Popular and Famous Latin Phrases and Expressions

Pronunciation Key

Letters
Pronounced as
ah
a in far
aw
aw in straw
ay
a in bake
a
a in mat
e or eh
e in bet
ee
ee in tree
ə
a in above
i or ih
i in dig
eye
i in time
oh
o in open
oo
oo in moon
u
u in put
u in english pronunciation
i in sir

Here are some common latin phrases that are good to know and recognize. You're bound to come across some of these famous latin expressions eventually, so why not get familiar with them now?

Well Known Latin Phrases

carpe diem- (KAHR-peh DEE-em) enjoy. Literally means “seize the day.”

e pluribus unum- (ay-PLOO-ri-bus OO-num) out of many, one. Motto of the United States.

cogito ergo sum- (KOH-gi-toh EHR-goh sum)I think, therefore I exist. This is one of the most famous and well known Latin expressions. It is often translated as “I think, therefore I am.”

delirium tremens- (day-LEE-ree-um TREH-mens,English: də-LIR-ee-əm TREE-mənz)Delirium and tremors associated with long-term alcohol use, called the d.t.’s.

in medias res- (in MEH-dee-ahs rays) in the middle of things. This is a common expression in guides to writing fiction. Writers are usually encouraged to begin in medias res, with something interesting rather than establishing the history of the characters.

in memoriam (in-meh-MAW-ree-ahm) in memory. Often used for someone who has died.

in situ (in-SI-too, English: in SEYE-too) in place. Used to describe something that’s in its natural location. A study of animal behavior done in situ, took place in its natural habitat, not in a zoo.

in vitro (in-WI-troh, English: in-VEE-troh) in glass. A test performed in vitro is done “in glass”, i.e. in a test tube in an artificial environment.

in vivo (in-WEE-woh, English: in-VEE-voh) in that which is alive. An experiment performed on a living animal is done in vivo.

in statu quo (in-STAH-too kwoh) in the state in which. Refers to the condition or state of something at a certain time.

in toto (in TOH-toh) in total. Indicates something is stated in its entirety or completely.

ipso facto (IP-soh FAHK-toh) by the very fact. It implies that nothing else need be considered, as in “If you hit a police officer, you’ll be arrested ipso facto.”

magnum opus (MAHG-num AW-pus, English: MAG-nəm OH-pəs) one greatest achievement. Usually heard when an artist’s best work is discussed, as in, “She wrote her magnum opus when she was only 27 years old.” Can also appear as opus magnum.

mea culpa (MAY-ah KUL-pah) my fault. A phrase used to mean that someone is taking the blame for something.

memento mori (me-MEN-toh MAW-ree, English: mə-MEN-toh MOHR-ee) remember that you will die. This saying reminds us all that we don’t have unlimited time and should use it accordingly. It can also refer to an object that is a reminder of death, like a skull or tombstone.

Become a scholar in no time with these latin phrases.
Become a scholar in no time with these latin phrases.

modus operandi (MAW-dus aw-peh-RAHN-dee, English: MOHD-əs ahp-ə-RAN-dee) mode of operation or manner of working. Commonly abbreviated M.O., it’s often heard in police procedurals to describe a criminal’s signature style.

mutatis mutandis (moo-TAH-tees moo-TAHN-dees) after making necessary changes.

ne plus ultra (nay ploos UL-trah) the acme, perfection. Often used to identify something as the best of its type.

non sequiter (nohn SEH-kwih-tuur) it does not follow. Usually heard when identifying a logical fallacy. If someone says “I like to read because puppies are cute”, that’s a non sequiter.

pater noster (PAH-tehr NAW-stehr) our father. The first two words of the Lord’s prayer. In latin it’s called the Paternoster.

per annum (pehr AHN-uum, English: pər AN-əm) annually.

per capita (pehr KAH-pih-tah, English: pər KAP-ə-tə) individually. A country’s per capita income is the average income per individual.

per diem (pehr-DEE-em, English: pər DEE-əm) daily.

persona grata (pehr-SOH-nah GRAH-tah) an acceptable guest. Usually used to describe a welcomed diplomat. If a person loses their favored status, they are persona non (nohn) grata.

post hoc, ergo propter hoc (pawst hawk EHR-goh PRAWP-tehr hawk) after this, therefore because of this. This is a logical fallacy that assumes that just because something occurs after something else it must have been caused by it.

post mortem (pawst MAWR-tehm) an autopsy. It literally means “after death.”

pro forma (proh FAWR-mah) as a formality. “I gave the police a pro forma report on my stolen bike but I knew I wouldn’t be getting it back.”

pro tempore (proh TEM-paw-reh) temporarily. “Mike is the pro tempore manager until Friday.”

quid pro quo (kwihd proh kwoh) something for something, an exchange. “The congressman had a quid pro quo arrangement with the oil executive.”

quo vadis? (kwoh WAH-dihs) whither goest thou?, where are you going? This is the well known question from the Apocryphal acts of Peter that he asked of Jesus.

rex regum (reks REH-gum) king of kings.

simper fidelis (SEM-pehr fih-DAY-lihs) always faithful.

sine qua non (SIH-neh kwah nohn) something indispensable.

More Latin

Review some Latin words and discover some new ones.

Amo, Amas, Amat: Latin Words

sub rosa (sub RAW-sah, English: sub ROHZ-ə) secretly, in confidence.

sui generis (SOO-ee GEH-neh-rihs, English: SOO-ee JEN-ə-rəs) of its own kind, one of a kind.

tabula rasa (TAH-bu-lah RAH-sah) a blank slate.

tempus fugit (TEM-pus FU-giht, English: TEM-pəs FYOO-jət) time flies.

terra firma (TEHR-ah FIHR-mah, English: TER-ə FUR-mə) solid ground, dry land. Usually used to distinguish land from sea.

veni, vidi, vici (WAY-nee WEE-dee WEE-kee) I came, I saw, I conquered. One of the best known latin phrases ever, supposedly said by Julius Caesar.

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