Things It’s Best to Say in Latin

Latin sentences and sayings seem to be designed to be carved out of stone. This is a matter of their concision and weightiness. Because of its highly inflected grammatical structure, Latin uses far fewer words to express something that a non-inflected language such as English. Here are some of our favourite Latin sayings. “Veni, Vidi, Vici” Julius Caesar’s most famous remark, apparently made in Roman Senate in 47 BC and referring to his victory over King Pharnaces II of Pontus at the battle of Zela is an example of Latin at its most concise. English takes twice as many words to convey the same meaning. The English translation doesn’t come close to matching the patent terseness, those alliterative V’s, those final long I’s of the original. “Requiescat In Pace” One of the most familiar of all Latin sayings is unusual in not being notably more terse than the English equivalent but, here the weightiness and the solemnity of Latin come to the fore. The big words have a sort of baroque splendour and strictly speaking, this is more succinct or conveys more meaning in the same number of words than the English equivalent because the Latin word, “Requiescat” is a subjunctive and represent a pious wish; “May he or she rest” – not a simple command. “Carpe Diem.” The famous saying from the eleventh poem of Horace’s first book of Odes is possible the best known Latin tag of all. It’s certainly the one which has inspired the naming of more restaurants and wine bars than any other. Why is it so memorable, and why does it work so well in Latin? For a start, it has the classical Latin succinctness which is two balanced syllables to convey a whole world of meaning, even an entire philosophy – in this case, the philosophy of epicureanism. There is also the weightiness, especially in the second word. A Latin ‘dies’ is more significant than a mere English ‘day’. And finally, this poet saying has a marvelous poetic ambiguity and richness as the word ‘Carpe’ can mean so many different things from seize to pluck. “Homo Sum: Humani Nil Ame Alienum Puto.” This saying from the early Roman comedian, Terence, is genius for plain eloquence. The English version is 50% longer in terms of words and nothing like as memorable, especially when it comes to word order. The ability to manipulate word order is a great advantage that Latin gains from its grammatical inflections. The way nouns and adjectives incorporate their own cases and verbs include person, mood and tense within a single word, Here, being able to hold back the verb to the end of the sentence enables Terence to juxtapose the ‘Homo Sum’ with the ‘Humani Nil’. ‘Parturient Montes, Nascetur Ridiculus Mus.’ Here, from Horace’s ‘Ars Poetica’, his hugely influential treatise on how to write, is a lovely example of Latin being playful, as it were, using its own weightiness against itself. Latin is able to enact the process by huge effort, the mountains going into labour, produces a laughably puny result – the birth of a miniscule, unimpressive rodent. ‘Capax Imperii, Nisi Imperasset.’ The master of the witheringly terse, put down in Latin or maybe in all languages, is the Roman historian, Tacitus. This marvellous foreworder refers to the emperor Galba but could be seen as an equally fitting epitaph on at least one recent British prime minister. Here, both succintness, enabled by grammar and the unique Latin weightiness find a perfect expression. ‘Caelum Non Animum Mutant, Qui Trans Mare Currunt.’ Another Horacian gem, this time from his first book of Epistles depends once again for its memorable force on the genius of Latin grammar. The way the accusative tense is signalled in the final Um’s of ‘Caelum’ and ‘Animum’ so that the contrast between the climate or the colour of the sky, ‘Caelum’, which the traveller can change, and her state of mind, ‘Animum’, which the traveller can’t alter so easily is pointed out with the maximum impact. Latin, more than any other tongue, is the language in which things are not just said, but stay said. The tight grammatical structure of the language helps give Latin sayings a massive architectural grandeur. The verbal equivalent of a colosseum, the pantheon or the Pont du Gard like those great edifices, they’re built to stand the test of time.

100 thoughts on “Things It’s Best to Say in Latin

  1. Here is where Gamers with Latin names gather around to think of the coolest sounding names for their Steam or Discord

  2. My late brother, being a classics major and a fan of the poet Catullus, makes me appreciate “ave atque vale” so much more.

  3. Hands up you you tube arseholes is that you the person who nobody likes slagging people behind their backs pointing out silly mistakes a pox on you may your arseholes heal up and you choke on your shite

  4. Just pointing out that veni, vidi, vici would've been pronounced as weni, widi, wiki in caesars time. That's medieval church Latin you're using.

  5. I'm pretty sure Russian and the other Slavic languages still make use of declension and conjugation so it's as poetic as Latin?

  6. Please make "Things It's Best to Say in German," "Things It's Best to Say in Turkish," "Things It's Best to Say in Bengali," "Things It's Best to Say in Igbo," etc.

  7. "Veni … ." is pronounced "Weni, Widi, Wici" because in Classical Latin spoken in Rome the letter "v" was pronounced like the "w" in the word "we." Only in the medieval period (some nine or more centuries after Julius Caesar's death) did Latin speakers began to pronounce the "v" as you did. This is a fact anyone with a basic knowledge of Latin knows!

  8. My favorite saying is:
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit.
    A wise man does not piss up against the wind.

  9. 5 years of Latin and hated it. But it really came in handy. Latin helps me understand contexts in modern Roman languages, such as Spanish or Italian.

  10. 0:36
    Small detail but roman soldiers no longer used spear by the time of Caesar, they used the hastati. Triaririi went out of use after Marius's reforms.

  11. the narrator's choice of word is amazing as well. how can I become well spoken like this? does anyone have any suggestions?

  12. For all the "WENI WIDI WIKI" fans.
    The pronunciation evolves over time in all languages, the archaic latin is different from the classic, like the classic is different from the modern.

    The Catholic Church has been speaking Latin in Rome for 2000 years as the official language, and today the correct pronunciation of Latin in Rome is the ecclesiastical one, used in this video.

    "Weni, widi, wiki" is a reconstructed classical pronunciation, a kind of historical experiment, but in today's Rome sounds ridiculous and unintelligible: modern Romans don't speak Latin like that anymore, they say VENI VIDI VICI exactly like in 0:24

  13. change title into "How to waste 5 minutes" . This video is about random words and saying that they are deep .

  14. How could you afford to make the Latin blunder of 'vichy' , when your entire video is based on Latin

  15. Il greco antico ha anche la diatesi Media è molto più ricco del latino in quasi tutto, ha perfino l'articolo perciò per me è migliore

  16. Everyone’s talking about how they botched the pronunciation, so I’ll be original.

    You absolutely botched the pronunciation.

  17. Latin: I'm inflected, so I can be the most succinct language.
    Old Classical Chinese: Hold my beer. Also what even are inflections?

  18. I saw one of the dominuses on roblox said “Venía Vidi Vici” and I translated it, it is “I saw, I came, I conquered”

  19. So many comments say he pronounced Latin wrong, but that's exactly how I was taught (apart from 'QU') while studying classics in Poland..I guess every university teaches how to read differently 😂

  20. The best language after Pelasgian-illyrian (Ancient Albanian)

    if any of you idiots say we are not illyrian just Write Albanian and translate in Latin and it says illyric or illyrica

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