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List of Latin phrases (M)

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List of Latin phrases (M)

This page lists English translations of notable Latin phrases, such as veni vidi vici and et cetera. Some of the phrases are themselves translations of Greek phrases, as Greek rhetoric and literature reached its peak centuries before that of ancient Rome.

This list covers the letter M. See List of Latin phrases for the main list.


Latin Translation Notes
Macte animo! Generose puer sic itur ad astra Young, cheer up! This is the way to the skies. Motto of Academia da Força Aérea (Air Force Academy) of the Brazilian Air Force
magister dixit the teacher has said it Canonical medieval reference to Aristotle, precluding further discussion
magister meus Christus Christ is my teacher common Catholic edict and motto of a Catholic private school, Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana
Magna Carta Great Charter Set of documents from 1215 between Pope Innocent III, King John of England, and English barons.
magna cum laude with great praise Common Latin honor, above cum laude and below summa cum laude
magna est vis consuetudinis great is the power of habit
Magna Europa est patria nostra Great Europe is Our Fatherland Political motto of pan-Europeanists
magno cum gaudio with great joy
magnum opus great work Said of someone's masterpiece
maior e longinquo reverentia greater reverence from afar When viewed from a distance, everything is beautiful. Tacitus, Annales 1.47
maiora premunt greater things are pressing Used to indicate that it is the moment to address more important, urgent, issues.
mala fide in bad faith Said of an act done with knowledge of its illegality, or with intention to defraud or mislead someone. Opposite of bona fide.
Mala Ipsa Nova Bad News Itself Motto of the inactive 495th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force
mala tempora currunt bad times are upon us Also used ironically, e.g.: New teachers know all tricks used by pupils to copy from classmates? Oh, mala tempora currunt!.
male captus bene detentus wrongly captured, properly detained An illegal arrest will not prejudice the subsequent detention/trial.
malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery attributed to the Count Palatine of Posen before the Diet of Poland, cited in "The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right" by Jean Jacques Rousseau
malum discordiae apple of discord Alludes to the apple of Eris in the Judgement of Paris, the mythological cause of the Trojan War. It is also a pun based on the near-homonymous word malum (evil). The word for "apple" has a long ā vowel in Latin and the word for "evil" a short a vowel, but they are normally written the same.
malum in se wrong in itself A legal term meaning that something is inherently wrong (cf. malum prohibitum).
malum prohibitum wrong due to being prohibited A legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law.
malum quo communius eo peius the more common an evil is, the worse it is
manibus date lilia plenis give lilies with full hands A phrase from Virgil's Aeneid, VI.883, mourning the death of Marcellus, Augustus' nephew. Quoted by Dante as he leaves Virgil in Purgatory, XXX.21, echoed by Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass III, 6.
manu militari with a military hand Using armed forces in order to achieve a goal
manu propria (m.p.) with one's own hand With the implication of "signed by one's hand". Its abbreviated form is sometimes used at the end of typewritten or printed documents or official notices, directly following the name of the person(s) who "signed" the document exactly in those cases where there isn't an actual handwritten signature.
manus celer Dei the swift hand of God Originally used as the name of a ship in the Marathon game series, its usage has spread. In the PlayStation game, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, the phrase was written in blood on the walls of a vampire's feeding room. It is assumed that one of the dying victims wrote it with his fingers. After the game's main character surveys the bloody room, associative logic dictates that the phrase was to deify both the vampire's wrath on shackled, powerless humans and the boundless slaughter of his victims.
manus manum lavat one hand washes the other famous quote from The Pumpkinification of Claudius, ascribed to Seneca the Younger.[1] It implies that one situation helps the other.
manus multae cor unum many hands, one heart Motto of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity.
mare clausum closed sea In law, a sea under the jurisdiction of one nation and closed to all others.
Mare Ditat, Rosa Decorat The sea enriches, the rose adorns Motto of Montrose, Angus and HMS Montrose
mare liberum free sea In law, a sea open to international shipping navigation.
mare nostrum our sea A nickname given to the Mediterranean Sea during the height of the Roman Empire, as it encompassed the entire coastal basin.
