has been said in Latin seems deep -- or "anything said in Latin sounds profound"; a recent ironic Latin phrase to poke fun at people who seem to use Latin phrases and quotations only to make themselves sound more important or "educated"
quis custodiet ipsos custodes? who will guard the guards themselves? -- commonly associated with Plato
of whom -- the number of members whose presence is required under the rules to make any given meeting constitutional

requiescat in pace let him rest in peace -- abbreviated R.I.P.
rigor mortis
stiffness of death
scientia ac labore
knowledge through hard work
scientia ipsa potentia est
knowledge itself is power
semper anticus
always forward
semper fidelis
always faithful -- U.S. Marines motto
semper fortis
always brave
semper paratus
always prepared
semper virilis always virile
si vales, valeo
when you are strong, I am strong
si vis pacem, para bellum
if you want peace, prepare for war
sic parvis magna
greatness from small beginnings -- motto of Sir Frances Drake
sic semper tyrannis
thus always to tyrants -- attributed to Brutus at the time of Julius Caesar's assassination, and to John Wilkes Booth at the time of Abraham Lincoln's assassination; whether it was actually said at either of these events is disputed
sic vita est
thus is life -- the ancient version of "it is what it is" 
sola fide
by faith alone
sola nobilitat virtus
virtue alone ennobles
solvitur ambulando
it is solved by walking
spes bona
good hope
statim (stat)
immediately -- medical shorthand 
status quo
the situation in which or current condition
under penalty
sum quod eris
I am what you will be -- a gravestone inscription to remind the reader of the inevitability of death
summa cum laude
with highest praise
summum bonum
the supreme good
suum cuique
to each his own
tabula rasa
scraped tablet -- "blank slate"; John Locke used the term to describe the human mind at birth, before it had acquired any knowledge
tempora heroica
Heroic Age
tempus edax rerum
time, devourer of all things
tempus fugit
time flees -- commonly mistranslated "time flies" 
terra firma
firm ground
terra incognita
unknown land -- used on old maps to show unexplored areas
vae victis
woe to the conquered
vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas
vanity of vanities; everything [is] vanity -- from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1)
veni vidi vici
I came, I saw, I conquered -- famously said by Julius Caesar
repeat exactly
veritas et aequitas
truth and equity
veto I forbid
vice versa to change or turn around
vincit qui patitur
he conquers who endures
vincit qui se vincit
he conquers who conquers himself
vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
[a] wise man does not urinate [up] against the wind
virile agitur
the manly thing is being done
viriliter agite
act in a manly way
viriliter agite estote fortes
quit ye like men, be strong
virtus tentamine gaudet
strength rejoices in the challenge
virtute et armis
by virtue and arms -- or "by manhood and weapons"; state motto of Mississippi

vive memor leti
live remembering death
vivere est vincere
to live is to conquer -- Captain John Smith's personal motto

vivere militare est
to live is to fight
vox populi
voice of the people
What are your favorite Latin phrases? Any other important Latin words and phrases that you think a modern man should know? Share with us in the comments!

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{ 221 comments… read them below or add one }
201 Bruce August 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm
A fronte praecipitium; a tergo lupi.

A cliff before me; the wolves behind…a more sophisticated way of saying “between a rock, and a hard place”!?

202 Lucho August 22, 2013 at 10:36 pm
I liked very much the latin I learned in school, forty years ago. But now the new latinists (neolatinists) pronounce very strange. V like U and C like K and such. So when you say “Veni, vidi, vici”, it sounds “Weni, Weedee, Weekee”, an awful thing. The cry it’s the way latin sounded. To hell with that. It’s a dead tongue. Nobody is going to sue us if we pronounce it euphonically, more agreeable. Be sensible. I don’t have a favorite phrase, but I like this one: “Fiat iustitia ruat coelum”, which I pronounce (excuse my phonetic adaptation, from latin to spanish to englis) “Feeat eeustitsia rooat cheloom”.

203 LP August 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm
I have a friend who loves the expression, “Heads will roll.” He also likes Latin. I would like to get him a gift that expresses this term in Latin. What would be the proper translation? One I’ve heard of is “capita volvent.” Thanks in advance for your help.

204 Kristian Holvoet September 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm
Nota Bene: Note Well. Often abbreviated as “NB”, “N.B.” or “n.b.”

205 cranmom58 September 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm
ecce homo – “behold the man” the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of John 19:5, when he presents a scourged Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before his Crucifixion.

(Credit: Wikipedia for posting this so I didn’t have to type it all out)

Great article! Gratias tibi ago!

I have already shared it on FB and it’s been such an encouragement to me as I prepare to teach Latin to my middle school students.

206 GPeterson September 12, 2013 at 10:10 am
Thank you for this post! I have a degree in Spanish and German language studies and I think I have a pretty good grasp of the English language (including commonly used Latin phrases). Still, there are many words and phrases on this list that I do not know– or of which I only have a vague understanding. I am going to make sure that my son and I learn as many of these words and phrases as possible this year.

207 Frank Xoco September 29, 2013 at 9:52 am
I figured I’d through some Latin phrases you could use in everyday (or week) talk.

