By Kevin Fleming
Whether you’re deciphering a cryptic state seal or trying to impress your Catholic in-laws, knowing some Latin has its advantages. But the operative word here is “some.” We’ll start you off with 10 phrases that have survived the hatchet men of time (in all their pretentious glory).
1. Caveat Emptor
(KAV-ee-OT emp-TOR): “Let the buyer beware”
Before money-back guarantees and 20-year warranties, caveat emptor was indispensable advice for the consumer. These days, it’d be more fitting to have it tattooed on the foreheads of used-car salesmen, infomercial actors, and prostitutes. For extra credit points, remember that caveat often makes solo appearances at cocktail parties as a fancy term for a warning or caution. Oh, and just so you know, caveat lector means “let the reader beware.” Read More…
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Joyful times go hand in hand with congratulations. When addressing graduates, newlyweds, or anyone with good news, a hearty “Congratulations!” is in order. Congratulants, people who congratulate, have been using this pluralized expression, which stems from the Latin gratus meaning “pleasing,” since the 17th century. The singular noun meaning “the act of congratulating” has been around since the late 16th century.
Over the centuries the English language has assimilated words and phrases from a variety of other languages. In context, those listed here are often printed in italics.
|Latin from the beginning|
|a cappella||Italian sung without instrumental accompaniment (literally ‘in chapel style’)|
|à deux||French for or involving two people|
|ad hoc||Latin made or done for a particular purpose (literally ‘to this’)|
|ad infinitum||Latin endlessly; forever (literally ‘to infinity’)|
|ad interim||Latin for the meantime|
|ad nauseam||Latin to a tiresomely excessive degree (literally ‘to sickness’)|
|a fortiori||Latin more conclusively (literally ‘from a stronger [argument]’)|
|agent provocateur||French a person who tempts a suspected criminal to commit a crime so that they can be caught and convicted (literally ‘provocative agent’)|
|à huis clos||French in private (literally ‘with closed doors’)|
|al dente||Italian (of food) cooked so as to be still firm when bitten (literally ‘to the tooth’)|
|alfresco||Italian in the open air (literally ‘in the fresh’)|
|amour propre||French self-respect (literally ‘own love’)|
|annus mirabilis||Latin a remarkable or auspicious year|
|a posteriori||Latin based on reasoning from known facts or past events rather than on assumptions or predictions (literally ‘from what comes after’)|
|a priori||Latin based on deduction rather than experience (literally ‘from what is before’)|
|au courant||French well informed; up to date (literally ‘in the (regular) course’)|
|au fait||French having a good or detailed knowledge (literally ‘to the point’)|
|au fond||French basically; in essence (literally ‘at the bottom’)|
|au naturel||French in the most simple or natural way
|French a noble and generous act (literally ‘fine gesture’)|
|beau idéal||French the highest standard of excellence (literally ‘ideal beauty’)|
|beau monde||French fashionable society (literally ‘fine world’)|
|beaux arts||French the fine arts|
|bête noire||French a person or thing one particularly dislikes (literally ‘black beast’)|
|belles-lettres||French literary works written and read for their elegant style (literally ‘fine letters’)|
|billet-doux||French a love letter (literally ‘sweet note’)|
|blitzkrieg||German an intense, violent military campaign intended to bring about a swift victory (literally ‘lightning war’)|
|bona fide||Latin genuine; real (literally ‘with good faith’)|
|bon mot||French a clever or witty remark (literally ‘good word’)|
|bon vivant||French a person with a sociable and luxurious lifestyle (literally ‘person living well’)|
|brasserie||French an informal or inexpensive restaurant (literally ‘brewery’)
