Posted by: episystechpubs | March 29, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Latin Phrases Adopted in English, Part I

Well, not only did I not find this before the Ides of March (March 15), but I almost missed the entire month of March! Today, I have the first half of a list of Latin Phrases You Should Know, from the Daily Writing Tips website.

I know we recommend against using i.e. and e.g. in our technical documentation these days, but the phrases in this list are used in many different fields—from drama to medicine to law. In fact, Law & Order fans are already ahead of the game, I bet!

From Daily Writing Tips:

Latin expressions are often adopted into English, often with an extended or figurative meaning. Here are fifty of the most common phrases, followed by their literal translation in Latin and the meaning in English (omitted when the meaning follows the literal translation).

1. a posteriori (from the latter): based on experience

2. a priori (from the earlier): independent of experience

3. ad hoc (for this): said of something created or formed for a special case

4. ad infinitum (to infinity): something that keeps going forever

5. alea jactus est (the die is cast): said when a plot is set into motion

6. ars longa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short)

7. casus belli: (cause of war): where the blame lies

8. caveat emptor (let the buyer beware): a reference to the principle that a customer is responsible for making sure that a product is in good working order

9. compos mentis (of healthy mind): sane

10. ex cathedra (from the chair): with the full authority of office (often used in reference to the Catholic pope’s infallibility, but also employed in other contexts)

11. ex post facto (after the fact): realized with hindsight

12. de facto (from fact): something that happens in practice but is not necessarily established by law

13. de jure (from law): the contrary of de facto; something established by law

14. dies irae (day of judgment)

15. dramatis personae (persons of the drama): refers to a list of actors, or to the principal participants of an event or in a group

16. genius loci (guardian spirit): the character of a place

17. honoris causa (for the sake of the honor): an honorary degree

18. horribile dictu (horrible to say)

19. in extremis (in the farthest reaches): in a difficult situation, or at the point of death

20. in flagrante delicto (in the burning crime): caught in the act

21. in media res (into the middle of things): in the midst of action (said of the opening of a story or account)

22. in situ (in that place): in its original place

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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