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 the rise 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
macte virtute sic itur ad astra those who excel, thus reach the stars or "excellence is the way to the stars"; frequent motto; from Virgil's Aeneid IX.641 (English, Dryden)
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 di curant, parva neglegunt The gods care about great matters, but they neglect small ones Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2:167
magna est vis consuetudinis great is the power of habit
Magna Europa est patria nostra Greater Europe is Our Fatherland Political motto of pan-Europeanists
magno cum gaudio with great joy
magnum opus great work Said of someone's masterpiece
magnum vectigal est parsimonia Economy is a great revenue Cicero, Paradoxa 6/3:49. Sometimes translated into English as "thrift (or frugality) is a great revenue (or income)", edited from its original subordinate clause: "O di immortales! non intellegunt homines, quam magnum vectigal sit parsimonia." (English: O immortal gods! Men do not understand what a great revenue is thrift.)
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 mori quam foedari Death rather than dishonour Motto of the inactive 34th Battalion (Australia), the Drimnagh Castle Secondary School
Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem I prefer dangerous liberty to peaceful slavery Attributed to the Count Palatine of Posen before the Polish Diet, cited in The Social Contract 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 prohibited because it is inherently wrong (cf. malum prohibitum); for example, murder.
malum prohibitum wrong due to being prohibited A legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law (cf. malum in se); for example, violating a speed limit.
mandamus we command A judicial remedy ordering a lower court, government entity, or public authority to do something (or refrain from doing something) as required by 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 forte literally translated means 'with a strong hand', often quoted as 'by strength of hand' Motto of the Clan McKay
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 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.
manus nigra black hand
marcet sine adversario virtus valor becomes feeble without an opponent Seneca the Younger, De Providentia 2:4. Also, translated into English as "[their] strength and courage droop without an antagonist" ("Of Providence" (1900) by Seneca, translated by Aubrey Stewart),[2] "without an adversary, prowess shrivels" (Moral Essays (1928) by Seneca, translated by John W, Basore)[3] and "prowess withers without opposition".
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 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 lectionis mother of reading a consonant used to represent a vowel in writing systems that lack separate vowel characters, such as Hebrew and Arabic script. Translation of Hebrew: אֵם קְרִיאָה ʾem kəriʾa.
Mater semper certa est the mother is always certain A Roman law principle that the mother of a child is always known, as opposed to the father who may not be known. This principle had the power of praesumptio iuris et de iure (literally "presumption of law and by law"), meaning that no counter-evidence can be made against this principle.
materia medica medical matter Branch of medical science concerned with the study of drugs used in the treatment of disease. Also, the drugs themselves.
maxima debetur puero reverentia greatest deference is owed to the child from Juvenal's Satires XIV:47
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.
Melius abundare quam deficere Better too much than not enough. Also used in elliptical form as melius abundare.
meliora better things Carrying the connotation of "always better". The motto of the University of Rochester.
Meliorare legem meliorare vitam est To improve the law is to improve life. The motto of the Salem/Roanoke County, Virginia Bar Association.
Meliorem lapsa locavit He has planted one better than the one fallen. The motto of the Belmont County, Ohio, and the motto in the seal of the Northwest Territory
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; medieval Latin based on "memento moriendum esse" in antiquity.[4]
memento vivere remember to live
meminerunt omnia amantes lovers remember all
memores acti prudentes futuri mindful of things done, aware of things to come Thus, both remembering the past and foreseeing the future. From the North Hertfordshire District Council coat of arms.
Memoriae Sacrum (M.S.) Sacred to the

Memory (of ...)

