18 Latin Phrases That Will Make You Sound Smarter
After all, omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina.
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.
Bibo ergo sum
A cheeky play off Descartes’s philosophy, this belongs above your wine rack: “I drink, therefore I am.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Fons vitae caritas
Remember what’s most important in the big picture—in this case, “love is the fountain of life.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Consider this the mic drop after you’re done making your point. Ending with dixi is another way of saying “I have spoken.”
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.”
Keep your eyes on the prize. When “greater things are pressing,” ignore the less important issues and focus on the big-deal problems.
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.