English is not a Romantic language—that is, English is not a language that descends from Latin. However, Latin has greatly influenced our English vocabulary because of its role as the language of science, law, and scholarly pursuits. Learning Latin roots is a great way to improve your English vocabulary. However, pure Latin words and phrases abound in our modern world.

Below are some of the most commonly used Latin expressions, phrases, and abbreviations. Learning them can enhance your knowledge, help you navigate research materials, and allow you to amaze your friends and relatives with your Latin language skills!

Familiar Latin Terms

Ad hoc—Original meaning: to this [purpose]. This term is often used in reference to something (especially a committee) created for a specific purpose.

Example:  Our church formed an ad hoc committee for the purpose of exploring options for the new sanctuary.

Ad infinitum—Original meaning: to infinity. Something that continues without stopping.

Example:  The speech seemed to continue ad infinitum.

Ad nauseum—Original meaning: to the point of nausea.

Example: Members of the Jones family talked about their trip ad nauseumand I wanted to go home.

Ad valoremOriginal meaning: according to value. Refers to something (usually a tax) that is related to the value of an object.

Example:Sales and property taxes are ad valorem taxes.

Alma mater—Original meaning: bountiful mother.Used since 1710 to refer to a person’s school or university.

Example: HarvardUniversityis my alma mater.

Bone fide—Original meaning: in good faith.

Example: I would like to get paid with bona fide currency, not Monopoly money.

De facto—Original meaning: according to the fact.Now means “in reality, though perhaps not officially.”

Example: Though we never actually elected him, Thomas is the de facto leader of our club.

Ergo—Original meaning: therefore or as a result.

Example: He failed the drug test; ergo, he does not qualify to run in the race.

Errata—Original meaning: errors. Now used to indicate a list of errors in a publication or film.

Example: Along with the correct answers, the textbook publishers included a page of errata on their website.

In toto: Original meaning: totally or entirely.

Example: They bought the business in toto.

Magna cum laude—Original meaning: with great praise or honor. Often used in graduation ceremonies to designate those with high grade-point averages.

Example: At our school, those with grade-point averages of 3.8 or higher graduate magna cum laude.

Mirable dictu!—Original meaning: incredible to relate.

Example: I asked my children to clean their rooms and, mirable dictu, they did it!