Using Latin terms in academic referencing

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In an earlier post I looked at some of the different styles used for citing sources in academic writing. This blog post takes a look at the Latin terms you can use to add short cuts to citations and referencing. It’s important to know when and how to use Latin terms. Most modern referencing styles prefer to keep Latin terms out of the main text and there is a trend away from using them in citations, except some of the most common shortcuts which are mainly used to save space. These abbreviation are mostly used in footnote style referencing, such as OSCOLA, one version of Chicago (Chicago A) and Turabian.

OSCOLA legal referencing

Law dissertations and theses are one area where you are likely to use many different Latin legal terms in your writing. However, the common referencing format OSCOLA also prefers to avoid what it refers to as ‘Latin gadgets’ in its footnote referencing style, with the exception of ibid. and et al.

Some common Latin terms

Et al. – this is an abbreviation of the Latin et alii which means ‘and other people’. It is used to shorten a list of authors in a bibliography or reference in order to save space (and finger-power!). There are a couple of things to note when using this abbreviation: the ‘al’ always takes a full stop and never use ‘and’ before et al.

Ibid. – this is an abbreviation of the Latin word ibidem which means ‘in the same place’. It is used in footnotes or endnotes to repeat a citation of the immediately preceding note. The key point is that it refers to the previous footnote, not one elsewhere on another page.

cf – is an abbreviation of confer which means compare. Note this means to compare with another reference, it does not mean ‘to see’.

Obscure and archaic abbreviations

The use of the following rather obscure Latin abbreviations should be avoided, but it is worth knowing their meaning and use as you may come across them in your research.

loc. cit – an old form of ibid., loc. cit. stands for loco citato which means in the place cited. It is used to refer to the same place and page number as the previous citation.

Op.cit. – in contrast to loc. cit. opere citato, which means in the work cited, is used to refer to the same work, but is not followed by a page number. Both of these terms have been superseded by ibid.

inf. – infra means below and indicates there is further referencing information below.

Sup. – supra means above and refers to the location of information earlier in the footnotes.

These are just a few examples of some Latin terms that have faded from use with the trend towards plain language.