|Latin make the most of the present time (literally ‘seize the day!’)|
|carte blanche||French complete freedom to act as one wishes (literally ‘blank paper’)|
|cause célèbre||French a controversial issue attracting much public attention (literally ‘famous case’)|
|caveat emptor||Latin the buyer is responsible for checking the quality of goods before purchasing them (literally ‘let the buyer beware’)|
|c’est la guerre||French used as an expression of resigned acceptance (literally ‘that’s war’)|
|chacun à son gout||French everyone to their own taste|
|chef-d’œuvre||French a masterpiece (literally ‘chief work’)|
|cherchez la femme||French there is certain to be a woman at the bottom of a problem or mystery (literally ‘look for the woman’)|
|comme il faut||French correct in behaviour or etiquette (literally ‘as is necessary’)|
|compos mentis||Latin sane; in full control of one’s mind|
|cognoscenti||Italian people who are well informed about something (literally ‘people who know’)|
|cordon sanitaire||French a guarded line placed around an area infected by disease to prevent anyone from leaving (literally ‘sanitary line’)|
|Cosa Nostra||Italian a US criminal organization related to the Mafia (literally ‘our thing’)|
|coup de foudre||French love at first sight (literally ‘stroke of lightning’)|
|coup de grâce||French a blow by which a mortally wounded person or thing is mercifully killed (literally ‘stroke of grace’)|
|coup de main||French a sudden surprise attack (literally ‘stroke of hand’)|
|coup d’état||French a sudden violent seizure of power (literally ‘blow of state’)|
|cri de cœur||French a passionate appeal or protest (literally ‘cry from the heart’)|
|cui bono?||Latin who stands to gain? (implying that whoever does may have been responsible for a crime; literally ‘to whom (is it) a benefit?’)|
|Latin in fact, whether by right or not|
|Dei gratia||Latin by the grace of God|
|déjà vu||French the sense of having experienced the present situation before (literally ‘already seen’)|
|de jure||Latin rightful; by right (literally ‘of law’)|
|de nos jours||French contemporary (literally ‘of our days’)|
|Deo gratias||Latin thanks be to God|
|Deo volente||Latin God willing|
|de profundis||Latin expressing one’s deepest feelings (literally ‘from the depths’)|
|de rigueur||French obligatory; required by etiquette or current fashion (literally ‘of strictness’)|
|dernier cri||French the very latest fashion (literally ‘the last cry’)|
|de trop||French not wanted; superfluous (literally ‘excessive’)|
|deus ex machina||Latin an unexpected event that saves an apparently hopeless situation (literally ‘god from the machinery’)|
|dolce far niente||Italian pleasant idleness (literally ‘sweet doing nothing’)|
|dolce vita||Italian a life of pleasure and luxury (literally ‘sweet life’)|
|doppelgänger||German an apparition or double of a living person (literally ‘double-goer’)|
|double entendre||French a word or phrase with two possible interpretations (from obsolete French, ‘double understanding’)|
|dramatis personae||Latin the characters in a play (literally ‘persons of the drama’)|
embarras de richesse
|French more options or resources than one knows what to do with (literally ‘embarrassment of riches’)|
|éminence grise||French a person who has power or influence without holding an official position (literally ‘grey eminence’)|
|en famille||French with one’s family; in an informal way (literally ‘in family’)|
|enfant terrible||French a person whose behaviour is unconventional or controversial (literally ‘terrible child’)|
|en masse||French all together (literally ‘in a mass’)|
|en passant||French by the way (literally ‘in passing’)|
|entente cordiale||French a friendly understanding between states|
|entre nous||French between ourselves|
|esprit de corps||French a feeling of pride and loyalty uniting the members of a group (literally ‘spirit of body’)|
