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

(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.

Macte virtute!
Be increased in merit!

This phrase gives us a Latin equivalent for "bravo" or "hooray". Like its English counterparts, it commends and encourages.

Magna est vis consuetudinis. (Latin term)
Translation: "Great is the force of habit."
magnum cum laude
With great praise or distinction.

Used especially on a diploma to designate a grade of work higher than cum laude, but lower than summa cum laude.

Magnus opus, nulli secundus, optimus cognito, ergo sum! (from Latin)

A Masterpiece, second to none, The best; Therefore, I am!

The grammatical structure is not correct: Magnus should be Magnum, secundus should be secundum and optimus should be optimum.

This was a hand-lettered sign in George E. Ohr's pottery shop (BILOLXI ART POTTERY) in Biloxi, Mississippi (1895-1905).

Ohr made pottery that featured rims that had been crumpled like the edges of a burlap bag and pitchers that seemed deliberately twisted and vases warped as if melted in the kiln.

The colors of his works exploded with color; vivid reds juxtaposed with gunmetal grays, olive greens splattered across bright oranges, and royal blues mottled on mustard yellows and he created fantastic shapes glazed with wild colors in his "Pot-Ohr-E".

Ohr once said, "I am the apostle of individuality, the brother of the human race, but I must be myself and I want every vase of mine to be itself."

In 1909, claiming he hadn't sold even one of his mud babies in more than 25 years, Ohr closed his shop.

Although he was just 52, he never threw another pot. When he inherited a comfortable sum after his parents died, he devoted the rest of his life to enhancing his reputation as a "looney".

Still confident that the time would come when his work would be recognized, Ohr died of throat cancer at the age of 60 in 1918. Now, the same pots scorned a century ago sell from $20,000 to $60,000 each. Today, Ohr is hailed as a "clay prophet" and "the Picasso of art pottery."

—Compiled from excerpts in "The Mad potter of Biloxi"
by Bruce Watson in the Smithsonian; February, 2004; pages 88-94.
Mala ultro adsunt. (Latin motto)
Translation: "Misfortune comes uninvited."

Motto of German Emperor Sigmund of Luxembourg (1410-1437).

mali exempli (Latin statement)
Translation: "Of bad example; of bad precedent."

Smoking while standing under a NO SMOKING sign, is a mali exempli behavior!

malis avibus (Latin motto)
Translation: "Bad birds."

"With unlucky birds; a reference to bad auspices (prophecies for the future)."

Mandamus. (Latin word)
Translation: "We command."

A higher court's writ conveying orders to a lower court. Any court order issued to enforce performance of a public duty.

mantic (Greek)
Of or relating to divination.

From Greek mantikos, from mantis, "prophet", from mainesthai, "to rage".

mare clausum (s) (noun), mare clausa (pl)
A Latin expression indicating that a navigable body of water, such as a sea, is under the jurisdiction of one nation and closed to all others: In the book that James was reading, the ocean was a mare clausum. and to be used only by the king's country, and was not passable by any other kingdom.
mare liberum
A free sea.

A sea that is open or accessible to the navigation of all nations.

margaritas ante porcos
Pearls before swine.

[Don't throw] pearls before swine. Based on the verse found in the Bible; Matthew 7:6 in which it is written: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" [tear you into pieces].

A caution against offering the uncultured anything of quality; or, a caution against presenting anything to those who have no appreciation for the value of the product that has been created.

Latin, [margo] border + Greek [alia] species.

Notes written on the border of a page by the reader (or editor). Marginalia left by a reader of distinction are often valuable; Charles Lamb, for example, valued highly the comments scribbled in the books which he had lent to Coleridge.

Maximum remedium est irae mora.
Translation: "The best remedy for anger is delay." -Seneca
mea culpa (s) (noun)
1. My fault; a personal acknowledgment that something is one's fault or that he or she is guilty of doing something: "When the writer misspelled the word mottoes as mottos in his printed article, he wrote, 'mea culpa' to his readers the next day."
2. Etymology: Latin, literally, "I am to blame", a phrase from the prayer of confession in the Latin liturgy; mea, "my, mine" and culpa, "fault".

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