Latin is the basis of many world languages and has had a significant influence on English. Throughout history, learning Latin and the Classics was considered to be essential for a good education. Whilst many think of Latin as a dead language, a few years ago there seemed to be something of a revival with many national newspapers reporting the popularity of Latin classes in mainstream schools. I’m not sure whether this trend has now been surpassed by the move towards learning Chinese or coding. However, even if you think that you have no knowledge of Latin at all you will be surprised by how many Latin phrases have found their way into our everyday vocabulary.
e.g. exempli gratia
This abbreviation means ‘for example’ and is used to introduce a list or an example, such as in the following phrase: ‘Latin has influenced many world languages, e.g. French, English, and Italian.’ Don’t confuse the use of e.g. with i.e. (see below) and remember to punctuate both letters with a full stop.
i.e. id est
This abbreviation is often confused with e.g. The direct translation means ‘that is to say’ so use it in contexts where the alternative wording would be ‘that is’ or ‘namely’. It is used to clarify an idea or provide more information – don’t follow it with a list of examples.
etc. et cetera
This abbreviation means ‘and other things of the same kind’ so it is used to indicate there are more possibilities in a list of examples. The punctuation can vary according to style but the list of preceding items is usually separated by commas and etc. always has a full stop. Two important points to note are first, don’t put an ‘and’ before etc. and second, don’t use etc. at the end of a list that begins with the words for example, such as, or including.
The direct translation is ‘to this’ meaning for a particular purpose. However, the term is also commonly used to imply a lack of planning or formal arrangement, such as an ad hoc committee.
This phrase means ‘in itself’ or intrinsically. For example, Latin is not difficult per se.
The phrase is derived from the Latin phrase ‘the position being reversed’. It means something can be done either way: ‘You can come to see me, or vice versa’ (I can come to see you).
This phrase means ‘to infinity’. For example, a process that continues forever, without limit or repeatedly. For example, the song was played ad infinitum.
I hope this brief explanation sheds light on some of the more common Latin phrases. Next week I’ll be looking at some Latin terms used when formulating references.