|ex gratia||Latin (of payment) given as a favour rather than because of any legal obligation (literally ‘from favour’)|
|ex officio||Latin by virtue of one’s position or status (literally ‘out of duty’)|
|French a thing that has been done or decided and cannot now be altered (literally ‘accomplished fact’)|
|faute de mieux||French for want of a better alternative|
|faux pas||French an embarrassing blunder or indiscretion (literally ‘false step’)|
|femme fatale||French a seductive woman (literally ‘disastrous woman’)|
|fête champêtre||French an outdoor entertainment; a garden party (literally ‘rural festival’)|
|fin de siècle||French relating to the end of a century|
|force majeure||French superior strength|
|folie de grandeur||French delusions of grandeur|
|French a small furnished holiday house in France|
|grande dame||French a woman who is influential within a particular sphere (literally ‘grand lady’)|
|French the designing and making of clothes by leading fashion houses (literally ‘high dressmaking’)|
|haute cuisine||French high-quality cooking (literally ‘high cookery’)|
|haut monde||French fashionable society (literally ‘high world’)|
|hors de combat||French out of action due to injury or damage (literally ‘out of the fight’)|
|French an obsession (literally ‘fixed idea’)|
|in absentia||Latin while not present (literally ‘in absence’)|
|in camera||Latin in private (literally ‘in the chamber’)|
|in extremis||Latin in an extremely difficult situation; at the point of death|
|in loco parentis||Latin in the place of a parent|
|in medias res||Latin in or into the middle of things|
|in propria persona||Latin: in his or her own person|
|in situ||Latin in the original or appropriate position|
|inter alia||Latin among other things|
|in toto||Latin as a whole|
|ipso facto||Latin by that very fact or act|
je ne sais quoi
|French a quality that is hard to describe (literally ‘I do not know what’)|
|jeu d’esprit||French a light-hearted display of wit (literally ‘game of the mind’)|
|jeunesse dorée||French wealthy, fashionable young people (literally ‘gilded youth’)|
|joie de vivre||French exuberant enjoyment of life (literally ‘joy of living’)|
|German a hangover or a severe headache accompanying a hangover (literally ‘cats’ wailing’)|
|French a non-interventionist policy (literally ‘allow to do’)|
|locum tenens||Latin a temporary deputy or stand-in (literally ‘one holding a place’)|
|locus classicus||Latin the best known or most authoritative passage on a subject (literally ‘classical place’)|
|Latin the most important work of an artist, writer, etc. (literally ‘great work’)|
|manqué||French having failed to become what one might have been (from manquer ‘to lack’)|
|mea culpa||Latin an acknowledgement that something is one’s fault (literally ‘by my fault’)|
|memento mori||Latin something kept as a reminder that death is inevitable (literally ‘remember (that you have) to die’)|
|ménage à trois||French an arrangement in which a married couple and the lover of one of them live together (literally ‘household of three’)|
|modus operandi||Latin a way of doing something (literally ‘way of operating’)|
|modus vivendi||Latin an arrangement that allows conflicting parties to coexist peacefully (literally ‘way of living’)|
|mot juste||French the most appropriate word or expression|
ne plus ultra
|Latin the best example of something (literally ‘not further beyond’)|
|nil desperandum||Latin do not despair|
|noblesse oblige||French privilege entails responsibility|
|nolens volens||Latin whether one wants or likes something or not (literally ‘not willing, willing’)|
|non sequitur||Latin a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous statement (literally ‘it does not follow’)|
|nouveau riche||French people who have recently become rich and who display their wealth ostentatiously (literally ‘new rich’)|
