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 or Ad Calendas Graecas
[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)
At pleasure; according to one's pleasure; freely, unscripted, improvised; extemporaneously.

This is usually shortened to ad lib. [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
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
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/herself during the court case.

ad literam, ad litteram (adverb) (not comparable)
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.
At the place or to the place.

At some place which is indicated.

ad majorem dei gloriam; A.M.D.G.
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 phrase)
Translation: "At hand."
ad modum
Toward the manner of.

After the manner of.

ad multos annos
For many years.
ad oculos
To the eyes.

Before one's eyes.

ad partes dolentes; ad part. dolent
To the painful or aching parts.
ad patres
To the [fore]fathers; to the dead.

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

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

These words are traditionally used to open papal bulls.

ad populum
To the people.

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


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