Common

pro

meaning: an argument for an idea; a reason why this is a good idea


1. One of the pros to this plan is that we’ll never have to work again.
ultra

meaning: ‘extreme’ (used with an adjective).

1. He always asks ultra-stupid questions.

2. This is an ultra-violent movie.
con

meaning: an argument against an idea; a reason why this is a bad idea

1. One of the pros to this idea is that we will never have to work again. However, there are many cons, such as being poor.
status quo

meaning: the current state of affairs; how things are

1. If you aren’t happy with the status quo, then do something. As Gandhi said: ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

2. The government wants to maintain the status quo. They worry about a revolution.
p.s.

meaning: ‘post scriptum’; postscript (used at the end of letters to add further information)

1. (at the end of a letter)
Hope to see you soon,
Love Mum and Dad
p.s. Uncle Dave also says hi.
per

meaning: by, through

1. The company makes $100m per annum.

2. He smokes 50 cigarettes per day. His breath smells like an ashtray.
a.m.

meaning: ‘ante meridiem’; before noon

1. He woke up at 5am. It was cold, dark, and horrible.
etcetera (etc.)

meaning: ‘and the rest’

1. I like cakes, chocolate, sweets, toffee, etc..
p.m.

meaning: post meridiem’; after noon

1. She woke up at 5pm. She is really lazy.

interim

meaning: in the meantime

1. Mr Smith will be away for a while, so I am not the interim manager.

2. The interim manager was useless: they lost $400m in a month.
vice versa

meaning: with the order reversed; also true the other way round

1. The students hate the teacher, and vice versa.

2. She loves him, and vice versa.
circa (c.)

meaning: around (used for dates of things that are very old and the exact time isn’t known)

1. Nobody knows exactly when he was born, but it was probably c.100BC.

2. This painting was painted in c.550BC. Amazing!
via

meaning: by, through; a place a journey will go through

1. I’ll be coming to your house via the shop. Want anything?

2. We’ll be traveling to Helsinki via Moscow.
census

meaning: a count of the population

1. Every ten years the UK conducts a census to see how many people live in the country.

2. The 2011 census said the population had grown by 1000%.
veto

meaning: ‘I forbid’; using over-ruling power to stop a proposal, plan or idea

1. The permanent members of the council have the power to veto plans they don’t like. It is why nothing ever happens, because they are all being selfish towards their own interests.

2. The boss vetoed my idea. I think he is still angry with me because I kissed his sister.

Widely known

rigor mortis

meaning: the stiffness that comes to a dead body

1. On television forensics shows the characters often talk about rigor mortis setting in.

2. Rigor mortis sets in 3 hours after death, and lasts for around 3 days.
alter ego

meaning: other self; a secret alternative version of you

1. Dr Jekyll’s alter ego was Mr Hyde. Superman’s was Clark Kent. Mine is Mr Duck.

2. At work he is completely different. It is as if one Mr Smith lives at home, and then his alter ego goes to the office.
quid pro quo

meaning: something for something; a favour for a favour; helping, but wanting something in return.

1. He is still offering to help, but is demanding quid pro quo.

2. In the movie Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter helps Agent Starling catch the killer ‘Buffalo Bill’, but on a quid pro quo basis.
alma mater

meaning: one’s old school (usually one’s old university)

1. Harvard, my alma mater, is often seen as one of the best places to gain an education.

2. My alma mater is always asking me for money.
pro bono

meaning: work done for the public good, not for money

1. He does a lot of pro bono work. What a nice man he is.
ad nauseum

meaning: to a sickening extent; to do something until you, or everyone else, is sick of it

1. He has been telling people ad nauseum how pretty his new girlfriend is.
modus operandi (m.o.)

meaning: mode of operating / working. A style of doing things that is your personality

1. They caught the criminal by studying his m.o.
ad infinitum

meaning: to infinity’; never-ending

1. This class will go on ad infinitum.

2. You can count ad infinitum.

3. Time will continue ad infinitum.
magnum opus

meaning: a great piece of work; the best piece of work in a person’s life (usually used when talking about the arts)

1. After ten years I have finally finished my magnum opus.

2. Victor Hugo wrote many great works, but many say that ‘Les Miserables’ was his magnum opus.
ad hoc

meaning: for this one particular purpose; for an immediate need

1. The lawyers have joined this case on an ad hoc basis.
in absentia

meaning: in one’s absence

1. There was a general election, but the soldiers had to be overseas, so they voted in absentia.

2. He couldn’t come to the ceremony due to being in prison, so the prize was awarded in absentia.
a cappella

meaning: singing without music

1. They did a great a cappella version of ‘Unchained Melody’.

2. I’m afraid the electricity is out, meaning the keyboard won’t work. Sorry, but you’re going to have to sing this a cappella.
de facto

meaning: in fact; the actual; although officially x, in reality y

1. She is the de facto boss around here, since the manager is just the owner’s son.

2. His title is Chancellor, but he is de facto President.
Et tu, Brute?

meaning: ‘And you, Brutus?’. An exclamation when a trusted friend joins the people against you

1. “At least you still support me.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I agree with the staff. You should resign.”
Et tu, Brute? Fine, I will go.”
carpe diem

meaning: ‘seize the day’; take advantage of every day you are alive

1. It’s a big audition tonight. If we get this we might all be millionaires, so let’s go out and carpe diem.

2. My secret to life? Carpe diem. Enjoy every day, and live it like it is your last.

Advanced

vox populi

meaning: the voice of the people’; popular opinion

1. The vox populi says: stop the war.
mea culpa

meaning: ‘my fault’; admitting a mistake

1. The teacher offered the teacher a mea culpa: he had taught the students the wrong meaning.
terra firma

meaning: solid ground; the Earth beneath our feet.

1. After the 12 hour flight it was good to be back on terra firma.
in memoriam

meaning: in memory of someone who died

1. This poem is written in memoriam of my grandfather, who passed away last year.

2. In Memoriam: Mr. X.
semper fidelis

meaning: “always faithful”

1. The grave stone read: ‘Cujo: semper fidelis‘.

2. The official motto of the US Marines is ‘semper fidelis‘.
a priori

meaning: known through logic, without experience. Usually used with the word ‘knowledge’

1. Examples of a priori knowledge are that 2+2=4, and that all the chickens in the whole world are birds.
prima facie

meaning: at first sight (before a closer look); obvious ( usually evidence)

1. The prima facie evidence says that he killed her, but we should look for more details just to be sure.
annus horribilis

meaning: a horrible year

1. 2013 was my annus horribilis: dumped, broke, and unemployed, the feeling was the worst of my life.

2. This year has been an annus horribilis for this team: lost every game; the best players have been sold or quit; attendances are down. Hopefully things will improve next year.
tempus fugit

meaning: ‘time flies’ (exclamation)

1. “It seems like yesterday that we were students. How long has it been?”
“23 years.”
Tempus fugit.”
annus mirabilis

meaning: a miracle year (either great or disasterous)

1. 2002 was my annus mirabilis: love, money, success…2003, on the other hand, was very different.