Idioms: the Key to Understanding Latin Better

Similar to English, Latin has many idioms. One example of an English idiom is “going the extra mile.” Latin idioms can be found in most classical texts. While some may have gotten lost in translation, many remain and help the reader to understand the Latin text better. An example is the phrase “Hercle quī.” This is translated as “by Hercules.” However, this expression can also be translated as “edepol quī”   or “pol quī”, both meaning “by Pollux.” The Romans used it to mean “at any rate” or “in some way.” The use of “pol quī” can be seen in Plautus’ play, Amphitruo or Amphitryon. Amphitruo says, “at pol qui certa res hanc est obiurgare.” This translates to “at any rate, it’s a sure thing I will condemn her.” Another example is “operae pretium est”, which means “it is the price of work.” The more practical translation is “it is worth it.” Livy uses this phrase in the opening line of History of Rome: “facturusne operae pretium sim.” This translation uses part of the previous Latin idiom and means “whether it’s worth it.” Finding idioms in Latin allows you to deeply immerse yourself in the Latin language. Although it may be easy to just memorize vocabulary, learning the intricacies of Latin, such as idioms, improves your reading and writing skills, developing important skills for the rest of your life.


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