|French a small decorative or artistic object|
|on dit||French a piece of gossip (literally ‘they say’)|
|Italian worthy or eligible to be elected pope|
|par excellence||French better or more than all others of the same kind (literally ‘by excellence’)|
|parti pris||French a preconceived view; a bias (literally ‘side taken’)|
|per annum||Latin for each year|
|per capita||Latin for each person (literally ‘by heads’)|
|per se||Latin by or in itself or themselves|
|persona non grata||Latin a person who is not welcome somewhere|
|pièce de résistance||French the most important or impressive item (literally ‘piece (i.e. means) of resistance’)|
|pied-à-terre||French a small flat or house kept for occasional use (literally ‘foot to earth’)|
|pis aller||French a last resort (literally ‘worse to go’)|
|plat du jour||French a special dish prepared by a restaurant on a particular day (literally ‘dish of the day’)|
|plus ça change||French used to express resigned acknowledgement of the fact that certain things never change (from plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose ‘the more it changes, the more it stays the same’)|
|pococurante||Italian careless or nonchalant (literally ‘little caring’)|
|prima facie||Latin accepted as so until proved otherwise (literally ‘at first face’)|
|primus inter pares||Latin the senior or representative member of a group (literally ‘first among equals’)|
|pro rata||Latin proportional; proportionally (literally ‘according to the rate’)|
|proxime accessit||Latin the person who comes second in an examination or is runner-up for an award (literally ‘came very near’)|
quid pro quo
|Latin a favour or advantage given in return for something (literally ‘something for something’)|
|French the most important reason for someone or something’s existence (literally ‘reason for being’)|
|reductio ad absurdum||Latin a method of disproving a premise by showing that its logical conclusion is absurd (literally ‘reduction to the absurd’)|
|roman-à-clef||French a novel in which real people or events appear with invented names (literally ‘novel with a key’)|
|French the ability to stay calm in difficult circumstances (literally ‘cold blood’)|
|savoir faire||French the ability to act appropriately in social situations (literally ‘know how to do’)|
|sine die||Latin (of proceedings) adjourned indefinitely (literally ‘without a day’)|
|sine qua non||Latin a thing that is absolutely essential (literally ‘without which not’)|
|soi-disant||French self-styled; so-called (literally ‘self-saying’)|
|sotto voce||Italian in a quiet voice (literally ‘under voice’)|
|sub judice||Latin being considered by a court of law and therefore not to be publicly discussed elsewhere (literally ‘under a judge’)|
|sub rosa||Latin happening or done in secret (literally ‘under the rose’)|
|sui generis||Latin unique (literally ‘of its own kind’)|
|French a restaurant meal offered at a fixed price, with few if any choices (literally ‘host’s table’)|
|tant mieux||French so much the better|
|tant pis||French so much the worse; too bad|
|terra firma||Latin dry land; the ground (literally ‘firm land’)|
|terra incognita||Latin unknown territory|
|tête-à-tête||French a private conversation (literally ‘head-to-head’)|
|tour de force||French a thing accomplished with great skill (literally ‘feat of strength’)|
|tout de suite||French at once (literally ‘quite in sequence’)|
|unheimlich||German uncanny or weird|
|via media||Latin a compromise (literally ‘middle way’)|
|victor ludorum||Latin the overall champion in a sports competition (literally ‘victor of the games’)|
|vis-à-vis||French in relation to; as compared with (literally ‘face-to-face’)|
|vox populi||Latin public opinion (literally ‘the voice of the people’)|
|German the characteristic spirit or mood of a particular historical period (literally ‘time spirit’)|
Wait, there are more great posts:
