Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

18 Latin Phrases That Will Make You Sound Smarter

After all, omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina.

1 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Audentes fortuna iuvat

Did you know that “fortune favors the bold” actually started as one of Virgil’s Latin phrases in Aeneid? Roman commander Pliny the Elder even allegedly chose the quote as his final words when he set off to try saving Pompeii citizens from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

2 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Festina lente

Hurry slowly” sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s good advice. Repeat it when you want to move forward as quickly as possible but without getting reckless. While boosting your vocabulary, quit saying these 26 words and phrases that make you sound stupid.

3 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Bibo ergo sum

A cheeky play off Descartes’s philosophy, this belongs above your wine rack: “I drink, therefore I am.”

4 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Damnant quod non intellegunt

When you’re taking risks, you’re bound to run into some naysayers. Haters gonna hate, so brush it off with this reminder that “they condemn what they do not understand.”

5 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Memento vivere

When you’re sick of YOLO and carpe diem, psych yourself up with a new Latin phrase: Remember to live. Memento vivere is the flip side of Memento mori (“remember you must die”), which is a reminder that life is fragile.

6 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Cedere nescio

When you need a burst of motivation, cedere nescio should be one of your go-to Latin phrases. Tempted to give up when your goals are having a slow start? Don’t give up yet! Repeat to yourself, “I know not how to yield.”

7 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

In cauda venenum

Poison in the tail” literally refers to a scorpion’s sting, but it’s a metaphor for something more. If someone starts to let you down gently and then ends with a slap-in-the-face conclusion, incauda venenum would apply.

8 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Fons vitae caritas

Remember what’s most important in the big picture—in this case, “love is the fountain of life.”

9 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Acta non verba

The United States Merchant Marine Academy chose this as its motto for a reason. Focusing on “deeds, not words” is a reminder that actions speak louder than words. Turn words into action by trying these 11 ways to improve your vocabulary in just one day.

10 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Praesis ut prosis ne ut imperes

When you need to keep your ego in check, remind yourself not to get power-hungry. As the Latin phrase goes, “Lead to serve, not to command.”

11 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Absit iniuria

Meaning “let injury be absent,” this is the Latin equivalent to starting a sentence with “no offense.” Hopefully, the listener is too impressed with your language skills to translate the rest of your sentence as rude.

12 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Abundans cautela non nocet

Translated literally to “abundant caution does no harm,” abundans cautela non nocet is a Latin phrase you can slip in when saying, “you can’t be too careful.”

13 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Ab uno disce omnes

If time is the best teacher, Virgil’s advice speeds it up: “From one, learn all.” Basically, one example can reveal a bigger truth. Someone just breached your trust in a big way? Ab uno disce omnes.

14 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Barba tenus sapientes

We all know that one know-it-all who acts smarter than they are. As you roll your eyes, whip out a Latin phrase that will stop them in their tracks: Barba tenus sapientes. Roughly translated to “wise as far as the beard,” it was the Latin way of saying that just because you have the long beard of a philosopher doesn’t mean you have the smarts. Avoid looking dumb yourself by learning the 20 words even smart people mispronounce.

15 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/


Consider this the mic drop after you’re done making your point. Ending with dixi is another way of saying “I have spoken.”

16 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Ira furor brevis est

Latin phrases like this just might save your relationship from your next big blowup. Next time you’re fuming, take a breath and remember, “Wrath is a brief madness.”

17 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Maiora premunt

Keep your eyes on the prize. When “greater things are pressing,” ignore the less important issues and focus on the big-deal problems.

18 / 18
Nicole Fornabaio/

Omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina

If anyone calls you out for sprinkling pretentious Latin phrases in everyday speech, you’ve got your comeback ready: “Everything said is stronger if said in Latin.” Who could argue with that? Learn about 17 English words that mean something else in other languages.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.