Important Latin Words and Terms

Yesterday we talked about the value of the study of Latin. Today we give below some of the many Latin words and terms that all writers should know. These words and terms are seen written all around the world in almost all languages in all academic fields. Therefore, it’s important that all writers know them. They needn’t be learnt by heart, but it is a good idea to get familiarized with them as they are often seen written in different contexts in various media.

Most commonly used Latin words and expressions:

Ad hoc: to this. Something created for a specific purpose. Like an ad hoc committee.

Ad valorem: to the value. Something related to the value of another thing. For example, an ad valorem tax.

Affidavit: a sworn written statement. A legal statement.

Alibi: elsewhere. If a person has an alibi, it means he can prove he was elsewhere.

Bona fide: good faith. This mainly refers to contracts. To respect the contract, one must act in good faith.

De facto: common in practice. Something which is not established by law but is common in practice.  Like a de facto official language.

In toto: completely. Refers to something that is taken in its entirety. For example, taking a project in toto.

Modus operandi: a way of doing things. Mainly used when referring to a person’s way of doing things. Like  a thief’s modus operandi; that is, the way he goes about stealing.

Per se: by itself. When something is taken per se, it is taken by itself, without considering the external factors.

Prima facie: by first instance. This is used mainly in legal cases. If a case is prima facie, it means there is enough evidence to go forward with the indictment.

Pro bono: for the public good. If, for example, a lawyer works on a case pro bono, he works for the public good. In other words, he works for free.

Sic: thus. Sic is usually placed within brackets in front of incorrect word or words indicating that the words are not the writer’s.

Terra firma: solid earth. Being on terra firma refers to be being on firm ground rather than on sea.

Vice versa: the other way around. For example, if you say “he likes her and vice versa”, it means that she too likes him.

Vox populi: voice of the people. Refers to the general public, or the voice of the common man.

Which other Latin word or term do you think should also have been included here?

Bookmark and Share

Advertisements

The Value of the Study of Latin

When I had taken Latin as one of my subjects in high school, I hadn’t realized how helpful it would turn out to be. To be very honest, I didn’t really want to take it, but the only reason I studied it was because my English teacher had asked me to. She had explained the importance of Latin not only for the study of English, but for practically all fields of study. Today I am happy that I listened to her advice and can proudly say that I have had the privilege of studying Latin and have found the language to be of enduring value. What is this value?

They say Latin is a dead language, but if you ask me, it is an immortal language. It may not be spoken anywhere in the world, but it is still studied all over the world. Why? Because –

1. Latin is the root of most modern European languages, including English. Its study helps in the study of the English language. Generally, when we study English, we do so without really understanding the whys of the grammar. We speak and write English the way we do because we are told that this is the way we should, because that is the correct way. But why is it the correct way? This is what Latin teaches us – the rules and the reasons of grammar. Once we learn these, we get a better understanding of the English Language. Humorist Stephen Leacock once said, “People learn to write good English by writing bad Latin”.

2. Most English words have Latin derivatives. Therefore, the study of Latin gives us a better understanding of words, their meanings and uses. As a result of this better understanding, we acquire a wider vocabulary and can use the right word in the right manner.

3. In all fields of study and professions – whether science, law, or humanities – the technical words are in Latin. A good understanding of Latin gives us a better understanding of the technical terms. We, therefore, don’t have to struggle with the meanings of the terms and their uses.

4. It may easily be argued by some that if one is not going to enter a professional career, Latin is of no use. But here these people are wrong. According to experts, the discipline involved in the study of Latin is excellent mental exercise. It develops the human brain, and consequently increases the intelligence level in a person.

So, we can see how important the study of Latin is. It gives us a better understanding of all aspects of the English language, and as a result makes us better writers.

I’d love to hear from people who have studied Latin. How has it helped them get a better understanding of the English language? Has it helped them become better writers?

Bookmark and Share