1. Tosser – Idiot
2. Cock-up – Screw up
3. Bloody – Damn
4. Give You A Bell – Call you
5. Blimey! – My Goodness
6. Wanker – Idiot
7. Gutted – Devastated
8. Bespoke – Custom Made
9. Chuffed – Proud
10. Fancy – Like
11. Sod Off – Piss off
12. Lost the Plot – Gone Crazy
13. Fortnight – Two Weeks
14. Sorted – Arranged
15. Hoover – Vaccum
16. Kip – Sleep or nap
17. Bee’s Knees – Awesome
18. Know Your Onions – Knowledgeable
19. Dodgy – Suspicious
20. Wonky – Not right
21. Wicked – Cool!
22. Whinge – Whine
23. Tad – Little bit
24. Tenner – £10
25. Fiver – £5
26. Skive – Lazy or avoid doing something
27. Toff – Upper Class Person
28. Punter – Customer/Prostitute’s Client
29. Scouser – Someone from Liverpool
30. Quid – £
31. Taking the Piss – Screwing around
32. Pissed – Drunk
33. Loo – Toilet
34. Nicked – Stolen
35. Nutter – Crazy Person
36. Knackered – Tired
37. Gobsmacked – Amazed
38. Dog’s Bollocks – Awesome
39. Chap – Male or friend
40. Bugger – Jerk
41. Bog Roll – Toilet Paper
42. Bob’s Your Uncle – There you go!
43. Anti-Clockwise – We Say Counter Clockwise
44. C of E – Church of England
45. Pants – Panties
46. Throw a Spanner in the Works – Screw up
47. Zed – We say ZZZZZZZ
48. Absobloodylootely – YES!
49. Nosh – Food
50. One Off – One time only
51. Shambles – Mess
52. Arse-over-tit – Fall over
53. Brilliant! – Great!
54. Dog’s Dinner – Dressed Nicely
55. Up for it – Willing to have sex
56. On the Pull – Looking for sex
57. Made Redundant – Fired from a job
58. Easy Peasy – Easy
59. See a Man About a Dog – Do a deal or take a dump
60. Up the Duff – Pregnant
61. DIY – Do It Yourself /home improvements
62. Chat Up – Flirt
63. Fit – Hot
64. Arse – Ass
65. Strawberry Creams – Breasts
66. Shag – Screw
67. Gentleman Sausage – Penis
68. Twigs & Berries – Genitalia
69. Fanny – Vagina
70. Bollocks – Balls
71. Ponce – Poser
72. Don’t Get Your Knickers in a Twist – Don’t Get worked up
73. The Telly – Television
74. Bangers – Sausage
75. Chips – French Fries
76. Daft Cow – Idiot
77. Do – Party
78. Uni – College/University
79. Starkers – Naked
80. Smeg – From Red Dwarf
81. Bits ‘n Bobs – Various things
82. Anorak – A person weirdly interested in something
83. Shambles – bad shape/plan gone wrong
84. I’m Off to Bedfordshire – Going to bed
85. Her Majesty’s Pleasure – To be in prison
86. Horses for Courses – Won’t work for someone else
87. John Thomas – Penis
88. Plastered – Drunk
89. Meat and Two Veg – Genitalia
90. Knob Head – Idiot/Dickhead
91. Knob – Penis
92. Chav – White trash
93. It`s monkeys outside – it is very cold
94. Stag Night – Bachelor Party
95. Ace – Cool!
96. Plonker – Idiot
97. Dobber – Penis
98. BellEnd – Penis
99. Blighty – Britain
100. Rubbish – Garbage or ‘That’s crap!’
Check out more of our awesome posts:
- What was the purpose of your trip?
- Where did you go?
- When did you travel?
- Who traveled with you?
- With whom did you meet there? At what facilities?
(The questions above are the basics, which you can cover briefly.)
- What did you accomplish on the trip?
- What did you learn?
- What do you recommend based on your trip?
- Overall, how useful was the trip?
- Does anyone need to follow up on the trip? If so, who? How?
- What is this report about?
- What time period does this report cover?
- Are things on track?
- What has been accomplished since the last report?
- Have any important events taken place?
- Have there been any problems or obstacles? If so, how have they been managed?
- Is there anything I need to worry about?
- Where can I get more information?
- Is your purpose to help build a better relationship with the overseas office?
- Is your purpose to illustrate the critical need for more involvement with the factory?
- Do you want to show the monetary value of the trip to get approval for travel in your 2015 budget?
- Do you want to impress your new manager with the clarity of your thinking and writing?
- Leave out any information that does not answer a reader’s question. For instance, if your reader would not ask what hotel you stayed at or whether you had any great meals, do not include those details.
- Avoid using chronological order to report. Chronological order may cause you to include irrelevant details just because they happened.
- Use headings, preferably descriptive headings such as “Recommendation: Send a Team to the 2015 Conference” and “Budget Required: $85,000.” Headings will stop you from including information that does not belong in that section.
- Summarize. For example, in a report on a client meeting, do not include he said-I said details. Instead, report agreements and outcomes. In a financial or technical report, do not include raw data in the body of the report. If it’s essential, put it in an appendix.
- Include links to more information and offers to provide more. For instance, in a report on a conference, link to the conference program or offer to provide certain conference handouts.
- Use fewer examples. One or two powerful examples can achieve your goal. Additional examples provide length–not strength.
- Use tables and charts rather than sentences to capture numerical information. Graphical illustrations help you leave out extraneous information. Be sure to label each graphic so its relevance is clear to you and your reader.