Cool Latin Words that will Make You Sound Smarter

Filed in Articles by on December 27, 2021

Latin is a beautiful Romance language from which many of our languages in Europe stem today. We can find cool Latin words all over the place from mottos to car stickers and so if you’re looking for some Cool Latin words and sayings to use yourself, then you’ve come to the right place.

Well Selected Cool Latin Words for You

Below we’ve put together a list of Latin words and phrases to help pique your interest in learning this classical language.

This list isn’t exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve included some of the most common Latin words and phrases that you still see today, which are helpful to know in boosting your all-around cultural literacy.

We’ve also included some particularly virile sayings, aphorisms, and mottos that can inspire greatness or remind us of important truths.

Perhaps you’ll find a Latin phrase that you can adopt as your personal motto. Semper Virilis!

1. a posteriori — from the latter; knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence

2. a priori — from what comes before; knowledge or justification is independent of experience

3. acta non verba — deeds, not words

4. ad hoc — to this — improvised or made up – Cool Latin Words

5. ad hominem — to the man; below-the-belt personal attack rather than a reasoned argument

6. ad honorem — for honor

7. ad infinitum — to infinity

8. ad nauseam — used to describe an argument that has been taking place to the point of nausea

9. ad victoriam — to victory; more commonly translated into “for victory,” this was a battle cry of the Romans

10. alea iacta est — the die has been cast

11. alias — at another time; an assumed name or pseudonym

12. alibi — elsewhere

13. alma mater — nourishing mother; used to denote one’s college/university

14. amor patriae — love of one’s country

15. amor vincit omnia — love conquers all

16. annuit cœptis –He (God) nods at things being begun; or “he approves our undertakings,” motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States and on the back of the United States one-dollar bill

17. ante bellum — before the war; commonly used in the Southern United States as antebellum to refer to the period preceding the American Civil War

18. ante meridiem — before noon; A.M., used in timekeeping

19. aqua vitae — water of life; used to refer to various native distilled beverages, such as whisky (uisge beatha) in Scotland and Ireland, gin in Holland, and brandy (eau de vie) in France

20. arte et marte — by skill and valour

21. astra inclinant, sed non obligant — the stars incline us, they do not bind us; refers to the strength of free will over astrological determinism

22. audemus jura nostra defendere — we dare to defend our rights; state motto of Alabama

23. audere est facere — to dare is to do

24. audio — I hear

25. aurea mediocritas — golden mean; refers to the ethical goal of reaching a virtuous middle ground between two sinful extremes

26. auribus teneo lupum — I hold a wolf by the ears; a common ancient proverb; indicates that one is in a dangerous situation where both holding on and letting go could be deadly; a modern version is, “to have a tiger by the tail”

27. aut cum scuto aut in scuto — either with shield or on shield; do or die, “no retreat”; said by Spartan mothers to their sons as they departed for battle

28. aut neca aut necare — either kill or be killed

29. aut viam inveniam aut faciam — I will either find a way or make one; said by Hannibal, the great ancient military commander

30. barba non facit philosophum — a beard doesn’t make one a philosopher

31. bellum omnium contra omnes — war of all against all

32. bis dat qui cito dat — he gives twice, who gives promptly; a gift given without hesitation is as good as two gifts

33. bona fide — good faith

34. bono malum superate — overcome evil with good

35. carpe diem — seize the day

36. caveat emptor — let the buyer beware; the purchaser checks whether the goods suit his need

37. circa — around, or approximately

38. citius altius forties — faster, higher, stronger; modern Olympics motto

39. cogito ergo sum — “I think therefore I am”; famous quote by Rene Descartes

40. contemptus mundi/saeculi — scorn for the world/times; despising the secular world, the monk or philosopher’s rejection of a mundane life and worldly values

41. corpus christi — body of Christ

42. corruptissima re publica plurimae leges — when the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous; said by Tacitus

43. creatio ex nihilo — creation out of nothing; a concept about creation, often used in a theological or philosophical context

44. cura te ipsum — take care of your own self; an exhortation to physicians, or experts in general, to deal with their own problems before addressing those of others – Cool Latin Words

45. curriculum vitae — the course of one’s life; in business, a lengthened resume

46. de facto — from the fact; distinguishing what’s supposed to be from what is reality

47. deo volente — God willing

48. deus ex machina — God out of a machine; They resolved a term meaning a conflict in implausible ways.

