Six bits of Latin that make your English look smart

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice

So… everybody knows that et cetera (etc) means “and the other things”  but here are six other “bits” of Latin that appear from time to time and may have you scratching your head. Each of these has had me wondering in the past. Not having the benefit of a classical education (only 2 years of Latin), I’ve looked them up now and share them here. Just drop them into any conversation or piece of written work to make yourself look awfully clever (well, more clever perhaps).

1. ipso facto – “Because of that thing”. Literally “by the fact itself.” Example: Canadians are nice people. He’s a Canadian, so he is ipso facto a nice person.

2. sic. Literally means “so” or “just as that”. Put this in brackets in a quote when you want to say “this is wrong, but it was how the original speaker said or wrote it”.Example: Lindsay wrote that “Canadians are nice people (sic)”

3. non sequitur – Literally means “it doesn’t follow”. Used to say that something is illogical. Example: It is a non sequitur to say that we should treat beginner adult language students like children because children are (often) good language learners. 

4. sine qua non. Means “a crucial condition”, literally “without which not”. Example: The sine qua non of blogging is not that you post every day, or three times a week, or once a week. It’s that you post on a regular basis.

5. viz – Means “namely”. Viz is a short form for videre licet – “one may see”. Example: “There are some very interesting blogs for English teachers out there now, viz Six Things, DCBlog, Kalingo English,, Be a Better EFL teacher, Alex Case’s TEFLtastic, Nik Peachey’s blogs etc.

6. QED. Short for quod est demonstrandum. Means “the thing that is to be proved”. I think that it was originally used in maths problems. Once a solution of some problem has been proven you can put QED at the end. It has gone beyond mathematics and can be used now in arguments. Write or say it at the end of a particularly impressive bit of arguing to say “there, I’ve proved it”. Often used tongue-in-cheek.

Anyone else have one they’d like to add? If not, then nunc dimittis (“now you may leave”)

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is how Latin should be taught:
    Jamie 🙂

  2. Ceterus Paribus (all things being equal) – which clearly they never are – is one Latin phrase that falls frequently and gracefully from my lips. Especially when I want to confuse my students!

    My background in Law also means that I can stumble my way through a whole range of useless Latin phrases. My favourite one is Promissory Estoppel, which could well be Norman French actually, and which I have no fuggin’ idea at all about what it means.

  3. ad hoc
    de facto
    bona fide
    quid pro quo
    modus vivendi
    modus operandi

    But my favourites are the latin-sounding names given to Asterix’s Roman adversaries. Eggenlettus, Noxious Vapus, Christmas Bonus. Latin like that, I understand!

  4. […] Six bits of Latin that make your English look smart . This IS a hidden gem, judging from the few hits it got. But reading it will make you sound so […]

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