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

(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.

cacoethes carpendi
Compulsive or uncontrollable urge.

A mania for finding fault or an uncontrollable urge to nitpick (trivial, unnecessary, detailed, and often unjustified faultfinding).

This phrase is from cacoëthes carpendi which is derived from kakoethes, a Greek word that combines kakos, "bad", with ethos, "habit"; and which describes any compulsion or uncontrollable urge.

Cacoëthes can be used alone to mean "mania" or "passion", even "disease". With carpendi, a form of carpere, meaning "to pluck", as fruit from a tree, the phrase becomes highly useful in describing the uncontrollable urge to be a nitpicker.

cacoëthes loquendi, cacoethes loquendi (a Latin expression)
Compulsive talking or an uncontrollable desire for excessive talking or making speeches: An example of cacoëthes loquendi is anyone who goes on talking and talking and won't stop; or who talks more and says less.
cacoëthes scribendi, cacoethes scribendi (a Latin expression)
1. An incurable compulsion, desire, or drive, to write: As an author, Karl had a case of cacoethes scribendi or an uncontrollable desire to write regardless of the quality of his compositions.
2. Etymology: the full text is, Tenet insanabile multos scribendi cacoethes.: "The incurable itch for scribbling [or writing] affects many"; as stated by Decimus Junius Juvenalis (Roman satirist), 60-140 A.D.

Actually, Juvenal wrote in his Satires, "An inveterate and incurable itch for writing besets many and grows old in their sick hearts."

Caeca invidia est.
Envy is blind.

Anyone possessed with envy often can not see the good in the accomplishments of others.

caenosus (masculine); caenosa (feminine); caenosum, caenum (neuter)
caenum (s), caeni (pl)
Mud, dirt, filth [always with offensive associations]; disgrace, degradation.
Caesarean [Cesarean] section.
Incision through the abdominal and uterine walls for delivery of a fetus.

Also known as "an abdominal delivery". There are claims that Gaius Julius Caesar was delivered by such an operation, but evidence disputes such a claim. Fact: the first known successful Caesarean section was recorded in Pavia, Italy, April, 1876, from a Julie Covallini. Fact: although the operation was occasionally used in ancient times, the Caesarean section usually resulted in death for both the child and the mother. There were some occasions when the child survived, but the mother inevitably perished.

Caesar's mother, Aurelia, lived to be at least seventy years old and was apparently in good health up until the time of her death. This would suggest that she never had such a deadly operation.

caeteris paribus, ceteris paribus
Other things being equal.

"The company CEO said that caeteris paribus (ceteris paribus), he would appoint a woman to be the new CFO."

From calare, "to call".

The first day of the Roman month. Varro said the term was first used to call the people together on the first day of the month when the pontifex told them of the time of the new moon, the day of the nones, and the festivals and sacred days to be observed. The custom continued until A.U.C. 450 when the fasti or calendar was posted in public places.

Calicem vitae dedisti mihi in mortem.
The cup of life is the cup of death.

Motto of German Emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg (1308-1313).


The Latin or Romance languages often adopted Roman camp slang instead of the correct Latin word. Caput was "head" in Latin, but the Roman legionaries used testa, a round cooking pot, jokingly for "head".

This ancient slang migrated into French as tete and into Italian as testa. The correct Latin word for "head" (caput) survives as capo in Italian and is an American Mafia idiom for "head man" or "chief".

A further change of meaning of the Latin caput occurred in German, in which kaputt now means "wrecked" or "broken". Germanic burial squads in the Middle Ages counted each corpse as a "head", or caput, so the word became an expression, in German, of anything "broken", "wrecked", or "unserviceable".

—Based on information from Native Tongues
by Charles Berlitz, Grosset & Dunlap Publishers,
New York, 1982, Pages 16-17.
Caput gerat lupinum.
Let his be a wolf's head; let him wear the wolf's head.

Also interpreted as, "Treat him as you would a wild beast."

In Old English law, a person who was declared an outlaw (caput lupinum) could legally be hunted down and killed by anyone who might find him. This meant that a man could be hunted down as if he were a wolf or wild animal.

Caput inter nubila condit. (Latin statement)
Translation: "She hides her head among the clouds."

Who is she that hides her head in the clouds? The line is from Virgil, who had the personified Fame in mind as the subject of the verb condit. For most people, fame never emerges from behind the clouds; instead, most people labor in obscurity, waiting for their few minutes of fame that never comes.

caput lupinum
A wolf's head.

In Old English law, the sign of an outlaw or criminal.

Caput mortuum.
Dead head; death's head or a skull.
Human skull.

This was a term, or name, alchemists gave to worthless material that remained after their experiments; such as, residuum left after chemical analysis; worthless residue in a flask after the distillation was complete; by extension, "a worthless or useless person".

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