Common Latin Words and Abbreviations

Inevitably we stumble upon Latin words and abbreviations in writings (especially of an older generation).  Often I simply ignore them, but they are becoming more important when I really need to understand what the author is communicating in a footnote.  So, I have compiled a list of Latinisms that you may find in monographs and especially in older reference works that rely on keeping words short (like Liddell-Scott or BDAG).  If you come across others that are frequently occuring and would be of aid to the biblical-academic community, please feel free to let me know so I can add it/them.  BEWARE: Many of these are from Wikipedia!  I have tried to double check many of them.

a fortiori.   with yet stronger reason.

a posse ad esse.   from possibility to actuality.

a posteriori.   derived by reasoning from observed facts or experience.

a priori.   from what was before.  Inferences based on propositions or assumed axioms rather than experience (opposite of a posteriori).

ad absurdum.   to the point of absurdity.

ad hoc.   for this special purpose.

ad hominem.   appealing to feelings rather than reason.  Often used for an argument that is driven by a focus on the person one is arguing against rather than the arguments and evidences themselves.

ad idem.   of the same mind.

ad infinitum.   without limit.

ad nauseam.   to a disgusting extent.

alea iacta est.   the die is cast (Caesar).

amicus omnibus, amicus nemini.   a friend to all is a friend to none.

ars gratia artis.   art for art’s sake.

ceteris paribus.   other things being equal or unchanged.

curriculum vitae.   a summary of a person’s career.

de facto.   in fact (especially in contradistinction to “de jure”). In reality (as opposed to ‘on paper’).

de jure.   by right (especially in contradistinction to “de facto”).

de novo.   anew.

deus ex machina.   a contrived event that resolves a problem at the last moment (literally, “a god from a machine”).

eiusdem generis.   of the same kind.

ergo.   therefore.

et alia.   and other things.

et alii (abbreviated et al.).   and others.

et cetera (abbreviated etc.).   and so on.

ex cathedra.   (of a pronouncement) formally, with official authority.

ex nihilo.   out of nothing.

ex officio.   by virtue of his office.

exempli gratia (abbreviated e.g.).   for example.

honoris causa.   as a mark of esteem.

ibidem (abbreviated ibid. in citations of books, etc.).   in the same place.

id est (abbreviated i.e.).   that is.

idem.   the same.

in toto.   entirely.

infra.   below or on a later page.

inter alia.   among other things.

inter se.   among themselves.

ipso facto.   by that very fact.

loco citato (abbreviated loc. cit.).   in the passage just quoted.

me judice.   I being the judge; in my opinion

mea culpa.   by my fault (used as an acknowledgement of one’s error).

modus operandi.   the manner of working.

nisi.   unless.

nolens volens.   whether one likes it or not; willing or unwilling.

non sequitur.   it does not follow (used as an English noun meaning “a conclusion which does not accord with the premises”).

nota bene (abbreviated NB).   note well.

opere citato (abbreviated op. cit.).   in the work just quoted.

pace. ‘with polite respect to’ – used for someone who disagrees with the speaker or writer.  A more irenic form of contra.

passim.   in various places (in a quoted work).

per annum.   per year.

per capita.   by the head.

per mensem.   per month.

per se.   taken alone.

persona non grata.   a non-acceptable person.

post hoc ergo propter hoc.   after this, therefore because of this (a logical fallacy).

prima facie.   on a first view.

pro bono.   done without charge in the public interest.

pro forma.   for the sake of form.

pro tempore (abbreviated pro tem).   for the time being.

qua.   in the capacity of.

quid pro quo.   something for something.

quod erat demonstrandum (abbreviated QED).   which was to be proved.

quod erat faciendum (abbreviated QEF).   which was to be done.

quod vide (abbreviated q.v.).   which see.

re.   in the matter of.

reductio ad absurdum.   reduction to the absurd (proving the truth of a proposition by proving the falsity of all its alternatives).

seqq.   and those that follow.

seriatim.   one after another in order.

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

sic.   thus.

sine qua non.   an indispensable condition.

status quo.   the existing condition.

sui generis.   of its own kind.

supra.   above or on an earlier page.

timeo danaos et dona ferentes.   I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts (Virgil).

ultimo (abbreviated ult.).   of the previous month.

vale (plural valete).   farewell.

vice.   in place of.

vice versa.   the order being reversed.


Quotes from Philo

Currently in my research I am studying Philo’s understanding of the Jewish cultus and I really enjoy Philo.  Though, of course, one constantly wonder where he is deriving his allegorical meanings from, I think his heart is in the right place!  He wishes to encourage virtue and find significance in every ritual act performed – would that we had such care and intention in our own Christian traditions!  Here is a nice quote from On Special laws’ where he is offering the meaning behind various parts of the preparation of the sacrifical animal:

‘And by the command that the feet of the victim should be washed, it is figuratively shown that we must no longer walk upon the earth, but soar aloft and traverse the air. For the soul of the man who is devoted to God, being eager for truth, springs upward and mounts from earth to heaven; and, being borne on wings, traverses the expanse of the air, being eager to be classed with and to move in concert with the sun, and moon, and all the rest of the most sacred and most harmonious company of the stars, under the immediate command and government of God, who has a kingly authority without any rival, and of which he can never be deprived, in accordance with which he justly governs the universe.’ (Spec.Leg. 1.207)

Sounds like fun!

[For those who have been told that Philo is a thoroughgoing Platonist, that should be qualified – he has no particular disdain for the material and the bodily – he finds meaning and purpose in the material, but does find special meaning in the world of ideas – see Runia and Borgen]