1.Sine qua non- (noun) something that is indispensable or extremely essential.

“compatibility is a sine qua non in relationships”

2.sine die- (adverb)- adjourned or dismissed without a day specified for a future meeting; “the professor dismissed the class sine die.

3. compos mentis (adj) of sound, mind, memory, and understanding.
“young adults should be compos mentis”

4. non compos mentis (adj) NOT of sound, mind, memory, and understanding.
“old people are non compos mentis”

And one of my favorites:
5. ipse dixit: (noun) a dogmatic and unproven statement
“too many people have opinions on things they know nothing about. This begets ignorance and ipse dixit..the more ignorant they are, the more opinions they have.”

208 linda725 October 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm
In ?? is veritas (in wine is truth or something like that?)

209 PJ October 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm
Facta, non verba – Deeds, not words. (Actions speak louder than words)

210 Stephen October 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm
I’m glad to have found all of these in that I’m in the process of returning back to my Latin language classes after a 9 year hiatus! Should be good for quiz taking and refreshing my memory. Although, you left off one of my favorite Latin phrases from the Red/Green show and the Possum Lodge! At one point they recite, “Semper ubi, sub ubi.” For those that don’t know, it’s a fake Latin phrase that when translated word for word, say Always where under where.

211 sylvie November 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm
Cannot recall the phrase in Latin for ::Don’t let the bastards wear you down ” ….. help anyone ???

212 Peter November 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm
Caesar’s last words were actually in Greek: Kai su teknon (“καὶ σὺ τέκνον”).
i.e. “You too, son”
You know that Shakespeare, changing history on us.

 213 Ap. Covenant November 19, 2013 at 5:39 am
Is it correct to say “semper idem” in Latin and does it really mean “a man of his word or one who does not change? what are all the words that goes with semper and the English meaning? Thanks

214 Albert Awuah November 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm
Great work done. It would have been superb if the pronunciation was added

215 Manoj December 13, 2013 at 10:51 am
Dies non_means no work no pay

216 Kayla January 5, 2014 at 5:06 am
O quam cito transit gloria mundi. “How quickly the glory of the world passes away.”

217 Leo Dunn January 9, 2014 at 10:18 am
quod cupio mecum est
what I want, I have

218 Michael Baron January 12, 2014 at 2:33 am
Ad captandum vulgus: as it pleases the mob (lit. “rabble”)

Cui bono: to whose benefit?

219 Sean January 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm
Vi veri veniversum vivus vici. By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe. Faust.

220 Matthew January 31, 2014 at 6:39 am
memento mori is far more ancient than your comment states as it is written in the Bible in the Book of Genesis and these are the words used on Ash Wednesday during the Imposition of Ashes.

221 alex February 17, 2014 at 12:50 am
I thought I’d be more creative (pls correct my Latin) by combining some of them:
- Panem et Circenses non sequitur IN PLAIN ENGLISH
How absurd it is to be distracting public attention from more important matters.
- præsis ut prosis ne ut imperes: multa paucis, vox populi
A leader to serve rather than to rule: In short, the voice of the people.
- pro bono summum bonum et suum cuique
To each his own for the good, and of the highest good.
- intelligenti pauca, non loqui sed facere
The knowledgeable one does not speak but acts. (changed your Engl. version)
- non ducor, duco; quia, non progredi est regredi
I am not led; I lead, because to not go forward is to go backward.
- fortitudo in arduis quia, ignis aurum probat
Strength in difficult times, for difficult circumstances refine character.
- conatus est recta via lædendi paria duo extrema.
The endeavour to balance two extremes is the right route to retaliation.
- in ius vocare est custodia vestra (habeas corpus).
It is your legal right to challenge your being taken into custody.
- labor omnia vincit. Ad dominum suum.
He conquers who conquers himself. Master one’s self.
- amor vincit omnia, ex animo
Love conquers all, coming from the heart.
- corruptissima re publica plurimae leges (tacitus)
When the republic is at its most corrupt, the laws are most numerous. (Tacitus)
(cum maxime reipublicae corruptissimis plurimae leges)
- cura te ipsum
Safeguard your own soul. (changed your Engl. version)
- Si enim Deus vult. (deo volente)
If God wills it. (changed the Latin ver.)
- timeo hominem unius libri. ((changed Latin))
I fear and doubt a man of one book.
- dissolvendam a certamine passim per viam probabile vel improbabile (altered Deux ex machina)
A conflict is resolved in an improbable or implausible way.
- fortiter facturos et pati (fac fortia et patere)
Do brave deeds and endure.
- humilitas occidit superbiam, incepto ne desistam
Humility kills pride; undertake not to give up.
- Carpe diem ad plenissimam memor dat vivere laudabiles
Seize the day and in the full; remember to live giving great praise.
- Esse sapientes et prudentia, quod a fortuna est. (from ‘memores acti prudentes futuri’)
Be wise from outcomes and prudent of what is to come.
- nec temere nec timide

Be neither reckless nor timid. (chan.ged Engl.)

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