26 Latin phrases and expressions

You don’t have to read ancient Italian texts in order to speak this language. PR pros often borrow terms such as these.

In a scene from my favorite TV show, “Freaks and Geeks, teenager Lindsay Weir has been caught skipping class.

In trying to justify her delinquency, she says, “Daddy, I skipped Latin.” He replies, “Oh. Well, I can understand why you wouldn’t want to learn about that. It’s only the building block of our language.”

Whether we realize it or not, Latin terms are everywhere in business and corporate communications.

Below are some common ones, along with their translations and definitions (definitions are from Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries):

1. A priori: from the former

Something that is known beforehand; something that is true without proof; deductive.

2. Ad hoc: to this

Formed for a specific purpose; improvised or impromptu.

3. Ad hominem: to the man

Attacking a person instead of his or her ideas or arguments.

4. Alma mater: nourishing mother

The school, college or university that one attended.

5. Bona fide: good faith

Authentic, sincere, genuine.

6. Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware

The buyer’s responsibility for evaluating products being purchased.

7. Curriculum vitae: course of life

A detailed account of your education, accomplishments, work history, publications, etc. most often used to apply for academic positions.

8. De facto: in fact

In reality, actually.

9. Emeritus: having served one’s time

A person who has retired but is allowed to keep his or her title as an honor.

10. Ergo: therefore

11. Ex libris: from the books

An inscription used to indicate ownership of a book, such as, “from the library of.”

12. Habeas corpus: you should have the body

A writ ordering someone to appear before a judge; an order that serves as protection against unlawful imprisonment.

13. Ibidem (ibid): in the same place

In the same source.

14. Ipso facto: by the fact itself

Because of that fact.

15. In situ: in position

Something that exists in its natural, original state.

16. In vitro: in glass

Performed or taking place in a test tube, culture dish or elsewhere outside a living organism.

17. Mea culpa: my fault

Acknowledgement of one’s fault or error.

18. Non sequitur: does not follow

Something that does not make sense in context; a statement that is not connected logically with anything said before it.

19. Per se: through itself

By, in or of itself; intrinsically.

20. Persona non grata: person not pleasing

An undesirable or unwelcome person.

21. Pro bono: for the good

Done without compensation.

22. Pro rata: for the rate

In proportion; something that can be calculated.

23. Stet: let it stand

A symbol used to indicate that a letter or word marked for omission or correction should remain as is.

24. Subpoena: under penalty

An order to appear in court and testify.

25. Tabula rasa: scraped tablet

A blank slate; the human mind before it gains knowledge.

26. Verbatim: word for word

To repeat using the same words

Ragan readers, what Latin words would you add to this list?

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