Common Latin Words Used in English

The Colosseum
The Colosseum in Rome, CC image by Sean MacEntee

Although English is a Germanic language, it has adopted and adapted many Latin words. Some words and phrases sound Latin to native speakers (like id est and quid pro quo), while others (like affidavit and agenda) are less obviously borrowed from Latin.

Ad hocfor this
describes something formed for a particular and immediate purpose

  • The students made an ad hoc study group for the upcoming test.
  • In light of the scandal, the town held an ad hoc re-election.

Affidavithe has sworn an oath
a written sworn statement

  • The lawyer asked me to sign an affidavit that the burglar had a female accomplice.
  • According to the affidavit, the driver was on the phone when he ran the red light.

Agenda[things] to be done
a schedule, list of topics, or a purpose

  • I heard we’re having an impromptu meeting; what’s on the agenda?
  • When my co-worker offered to do some of my work, I suspected he had a hidden agenda.

Ante meridiem (a.m.)before midday
before noon, from midnight (a.m.) to noon (p.m.)

  • The store doesn’t open until 10 a.m.
  • She stayed up late studying and didn’t get to bed until 3 a.m.

Et cetera (etc.)and the rest
and the other things

  • The dog loves chasing small animals (cats, squirrels, birds, etc.).
  • The museum’s collection of string instruments (violins, cellos, etc.) is the largest in the world.

Exempli gratia (e.g.)for the sake of example
for example

  • There are many varieties of apples, e.g., golden delicious, fuji, and roxbury russet.
  • He studies in coffee shops (e.g., Starbucks) more often than in the library.

Id est (i.e.)that is
that is to say, in other words

  • She wants to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, i.e., a heart doctor.
  • The child had a fit (i.e., she whined and stomped her feet) when her brother changed the TV channel.

Persona non grataperson not welcome
someone who is unwelcome, unacceptable, or shunned

  • He became persona non grata after his crime was revealed.
  • She is a bully and persona non grata among her classmates.

Post meridiem (p.m.)after midday
after noon, from noon (p.m.) to midnight (a.m.)

  • The movie starts at 3:40 p.m. but get there early to avoid a line.
  • Noon is 12 p.m. and midnight is 12 a.m.

Quid pro quowhat for what
to do or give something in exchange for something else

  • If you help me study for my Latin test, I’ll help you with your English homework quid pro quo.
  • She cooked her neighbor’s favorite meal as quid pro quo for painting her house.