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Famous Latin Phrases

August 17, 2015 Hastings and Hastings

The legal field is riddled with Latin. Exempli gratis, habeus corpes (for example, give us the body). One might ignorantly presume that this is an intentional effort to keep lay people away from the profession so that lawyers can keep their profession sustainable and lucrative. But Latin should not be feared. It has far fewer words to recognize than English and follows a more logical, simple system of syntax and grammar. Below are some famous phrases to get you started.

Vestis virum reddit – Quintilianus, “The clothes make the man.”

This phrase has nothing to do with the controversial website that purports to be the front page of the internet ( Instead, it is practical wisdom that still holds true today and has been affirmed by some of humanity’s most accomplished thinkers: Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and James Joyce. Indeed, every guy knows how differently people react as soon as they adorn themselves in quality garbs, ties, and suits. 

Si vis pacem, para bellum – Vegetius “If you want peace, prepare for the war.”

Romans were a violent empire. They ultimately believed in war. So much so that their word for virtue, virtus, is taken from the stem vir which means man. Their code of honor would not appease modern feminists or far left humanitarians. Manliness was the ultimate measure of a person, and victory in battle the ultimate measure of a country. 

Si vis amari, ama – Seneca “If you wish to be loved, love.”

However, the Romans were much more than a military empire. They produced some of the finest feats in engineering, poetry, and mathematics. This phrase attests to the beauty the romans were able to capture with their language. Indeed, things are now as they were then. The only way to truly know love is to love another. No amount of wealth, military prestige, or intellectual prowess can substitute for the art of love and that is what Seneca is getting at here.