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Latin Words and Phrases Everyone Should Know (part 1 of 2)

July 7, 2015 Hastings and Hastings

The professional fields—legal, medical, and academia—are notorious for obscuring knowledge and understanding with Latin and Greek. This is no doubt intentional. Just as in the Middle Ages, organizations like the tailor guild, intentionally hid their trade secrets from the world, so it is the same in the professional fields of today, and the legal field is far from an exception. Using Latin and Greek is a way to impress lay people and keep others out of the profession. But one should not fear these words and phrases. After all, English is a descendent of Latin. Indeed, Latin is English’s’ great and Greek is its long lost Grandmother. Below are some of the most useful, interesting, and downright awesome Latin and Greek words and phrases.

εὐδαιμονία (eudemonia): Happiness

The word eudemonia is formed by combining the word “eu” (good) with “daimon” (spirit), so the word happiness in Greek literally means “good spirit.” Happiness is the central focus of Aristotle’s—(Alexander the Greats’ tutor)— magnum opus, Nichomachean ethics, which was transcribed from Aristotle’s lectures by his son, Nichomachean.

A priori: from what comes before

This word has several uses, including important applications to the legal field. It’s most common use, however, is in the realm of philosophy where it describes reasoning from the cause to understand an effect. Indeed, A priori reasoning is the foundation of rational deduction and modern science.

Alma mater: nourishing mother

This is a term every college graduate is familiar. When someone asks you what your alma mater is, they are essentially asking what school you matriculated from (notice the overlap).

Amor Vincit Omni: Love conquers all

Studying Latin and skills with the opposite sex seldom go hand in hand. Amor Vincit Omni, a phrase coined by the great Latin poet Horace, is one of the few exceptions.