Posted by: Jack Henry | January 21, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Ergo

Dear Editrix,

Where did the word ergo come from and where has it gone?


Dear Chip,

The word ergo is Latin and it means “therefore.” Now that you mention it, I haven’t heard it for some time. I would say it popped up more during college classes than anywhere else, and, well, it has been a few years since I was in college.

Another place it might’ve “gone” is under an editor’s red pen. One of the rules we have here at Jack Henry is to use English rather than Latin, for common terms anyway. Latin abbreviations, such as i.e. (“in other words”) or e.g. (“for example”) sometimes confuse people, so we try to be more straightforward and use the English translation. Here are a few other common Latin terms and their translations, selected from the article 24 Latin Phrases You Use Every Day (And What They Mean):

Ad hoc: To this

In Latin, ad hoc literally means to this, which has been adapted by English speakers as a saying that denotes that something is created or done for a particular purpose, as necessary. Usually, one does something on an ad hoc basis (e.g., she answered questions on an ad hoc basis).

Alibi: Elsewhere

The word alibi is a Latin phrase that simply means elsewhere, which will make sense to all you crime drama addicts out there who are familiar with the term as used by police, investigators, and other law enforcement professionals. Nowadays, alibi commonly refers to evidence that someone did not commit a (usually) criminal act because he or she was elsewhere at the time the act was committed.

Bona fide: With good faith

Another common Latin phrase, bona fide literally means with good faith. The meaning has changed somewhat in English usage to mean something that is real or genuine (e.g., she was a bona fide expert in the social structures of humpback whales).

De Facto: In fact

De facto is a Latin phrase that, literally translated, means of fact. Nowadays, it is used to highlight something that is simply a fact or someone who holds a position, with or without the right to do so (e.g., she was the de facto leader of the book club).

Et cetera: And so on

Used at the end of a list to indicate that further items could be included, et cetera (or etc.) literally translates to and the rest.

Impromptu: Spontaneous

From the Latin phrase in promptu, meaning in readiness, impromptu is a common English adjective or adverb that describes something spontaneous (e.g., she threw an impromptu birthday party for her best friend).

Multi: Many

Multi is the plural form of the Latin adjective multus, meaning many. In English, it is used as a prefix to describe something that contains more than one of something else (e.g., multicolored, multifaceted, multicultural, etc.).

Quid pro quo: Something for something

A contrasting philosophy to pro bono is quid pro quo. It is an “eye-for-an-eye” type of saying that is used in English to signify a favor or advantage given in return for something of equal value. A popular saying with vindictive villains, quid pro quo literally means something for something.

Re: About

You probably use this Latin preposition every day without really understanding its meaning. Re simply means about, and in modern times, we see it used most often in responses to emails and in other correspondence to refer to an earlier topic of discussion. [KC – Hmm. I always thought this was an abbreviation for “regarding.” Fascinating!]

Status quo: Existing state of affairs

This straight-up Latin phrase literally translates to the state in which and is used in English to describe an existing state of affairs, usually related to political or social issues.

Verbatim: In exactly the same words

Derived from the Latin verbum, which simply means word, verbatim refers to repeating something word-for-word from the original.

Vice versa: The other way around

Vice versa is a Latin phrase that literally means in a turned position. In English, it is commonly used to indicate that two things are interchangeable.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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