Mater Dei Mother of God A name given to describe Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, who is also called the Son of God.
mater familias the mother of the family The female head of a family. See pater familias.
Mater semper certa est The mother is always certain a Roman-law principle which has the power of praesumptio iuris et de iure, meaning that no counter-evidence can be made against this principle (literally: Presumed there is no counter evidence and by the law). Its meaning is that the mother of the child is always known.
materia medica medical matter The branch of medical science concerned with the study of drugs used in the treatment of disease. Also, the drugs themselves.
me vexat pede it annoys me at the foot Less literally, "my foot itches". Refers to a trivial situation or person that is being a bother, possibly in the sense of wishing to kick that thing away or, such as the commonly used expressions, a "pebble in one's shoe" or "nipping at one's heels".
mea culpa through my fault Used in Christian prayers and confession to denote the inherently flawed nature of mankind; can also be extended to mea maxima culpa (through my greatest fault).
mea navis aëricumbens anguillis abundat My hovercraft is full of eels A relatively common recent Latinization inspired by the Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook sketch by Monty Python.
media vita in morte sumus In the midst of our lives we die A well-known sequence, falsely attributed to Notker during the Middle Ages. It was translated by Cranmer and became a part of the burial service in the funeral rites of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
Mediolanum captum est Milan has been captured Used erroneously as Mediolanum Capta Est by the black metal band Mayhem as an album title. Mediolanum was an ancient city in present-day Milan, Italy.
meliora better things Carrying the connotation of "always better". The motto of the University of Rochester.
Melita, domi adsum Honey, I'm home! A relatively common recent Latinization from the joke phrasebook Latin for All Occasions. Grammatically correct, but the phrase would be anachronistic in ancient Rome.
memento mori remember that [you will] die remember your mortality
memento vivere remember to live
meminerunt omnia amantes lovers remember all
memores acti prudentes futuri mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be Thus, both remembering the past and foreseeing the future. From the North Hertfordshire District Council coat of arms.
mens agitat molem the mind moves the mass From Virgil. Motto of Rossall School, the University of Oregon, the University of Warwick and the Eindhoven University of Technology.
mens et manus mind and hand Motto of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
mens rea guilty mind Also "culprit mind". A term used in discussing the mindset of an accused criminal.
mens sana in corpore sano a sound mind in a sound body Or "a sensible mind in a healthy body".
metri causa for the sake of the metre Excusing flaws in poetry "for the sake of the metre"
Miles Gloriosus Glorious Soldier Or "Boastful Soldier". Miles Gloriosus is the title of a play of Plautus. A stock character in comedy, the braggart soldier. (It is said that at Salamanca, there is a wall, on which graduates inscribe their names, where Francisco Franco had a plaque installed reading "Franciscus Francus Miles Gloriosus".)
minatur innocentibus qui parcit nocentibus he threatens the innocent who spares the guilty
mirabile dictu wonderful to tell
mirabile visu wonderful to see A Roman phrase used to describe a wonderful event/happening.
miscerique probat populos et foedera jungi He approves of the mingling of the peoples and their bonds of union Latin Aeneid of Virgil, Book IV, line 112, "he" referring to the great Roman god, who approved of the settlement of Romans in Africa. Old Motto of Trinidad and Tobago, and used in the novel A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul.
misera est servitus ubi jus est aut incognitum aut vagum miserable is that state of slavery in which the law is unknown or uncertain Quoted by Samuel Johnson in his paper for James Boswell on Vicious intromission.
miserabile visu terrible to see A terrible happening or event.
miserere nobis have mercy upon us A phrase within the Gloria in Excelsis Deo and the Agnus Dei, to be used at certain points in Christian religious ceremonies.
Missio Dei the Mission of God A theological phrase in the Christian religion.
missit me Dominus the Lord has sent me A phrase used by Jesus.
mittimus we send A warrant of commitment to prison, or an instruction for a jailer to hold someone in prison.
mobilis in mobili "moving in a moving thing" or, poetically, "changing through the changing medium" The motto of the Nautilus from the Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
modus morons
(Dog Latin)
