10 Latin Phrases That Will Give You Life


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(*10*)1. Dum spiro spero

I don’t remember where I read this one, but it has become part of the way I live my life. It means “While I breathe, I hope.” To me, this translates into never losing hope and faith for a better future. Never lose the drive to achieve your goals.

(*10*)2. Docendo discimus

When I find something interesting, I make notes and tell others about it. When I tell a friend about a topic I’ve read about, I discover whether I’ve understood it entirely. I discover whether I’m passionate enough about that topic that I can speak about it in my own words and not fail to teach someone else about it. Docendo discimus means “By teaching, we learn.”

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(*10*)3. Veni vidi vici

I’m sure you’ve heard of this one before: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” It originates from a letter that Julius Caesar wrote after his victory in the war against Pharnaces II of Pontus. This is how it applies to my life. When I set a goal, everything I do is to reach it. I set a goal and work hard to achieve it.

(*10*)4. Et cetera

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I’m not sure if this is worthy of being on this list… It means “and other things.” To be honest, I just wanted to mention it so I can tell you all that pronounce this as “exetera”, it’s wrong. You’re pronouncing it wrong. It’s pronounced (phonetically) as “et setera”, “et ketera”, or as “et chetera” with the “ch” as in “Charlie”. I’m fun at dinner parties. Okay, we’re moving on.

(*10*)5. Natura nihil frustra facit

When you look outside, you see the sun shining which enables us to see when we’re outside, you see trees invisibly producing oxygen so we can continue to exist. Natura nihil frustra facit: “Nature does nothing in vain.” It means that – and this is going to sound cliché – everything happens for a reason. Everything happens because of necessity. This reminds me of the fact that I must enjoy life and do as much as I can, but I also need to make sure that each task I take on has some meaning. Which brings us to the next one…

(*10*)6. Quam bene vivas refert non quam diu

“It is how well you live that matters, not how long.” Most of us are somewhat afraid of the inevitable that is part of being human: death. However, that fear is probably not associated with actually dying, but more with how you’ve lived your life. Do you have all the goals and dreams that you had before it was too late to realize them? Are you married? Have you had children? Are you able to travel around the world? Death is inevitable and something you can’t control, but the choices you make during life are absolutely all up to you. It’s not about the number of years that you lived, but about the years spent truly living. Those are the years that matter. Speaking about the number of years that count…

(*10*)7. Eheu fugaces labuntur anni

“Alas, the fleeting years slip by.” This one reminds me to not waste time. Don’t waste time overthinking things. Don’t waste time stressing over things you can’t control. Don’t waste time overanalyzing every single thing that happened during your day and has already passed. Let go of the past and embrace the present. (It’s easier said than done, but we can try.)

(*10*)8. Beati pauperes spiritu

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I recently read the book Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, and my favorite passage is the following: “And if there is one thing more that I must say to you, it is this: Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life is full of sadness and difficulty, and it’s far from yours. Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words.” It reminds me that no matter how happy everyone around me seems to be, every single one is battling his own war in his head. “Beati pauperes spiritu” is actually from the Bible and it means “Blessed in spirit [are] the poor.” The kindest people I’ve met in my life didn’t have many material possessions, but they had a lot of love, kindness, and compassion to give.

(*10*)9. Marcet sine adversario virtus

To be honest, all I know about this one is that it belongs to Seneca and that it means “Valor becomes feeble without an opponent.” I don’t know the context of it in the essay that’s written by Seneca, but to me it means that you constantly need to challenge yourself to keep your life exciting. I can easily interpret “valor becomes feeble without an opponent” to “passion fades away without a challenge.”

(*10*)10. Temet nosce

“Know thyself.” This has two meanings to me. First, even though the majority of the people perceives something as the truth, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is indeed the truth or the right thing to do. Keep your core beliefs true and make the right decision. Second, don’t let others define you. True friends will love you for who you are and not what they think you should be.

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