Bringing out a good Latin phrase in a discussion is like brining a gun to a knife fight. It gets iStock_000001048001Smallpeople’s attention. But if you are quoting Lucretius at the start of every meeting “nil igitur mors est ad nos” (Death, therefore, is nothing to us) you will sound like an absolute tool. Even if you are already using a few of these, chances are that you are using some wrong in the first place. Therefore, learn these phrases and use them effectively – and in the right context – to reinforce your ideas, amaze your friends, and verbally stun your detractors.

1. Ad Hominem

To the man or At the man. The process of criticizing the person, instead of their ideas in a debate, in an attempt win the argument. ”Why should we listen to the ideas of someone who didn’t graduate from the Ivy League?” is an example of an ad hominem attack. The idea being that weakening the perception of the person weakens the argument. As a business leader, be prepared to recognize and call this out ”There is no reason for the ad hominem attack here. Not all good ideas only come from the Ivy League.”

2. Bona Fide

In good faith. Reference to the sincere, honest, intentions of a person, as in “They made a bona fide attempt to address the situation.” Adding an -s does not make it plural, but changes the meaning to Bona Fides, which are credentials attesting to identity.

3. Caveat Emptor / Venditor / Actor (Buyer, Seller, Doer)

Let the (buyer, seller, doer) beware. Typically used to denote who has the burden of research and that there may be no expressed warranty, like in real estate transactions, but can we used to help draw awareness to risk for business leaders. “I think it is a great idea to buy from that company that has only been in business this week, but caveat emptor.”

4. Eo Ipso (similar to ‘Ipso Facto’)

By this act (or fact). It is about consequence. ”If a married person marries second person, the second marriage is void ipso facto.” Can be used as a substitution for therefore.

5. Exempli Gratia (e.g.) vs. Id Est (i.e)

For example vs. that is/which means/in this case. Use e.g when you have a series of examples to prove the point. Use i.e when you want to state that same point in other words. I love reading blogs (e.g. Forbes and Huffington), but my sons (i.e. Holden and Beckett) just like cartoons. I read many blogs by example, but I only have two sons in this case.

6. Ibidem (ibid.)

In the same place. This is typically used as a citation to refer to the last source referenced. Instead of naming the source again, just say or note ibid.

7. In Camera

In secret. Any meeting or aspect of a meeting held private and/or not divulged in the meeting minutes. While usually referred to in court cases, in cameraboard meetings may be part/all of a board meeting that discusses personnel, financials, or private matters that are not for public consumption.

8. Lorem Ipsum

Sorrow itself. A fragment from Cicero, it is usually used as typographer filler for nonsensical text to show fonts. Geek out your friends with this dead language trivia.

9. Ne Plus Ultra

Nothing more beyond. This is the best or apex of what something can be. Nothing can be better. It is THE bold statement when you want to be bold. ”This is the ne plus ultra blog about Latin phrases for business leaders.” So there!

10. Pari Passu

With equal step. Together. If something is done equally, and without preference, it is done pari passu. Usually used in legal proceedings or for distribution of an inheritance, it can be used denote situations where you need work or bonuses divided equally amongst the team.

11. Per Se

Through itself. You probably know and use this one a lot. It also means “as such,” or “one would expect from the name.” Think “fundamentally” or “innately.”

12. Post Hoc, Ergo Procter Hoc

After this, therefore because of this. A logical fallacy where you inaccurately assume that because something happened first, it caused the second. This is a great one to memorize and bring out when you see your teams attribute causation because something happened first. “After we started tweeting ‘have a good weekend’ every Friday, we saw a spike in our revenues. Wishing people a good weekend, therefore, drives revenue.” Uhm . . .I am gonna say . . . no!

13. Potest Solum Unum

There can be only one. Break this out in front of a Highlander fan, and watch the geekfest occur. (You have to say it in a breathy Scottish accent)

14. Pro Rata

For the rate. Proportionally. Some proportion that can be exactly calculated. Can be used for subscription models where you will only charge for the percentage of time used. ”We will charge a pro rata amount for their 23 days of use this month.”

15. Quod Erat Demonstrandum (Q.E.D.)

What was to be demonstrated. Noting or saying Q.E.D. at the end of an argument is a way of saying “the conclusions is exactly as I had predicted or set out to prove.” It is a big exclamation point to saying you have proved your argument, Latin style.

16. Sanctum Sanctorum

Holy of Holies. The most sacred sealed place. While this has its origins as the Tabernacle of Ancient Israel, the modern usage can be used to mean “there are secrets . . . and then there are secrets. This should be considered sanctum sanctorum. Make sure you never speak of this to anyone – – ever. It is a clever way of saying “super secret and secure.”

17. Sine Qua Non

Without which not. It refers to a key critical ingredient or aspect of a larger whole. Without this piece, the whole is nothing. “Patience is sine qua non for this role.”

18. Stet

Let is stand. A shorthand way for editors to let writers and typesetter know to disregard prior changes or alterations. Disregard prior notations. Frequently used to edit and review documents.

19. Sub Rosa

Under the rose. Means “private or secret”. From the Middle Ages (and with roots in Greek Mythology) where a rose was suspended from the ceiling and what was said under the rose was secret. It is a way to denote that the conversation is private and confidential. Assume Las Vegas has one big rose hanging over it.

20. Vox Pop

Vox Populi. Voice of the People. Often thought of as a Man On The Street (M.O.T.S) interview. It is a way to get a spontaneous viewpoint from an unrehearsed interview of a person in a public place. ”The voice of the people is the voice of God.” However, if you watch late night talk shows, these vox pop interviews rarely show the divinity of the common person.


In scientia opportunitas! I hope you agree.

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