Sunday, November 2, 2014

Long Live Latin

Many people say that Latin is dead. However, abbreviations of Latin phrases such as "NB," "etc." and "ibid." show up fairly frequently.

For your edification and enjoyment, here is a list of Latin words and phrases with their definitions and common uses.

Et al. is most commonly used in APA in-text citations when there are multiple authors. It is an abbreviation for et alii (masculine), et alae (feminine), or et alia (neuter). This is a way to say “and others.” Because al. is the abbreviation for any of these gendered forms of the noun, it is politically correct.

Ibid. is short for ibidem, meaning “in the same place.” It is used in Chicago Manual Style, especially in endnotes and footnotes, when the previous citation is from the same source. For example, one writes out the entire reference the first time it appears, and if a second reference to the same source follows, ibid. is used to refer back to the original citation. Ibidem is similar to idem or the abbreviation Id. used in legal citations.

NB stands for Nota Bene. Nota Bene means “note well” or “pay attention to this” for it is “important.” Professors can write this on a paper before a comment, or sometimes people use it in their notes to mark the main points.

Etc. is an abbreviation for et cetera. It literally translates to “and others,” and is usually used in reference to things, not people. In Latin there are genders to all nouns, but "cetera" is gender neutral, so when applied to gendered creatures "cetera" could be considered an insult, in that it takes away gender. So next time you list people who will be arriving at a party, do not say “et cetera” unless you wish to insult the rest of the people who would be on the list.

Many people are fond of the phrase “carpe diem” and claim that it means “seize the day.” However, it literally translates to “harvest the day.” When you think about it, for Romans, “harvest” is more fitting since many Romans were also farmers or owned small farms that were worked by others.

Veni, vidi, vici. In restorative Latin this is pronounced “wheny, wheedy, wiki” and it means “I came, I saw, I conquered.” In Church Latin, it is pronounced “venie, viedie, viechi.”

Spread the knowledge.


  1. Also remember the ampersand. In some typefaces--such as the italicized ampersands of Garamond, Goudy Old Style, Adobe Caslon Pro, Baskerville, and Minion Pro--it's clear the ampersand comes from "et."

    1. It makes me happy to know this about the ampersand, which was already one of my favorite space savers.