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Learning Latin Terms

September 1, 2015 Hastings and Hastings

The legal and medical professions extensively use terms derived from Latin. These obscure and foreign terms may seem incomprehensible, but there’s no need to be intimidated by a statement like argumentum ad hominen(argument against the man), or a phrase like habeus corpus (give us the body). A brief glance at legal Latin ought to assure one that this esoteric lingo is completely penetrable.

Dramtis Persona (the person of the drama)

This term appears in almost every major screen play, playbill, or theater review. Literally it means the persons of the drama, but it essentially means all the cast of characters associated with a play, a film or a situation. A brief glimpse of the dramtis persona in Hamlet is as follows: Hamlet, Polonius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Claudius. As a side note, the animated film The Lion King is based off Hamlet. It is the story of an heir to the throne whose father is murdered by his brother. The rightful heir must struggle with his own will to avenge his father by killing his brother and reclaiming the throne of his father.

Ecce Signum (behold the sign)

This phrase was uttered in ancient Rome after a plaintiff revealed a key piece of evidence and clinched his case. For instance, a plaintiff might present a murder weapon to the jury with the accused initials on it. Following the presentation of the object he would say, ecce signum!for dramatic effect.

Exempli Gratia (for the sake of example)

This phrase is commonly abbreviated by e.g. It can be used in the place of a premise indicator such as for example, for instance or in fact. The sister of this commonly used phrase and abbreviation is id est or i.e. which means “that is.”