49. dictum factum — what is said is done

50. disce quasi semper victurus vive quasi cras moriturus — learn as if you’re always going to live; live as if tomorrow you’re going to die

51. discendo discimus — while teaching we learn

52. docendo disco, scribendo cogito — I learn by teaching, think by writing

Cool Latin Words

53. ductus exemplo — leadership by example

54. ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt — the fates lead the willing and drag the unwilling; attributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca

55. dulce bellum inexpertis — war is sweet to the inexperienced

56. dulce et decorum est pro patria mori — it is sweet and fitting to die for your country

57. dulcius ex asperis — sweeter after difficulties

58. e pluribus unum — out of many, one; on the U.S. seal, and was once the country’s de facto motto

59. emeritus — veteran; retired from office

60. ergo — therefore

61. et alii — and others; abbreviated et al.

62. et cetera — and the others

63. et tu, Brute? — last words of Caesar after being murdered by friend Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, used today to convey utter betrayal

64. ex animo — from the heart; thus, “sincerely”

Lovely Cool Latin Words

65. ex libris — from the library of; to mark books from a library

66. ex nihilo — out of nothing

67. ex post facto — from a thing done afterward; said of a law with retroactive effect

68. faber est suae quisque fortunae — every man is the artisan of his own fortune; quote by Appius Claudius Caecus

69. fac fortia et patere — do brave deeds and endure

70. fac simile — make alike; origin of the word “fax”

71. flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo — if I cannot move heaven I will raise hell; from Virgil’s Aeneid

72. fortes fortuna adiuvat — fortune favors the bold

73. fortis in arduis — strong in difficulties

74. gloria in excelsis Deo — glory to God in the highest

75. habeas corpus — you should have the body; a legal term from the 14th century or earlier; commonly used as the general term for a prisoner’s right to challenge the legality of their detention

76. habemus papam — we have a pope; used after a Catholic Church papal election to announce publicly a successful ballot to elect a new pope

77. historia vitae magistra — history, the teacher of life; from Cicero; also “history is the mistress of life

78. hoc est bellum — this is war

79. homo unius libri (timeo) — (I fear) a man of one book; attributed to Thomas Aquinas

80. honor virtutis praemium — esteem is the reward of virtue

81. hostis humani generis — enemy of the human race; Cicero defined pirates in Roman law as being enemies of humanity in general – Cool Latin Words

82. humilitas occidit superbiam — humility conquers pride

83. igne natura renovatur integra — through fire, nature is reborn whole

84. ignis aurum probat — fire tests gold; a phrase referring to the refining of character through difficult circumstances

85. in absentia — in the absence

86. in aqua sanitas — in water there is health

87. in flagrante delicto — in flaming crime; caught red-handed, or in the act

88. in memoriam — into the memory; more commonly “in memory of”

89. in omnia paratus — ready for anything

90. in situ — in position; something that exists in an original or natural state

91. in toto — in all or entirely

92. in umbra, igitur, pugnabimus — then we will fight in the shade; made famous by Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae and by the movie 300

93. in utero — in the womb

94. in vitro — in glass; biological process that occurs in the lab

95. incepto ne desistam — may I not shrink from my purpose

96. intelligenti pauca — few words suffice for he who understands

97. invicta — unconquered

98. invictus maneo — I remain unvanquished

99. ipso facto — by the fact itself; something is true by its very nature

100. labor omnia vincit — hard work conquers all – Cool Latin Words

101. laborare pugnare parati sumus — to work, (or) to fight; we are ready

102. labore et honore — by labor and honor

103. leges sine moribus vanae — laws without morals [are] vain

104. lux brumalisDirectly translated, “lux brumalis” means “the light of winter.” There’s no corresponding English word.

Cool Latin Words

However, everyone who has noticed the way light changes with the seasons can understand the beauty and usefulness of this term.

