Latin Phrases in English

Many Latin phrases are still used in English, though generally more in written English than in spoken English. This page lists some of the more common phrases from Latin, with meanings, comments and contextual examples. Although you may not need to use Latin phrases yourself, it's useful to recognise them when you come across them.

Latin phrase meaning example or comment
ad hoc formed or done for a particular purpose only An ad hoc committee was set up to oversee the matter.
ad nauseam repeating or continuing to the point of boredom The apparent risks of secondary smoking have been debated ad nauseam.
bona fide genuine; real Only bona fide members of the club may use the clubhouse.
caveat emptor let the buyer beware The principle that the buyer is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.
circa; c. around; approximately The house was built circa 1870.
coitus interruptus interrupted congress; aborting sexual intercourse prior to ejaculation Coitus interruptus is the only form of birth control that some religions allow.
compos mentis in control of the mind (often used ironically) Please call me back later when I'm compos mentis.
de facto in fact; in reality Although the Emperor was the head of state, the de facto ruler of Japan was the Shogun.
ergo therefore cogito ergo sum
erratum error; mistake Lists of errors from a previous publication are often marked "errata" (the plural, meaning errors).
et cetera; etc and the rest; and so on; and more We urgently need to buy medical equipment, drugs et cetera.
ex gratia from kindness or grace (without recognizing any liability or legal obligation) They received an undisclosed ex gratia payment.
ex libris from the books; from the library In the front of a book: Ex Libris John Brown
habeas corpus a court order instructing that a person under arrest be brought before a judge The right of habeas corpus has long been regarded as an important safeguard of individual liberty.
in loco parentis in the place of a parent Teachers sometimes have to act in loco parentis.
in situ in its original place The paintings have been taken to the museum but the statues have been left in situ.
in vitro (in biology) taking place outside a living organism (for example in a test tube) in vitro fertilization
inter alia among other things The report covers, inter alia, computers, telecommunications and air travel.
per for each This petrol station charges $5.00 per gallon.
per annum; p.a. for each year The population is increasing by about 2% per annum.
per capita for each person The country's annual income is $5000 per capita.
per se in itself/themselves; intrinsically These facts per se are not important.
post-mortem examination of a body after death; autopsy The post-mortem revealed that she had been murdered.
pro rata proportional; proportionally The car rental charge is $50 per day and then pro rata for part of a day.
quid pro quo favour or advantage given or expected in return for something Similar to "tit for tat", "give and take" and "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."
re about; concerning; regarding Re: Unpaid Invoice

I spoke to the manager re your salary increase.
sine qua non essential condition; thing that is absolutely necessary; "without which not" Words are a sine qua non of spoken language.
status quo existing state of affairs Monarchies naturally wish to maintain the status quo.
terra firma dry land; the ground as opposed to the air or sea Shackleton and his men set foot on terra firma after three weeks at sea.
verbatim in exactly the same words I had to memorize the text verbatim.
versus; vs.; v. against What are the benefits of organic versus inorganic foods?

In the case of Bush versus Gore, the judges decided...
vice versa the other way round My telephone serves me, and not vice versa.
persona non grata unacceptable or unwelcome person From now on, you may consider yourself persona non grata in this house.