Dog Latin based on wordplay with modus ponens and modus tollens, referring to the common logical fallacy that if P then Q and not P, then one can conclude not Q (cf. denying the antecedent and contraposition).
modus operandi (M.O.) method of operating Usually used to describe a criminal's methods.
modus ponens method of placing Loosely "method of affirming", a logical rule of inference stating that from propositions if P then Q and P, then one can conclude Q.
modus tollens method of removing Loosely "method of denying", a logical rule of inference stating that from propositions if P then Q and not Q, then one can conclude not P.
modus vivendi method of living An accommodation between disagreeing parties to allow life to go on. A practical compromise.
Monasterium sine libris est sicut civitas sine opibus A monastery without books is like a city without wealth Used in the Umberto Eco novel The Name of the Rose. Part of a much larger phrase: Monasterium sine libris, est sicut civitas sine opibus, castrum sine numeris, coquina sine suppellectili, mensa sine cibis, hortus sine herbis, pratum sine floribus, arbor sine foliis. Translation: A monastery without books is like a city without wealth, a fortress without soldiers, a kitchen without utensils, a table without food, a garden without plants, a meadow without flowers, a tree without leaves.
montani semper liberi mountaineers [are] always free State motto of West Virginia, adopted in 1872.
Montis Insignia Calpe Badge of the Rock of Gibraltar
more ferarum like beasts used to describe any sexual act in the manner of beasts
morior invictus death before defeat
morituri nolumus mori we who are about to die don't want to From Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero
morituri te salutant those who are about to die salute you Used once in Suetonius' De Vita Caesarum 5, (Divus Claudius), chapter 21,[2] by the condemned prisoners manning galleys about to take part in a mock naval battle on Lake Fucinus in AD 52. Popular misconception ascribes it as a gladiator's salute. See also: Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant and Naumachia.
mors certa, hora incerta death is certain, its hour is uncertain
mors omnibus death to all Signifies anger and depression.
mors tua, vita mea your death, my life From medieval Latin, it indicates that battle for survival, where your defeat is necessary for my victory, survival.
mors vincit omnia death conquers all" or "death always wins An axiom often found on headstones.
morte magis metuenda senectus old age should rather be feared than death from Juvenal in his Satires
mortui vivos docent The dead teach the living Used to justify dissections of human cadavers in order to understand the cause of death.
mortuum flagellas you are flogging a dead From Gerhard Gerhards' (1466–1536) [better known as Erasmus] collection of annotated Adagia (1508). Criticising one who will not be affected in any way by the criticism.
mos maiorum the custom of our ancestors an unwritten code of laws and conduct, of the Romans. It institutionalized cultural traditions, societal mores, and general policies, as distinct from specific laws.
motu proprio on his own initiative Or "by his own accord." Identifies a class of papal documents, administrative papal bulls.
mulgere hircum to milk a male goat From Gerhard Gerhards' (1466–1536) [better known as Erasmus] collection of annotated Adagia (1508). Attempting the impossible.
mulier est hominis confusio woman is man's ruin "Part of a comic definition of woman" from the Altercatio Hadriani Augusti et Secundi.[3] Famously quoted by Chauntecleer in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
multa paucis Say much in few words
multis e gentibus vires from many peoples, strength Motto of Saskatchewan
multitudo sapientium sanitas orbis a multitude of the wise is the health of the world From the Vulgate, Wisdom of Solomon 6:24. Motto of the University of Victoria.
multum in parvo much in little Conciseness. The term "mipmap" is formed using the phrase's abbreviation "MIP"; motto of Rutland, a county in central England.
Latin phrases are often multum in parvo, conveying much in few words.
mundus senescit the world grows old
mundus vult decipi the world wants to be deceived From James Branch Cabell's 1921 novel Figures of Earth
mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur the world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived
munit haec et altera vincit this one defends and the other one conquers Motto of Nova Scotia.
mutatis mutandis after changing what needed to be changed "with the appropriate changes"




  • Adeleye, Gabriel G. (1999). World Dictionary of Foreign Expressions. Ed. Thomas J. Sienkewicz and James T. McDonough, Jr. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0865164223.
  • .
  • Stone, Jon R. (1996). Latin for the Illiterati. London & New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415917751.

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