105. lex parsimoniae — law of succinctness; also known as Occam’s Razor; the simplest explanation is usually the correct one

106. lex talionis — the law of retaliation – Cool Latin Words

107. magna cum laude — with great praise

108. magna est vis consuetudinis — great is the power of habit

109. magnum opus — great work; said of someone’s masterpiece

110. mala fide — in bad faith; said of an act done with the knowledge of its illegality, or with the intention to defraud or mislead someone; opposite to bona fide

111. malum in se — wrong; a legal term meaning that something is inherently wrong

112. malum prohibitum — wrong due to being prohibited; a legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law

113. mea culpa — my fault

114. meliora — better things; carrying the connotation of “always better” – Cool Latin Words

115. memento mori — remember that [you will] die; was whispered by a servant into the ear of a victorious Roman general to check his pride as he paraded through cheering crowds after a victory; a genre of art meant to remind the viewer of the reality of his death

116. memento vivere — remember to live

117. memores acti prudentes future — mindful of what they have done, aware of what will be

118. modus operandi — method of operating; abbreviated M.O.

119. montani semper liberi — mountaineers [are] always free; state motto of West Virginia

120. morior invictus — death before defeat

121. morituri te salutant — those who are about to die salute you; popularized as a standard salute from gladiators to the emperor, but only recorded once in Roman history

122. morte magis metuenda senectus — old age should rather be feared than death

123. mulgere hircum — to milk a male goat; to attempt the impossible

124. multa paucis — say much in few words

125. nanos gigantum humeris insidentes — dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants; commonly known by the letters of Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

126. nec aspera terrent — they don’t terrify the rough ones; frightened by no difficulties; less literally “difficulties be damned” – Cool Latin Words

127. nec temere nec timide — neither reckless nor timid

128. nil volentibus arduum — nothing [is] arduous for the willing

129. nolo contendere — I do not wish to contend; that is, “no contest”; a plea that can be entered on behalf of a defendant in a court that states that the accused doesn’t admit guilt, but will accept punishment for a crime

130. non ducor, duco — I am not led; I lead

131. non loqui sed facere — not talk but action

132. non progredi est regredi — to not go forward is to go backward

133. non scholae, sed vitae discimus — we learn not for school, but for life; from Seneca

134. non sequitur — it does not follow; in general, a comment which is absurd due to not making sense in its context (rather than due to being inherently nonsensical or internally inconsistent); often used in humor

136. non sum qualis eram — I am not such as I was; or “I am not the kind of person I once was”

137. nosce te ipsum — know thyself; from Cicero

138. novus ordo seclorum — new order of the ages; from Virgil; motto on the Great Seal of the United States – Cool Latin Words

139. nulla tenaci invia est via — for the tenacious, no road is impassable

140. obliti privatorum, publica curate — forget private affairs, take care of public ones; Roman political saying which reminds that common good should be given priority over private matters for any person having a responsibility in the State

141. panem et circenses — bread and circuses; originally described all that was needed for emperors to placate the Roman mob; today used to describe any entertainment used to distract public attention from more important matters

142. para bellum — prepare for war; if you want peace, prepare for war; if a country is ready for war, its enemies are less likely to attack

143. parvis imbutus tentabis grandia tutus — when you are steeped in little things, you shall safely attempt great things; sometimes translated as, “once you have accomplished small things, you may attempt great ones safely”

144. pater familias — father of the family; the eldest male in a family

145. pecunia, si uti scis, ancilla est; si nescis, domina — if you know how to use money, money is your slave; if you don’t, money is your master

146. per angusta ad augusta — through difficulties to greatness

147. per annum — by the year

148. per capita — by the person

148. per diem — by the day

149. per se — through itself

Amazing Cool Latin Words

150. persona non grata — person not pleasing; an unwelcome, unwanted or undesirable person

151. pollice verso — with a turned thumb; used by Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator

152. post meridiem — after noon; P.M.; used in timekeeping

153. post mortem — after death

154. postscriptum — thing having been written afterward; in writing, abbreviated P.S.

