The Latin language survives both in how English words are built, and in some words and phrases.

Most common

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

– examples

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.

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

– examples

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

‘post scriptum’; postscript. Used at the end of letters to add further information

– examples

(at the end of a letter)

Hope to see you soon,
Love Mum and Dad

p.s. Uncle Dave also says hi

‘post meridiem’; after noon

– examples

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

‘ante meridiem’; before noon

– examples

He woke up at 5am. It was cold, dark, and horrible.

vice versa
with the order reversed; also true the other way round

– examples

The students hate the teacher, and vice versa.

She loves him, and vice versa.

by, through. Often used to describe a place through which a journey will go

– examples

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

We’ll be traveling to Helsinki via Moscow.

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

– examples

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.

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

‘extreme’. Usually used as a prefix / modifier for another adjective.

– examples

He always asks ultra-stupid questions.

This is an ultra-violent movie.

status quo
the current state of affairs; how things are

– examples

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’.

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

by, through

– examples

The company makes $100m per annum.

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

etcetera (etc.)
‘and the rest’

– examples

I like cakes, chocolate, sweets, toffee, etc.

in the meantime

– examples

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

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

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

– examples

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

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

a count of the population

– examples

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

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

Widely known by native speakers

rigor mortis
the stiffness that comes to a dead body

– examples

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

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

quid pro quo
something for something; a favour for a favour; helping, but wanting something in return.

– examples

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

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

pro bono
work done for the public good, not for money

– examples:

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

modus operandi
mode of operating / working. A style of habits or doing something that is yours

– examples

They caught the criminal by studying his m.o.

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

– examples

After ten years I have finally finished my magnum opus.

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

in absentia
in one’s absence

– examples

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

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

de facto
in fact; actually

– examples

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

His title is Prime Minister, but he is de facto President.

carpe diem
‘seize the day’ / ‘enjoy the day’

– examples

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

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

alter ego
other self

– examples

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

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.

alma mater
one’s old school (often used when talking about one’s old university)

– examples

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

My alma mater is always asking me for money.

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

– examples

He has been telling people as nauseum how pretty his new girlfriend is.

ad infinitum
‘to infinity’; never-ending

– examples

This class will go on ad infinitum.

You can count ad infinitum.

Time will continue ad infinitum.

ad hoc
1. used for only this
2. something made up on the spot

– examples

the lawyers have joined this case on an ad hoc basis.

London is too big a city to do everything ad hoc.

a cappella
singing without music

– examples

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

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.

Advanced English

vox populi
the voice of the people’; popular opinion

– examples

The vox populi says: stop the war.

terra firma
solid ground; the Earth beneath our feet.

– examples

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

semper fidelis
“always faithful”. It is the motto of the US Marines, and often used in memoriam of family or pets (particularly dogs)


semper fidelis is more than a motto: it is a way of life.

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

prima facie
at first sight (before a closer look); obvious (often used with the word ‘evidence’)

– examples

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

tempus fugit
‘time flies’. Used as an exclamation, rather than in a sentence.

– examples

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

mea culpa
‘my fault’; admitting a mistake

– examples

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

in memoriam
in memory of

– examples

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

In Memoriam: Mr. X.

Et tu, Brute?
‘And you, Brutus?’. Said when the last person you trust also goes against you.

– examples

“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.”

a priori
known through logic, without experience. Usually used with the word ‘knowledge’

– examples

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

annus horribilis
a horrible year

– examples

2003 was my annus horribilis: dumped, broke, and unemployed, the feeling was the worst of my life.

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.

annus mirabilis
a miracle year (either great or disasterous)

– examples

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