Latin Proverbs, Mottoes, Phrases, and Words: Group A

(classical-language maxims, slogans, adages, proverbs, and words of wisdom that can still capture our modern imagination)

Expressions of general truths: Latin to English maxims, proverbs, and mottoes

Word entries are from Latin unless otherwise indicated.

Ad Kalendas Graecas; Ad Calendas Graecas (Latin)
It shall be done on the Greek Calends, i.e. never!

In the Roman calendar, the Calends meant the first day of the month. Since the Greeks did not have this term, the expression was used by the Romans to designate an event that would never occur.

Discussed in Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars: Augustus, chapter 87, section 1; in which Ad Calendas Graecas was explained to mean that the next day after never. Since the Greeks used no Kalends in their reckoning of time, the phrase was used about anything that could never take place.

Another Latin proverb with the same meaning: Paulo post futurum or "A little after the future."

An old English proverb that is similar says, "When two Sundays meet (come together)."

There is a French equivalent: "L'arrest fera donné es prochaines Calendes Grecques. C'est à dire: iamais." (from Rabelais, Gargantua) "The judgment shall be given out at the next Greek Calends, that is, never."

ad libitum; ad lib (adverb) (Latin)
At pleasure; according to one's pleasure; freely, unscripted, improvised; extemporaneously.

This is usually shortened to ad lib. and can be written with or without a period. Ad lib is used both as a verb and as a noun.

When used in the entertainment world, to ad lib means to improvise, to add an impromptu word or statement to a script. As a noun, an ad lib is an "off-the-cuff", or unprepared, remark.

It is said that there are some politicians who have "carefully planned ad libs".

ad limina apostolorum. (Latin)
To the thresholds of the Apostles; to the highest authority.

This applies to matters appropriate for papal consideration and disposition before the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. It is often abbreviated ad limina and is used in non-church situations to mean that a dispute must be settled by a higher authority.

ad litem (Latin)
For the suit or action.

Used in law as a decision that is taken as valid only for the action being adjudicated and is a reference, for instance, of a guardian appointed to represent someone incapable of acting for himself or herself during a court case.

ad literam, ad litteram (adverb) (not comparable) (Latin)
To the letter; precisely; exactly: Jason instructed his secretary to retype the letter ad litteram or word for word as it was given to her.
ad locum; ad loc. (adverb) (Latin)
At the place or to the place.

At the passage previously indicated or mentioned: Jack referred ad locum in the text that the students were reading to quote an important paragraph.

ad majorem dei gloriam; A.M.D.G. (Latin)
To or for the greater glory of God.

Motto used by the Jesuit order (Society of Jesuits).

Sometimes the full expression is cited as the rationale for actions taken by Christians.

ad manum (Latin)
Translation: "At hand."

The secretary in the law office aways had the documents the lawyers wanted ad manum, or near by.

ad modum (adjective) (not comparable) (Latin)
Toward the manner of.

After the manner of: Mary tried very hard to keep her entries ad modem to the rest of the pages she had already prepared so as to have all of them completed in the same way.

ad multos annos (Latin)
For many years.

When Jane sent her friend a birthday card, she wrote down ad multos annos, meaning "many happy returns"!

ad oculus (Latin)
To the eyes.

Before one's eyes: Grace couldn't believe her daughter's fantastic report card until she confirmed it ad oculus!

ad partes dolentes; ad part. dolent (Latin)
To the painful or aching parts.

After Ginny got her prescription for the medicine she was to take, the enclosed information mentioned that it should relieve ad partes dolentes during the next few days.

ad patres (Latin)
To the forefathers; to the dead.

To the ancestors or to the dead: To go ad patres is to die or to send someone ad patres is to kill that person.

Ad perpetuam rei memoriam. (Latin)
Translation: "For the perpetual remembrance of the thing."

These words are traditionally used to open papal bulls.

ad populum (Latin)
To the people.

Ad populum is intended for the ears of all the people, not just a limited or special few.

The new animal programs on television were meant to be ad populum, for the very young and the very old.


Pointing to a page about a kleptomaniac Units of mottoes and proverbs listed by groups: A to X.