155. praemonitus praemunitus — forewarned is forearmed

156. praesis ut prosis ne ut imperes — lead in order to serve, not in order to rule

157. primus inter pares — first among equals; a title of the Roman Emperors

158. pro bono — for the good; in business, refers to services rendered at no charge

159. pro rata — for the rate

Cool Latin Words

160. quam bene vivas referre (or refert), non quam diu — it is how well you live that matters, not how long; from Seneca

161. quasi — as if; as though

162. qui totum vult totum perdit — he who wants everything loses everything; attributed to Seneca

163. quid agis — what’s going on; what’s up, what’s happening, etc. – Cool Latin Words

164. quid pro quo — this for that; an exchange of value

165. quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur — whatever has been said in Latin seems deep; or “anything said in Latin sounds profound”; a recent ironic Latin phrase to poke fun at people who seem to use Latin phrases and quotations only to make themselves sound more important or “educated”

166. quis custodiet ipsos custodes? — who will guard the guards themselves?; commonly associated with Plato

167. quorum — of whom; the number of members whose presence is required under the rules to make any given meeting constitutional

168. requiescat in pace — let him rest in peace; abbreviated R.I.P.

169. rigor mortis — stiffness of death

170. scientia ac labore — knowledge through hard work

171. scientia ipsa potentia est — knowledge itself is power

172. semper anticus — always forward

173. semper fidelis — always faithful; U.S. Marines motto

174. semper fortis — always brave

175. semper paratus — always prepared

176. semper virilis — always virile

177. si vales, valeo — when you are strong, I am strong

178. si vis pacem, para bellum — if you want peace, prepare for war

179. sic parvis magna — greatness from small beginnings — the motto of Sir Frances Drake

180. sic semper tyrannis — thus always to tyrants; attributed to Brutus at the time of Julius Caesar’s assassination, and to John Wilkes Booth at the time of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

181. sic vita est — thus is life; the ancient version of “it is what it is”

182. sola fide — by faith alone

183. sola nobilitat virtus — virtue alone ennobles

184. solvitur ambulando — it is solved by walking

185. spes bona — good hope

186. statim (stat) — immediately; medical shorthand

187. status quo — the situation in which; current condition

188. subpoena — under penalty

189. sum quod eris — I am what you will be; a gravestone inscription to remind the reader of the inevitability of death

190. summa cum laude — with highest praise

191. summum bonum — the supreme good

192. suum cuique — to each his own

193. tabula rasa — scraped tablet; “blank slate”; John Locke used the term to describe the human mind at birth, before it had acquired any knowledge

194. tempora heroic — Heroic Age

195. tempus edax rerum — time, devourer of all things

196. tempus fugit — time flees; commonly mistranslated “time flies”

197. terra firma — firm ground

198. terra incognita — unknown land; used on old maps to show unexplored areas

199. vae victis — woe to the conquered

200. vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas — vanity of vanities; everything [is] vanity; from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1)

201. veni vidi vici — I came, I saw, I conquered; famously said by Julius Caesar

202. verbatim — repeat exactly

203. veritas et aequitas — truth and equity

204. versus — against

205. veto — I forbid

206. vice versa — to change or turn around

207. vincit qui patitur — he conquers who endures

208. vincit qui se vincit — he conquers who conquers himself

209. vir prudens non contra ventum mingit — [a] wise man does not urinate [up] against the wind

210. virile agitur — the manly thing is being done

211. viriliter agite — act in a manly way

212. viriliter agite estote fortes — quit ye like men, be strong

213. virtus tentamine gaudet — strength rejoices in the challenge

214. virtute et armis — by virtue and arms; or “by manhood and weapons”; state motto of Mississippi

215. vive memor leti — live remembering death – Cool Latin Words

216. vivere est vincere — to live is to conquer; Captain John Smith’s personal motto

217. vivere militare est — to live is to fight

218. vox populi — the voice of the people

When you look at how beautiful the Latin language is, it’s easy to see why it has had such an influence on other languages of the world.

Even though Latin is no longer spoken and is technically a dead language, you can see Latin root words in English and many other languages still spoken today.

If you enjoyed this article, please share with your friends and peers, also bookmark this page for more articles like this.

CSN Team.

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