A common first line on 17th-century English church monuments. The Latinized name of the deceased follows, in the genitive case. Alternatively it may be used as a heading, the inscription following being in English, for example: "Memoriae Sacrum. Here lies the body of ..."
mens agitat molem the mind moves the mass From Virgil; motto of several educational institutions
Mens conscia recti a mind aware of what is right Motto of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, CA
mens et manus mind and hand Motto of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York 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". Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal (10.356). Motto of Carlton Football Club.
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".)
miles praesidii libertatis Soldier of the Bastion of Freedom A phrase on the plaque in commemoration of Prof. Benjamin Marius Telders, Academiegebouw Leiden [nl] (Netherlands).
mictus cruentus bloody urine see hematuria
minatur innocentibus qui parcit nocentibus he threatens the innocent who spares the guilty
mirabile dictu wonderful to tell Virgil
mirabile visu wonderful to see A Roman phrase used to describe a wonderful event/happening.
mirum videtur quod sit factum iam diu Does it seem wonderful [merely] because it was done a long time/so long ago? Livius Andronicus, Aiax Mastigophorus.
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.
miseram pacem vel bello bene mutari A bad peace is even worse than war. From Tacitus' Annales, III, 44.
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 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 or way of life 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; part of the coat of arms for the Colombian city of Bucaramanga.
Montis Insignia Calpe Badge of the Mons Calpe (Rock of Gibraltar) A self-referential literal identifier below the emblem
morbus virgineus Disease of the virgins or Virgin's disease Hypochromic anemia, an iron deficiency anemia common in young women[5]
more ferarum like beasts used to describe any sexual act in the manner of beasts
more suo in his/her/its/their usual way
morior invictus I die unvanquished[6] sometimes also translated as "death before defeat"[6]
morituri nolumus mori we who are about to die don't want to From Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero, an effective parody on Morituri te salutamus/salutant
morituri te salutant those who are about to die salute you Used once in Suetonius' De Vita Caesarum 5, (Divus Claudius), chapter 21,[7] 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 mihi lucrum death to me is reward A common epitaph, from St Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 1:21 (Mihi enim vivere Christus est et mori lucrum, translated in the King James Bible as: "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain")
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 (man) 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 written 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.[8] 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 Ascribed to Roman satirist Petronius. Also in Augustine of Hippo's De Civitate Dei contra Paganos (5th century AD), Sebastian Franck's Paradoxa Ducenta Octoginta (1542), and in James Branch Cabell's 1921 novel Figures of Earth.[9][10][11][12]
mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur the world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived Ascribed to Roman satirist Petronius. Also in Augustine of Hippo's De Civitate Dei contra Paganos (5th century AD) as "si mundus vult decipi, decipiatur" ("if the world will be gulled, let it be gulled"), and only the first part, "mundus vult decipi" ("the world wants to be deceived"), in Sebastian Franck's Paradoxa Ducenta Octoginta (1542) and in James Branch Cabell's Figures of Earth (1921).[9][10][11][12]
munit haec et altera vincit this one defends and the other one conquers Motto of Nova Scotia.
mutata lex non perit the law that does not evolve dies Motto of Seneca the Younger
mutatis mutandis after changing what needed to be changed "with the appropriate changes"
mutato nomine de te fabula narratur change but the name, and the story is told of yourself Horace, Satires, I. 1. 69. Preceded by Quid rides? ("Why do you laugh?"; see Quid rides).


  1. ^ Harbottle, Thomas Benfield (1906). Dictionary of Quotations (Classical). The Macmillan Co.
  2. ^ Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (1900). Minor Dialogs: Together with the Dialog On Clemency. Translated by Aubrey Stewart. London: George Bell & Sons. OCLC 811117949.
  3. ^ Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (1928). Moral Essays. Translated by John W. Basore. London, New York: William Heinemann, G. P. Putnam's Sons. OCLC 685728.
  4. ^ Gerald Drews [de] (2012). Latein für Angeber, p. 85. Basserman Verlag. ISBN 9783641083847 (in German)
  5. ^ Helen King (2004). The Disease of Virgins: Green Sickness, Chlorosis, and the Problems of Puberty. Psychology Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9780415226622.
  6. ^ a b "morior invictus".
  7. ^ "Divus Claudius".
  8. ^ Larry D. Benson, ed. The Riverside Chaucer. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. p. 939, n. 3164.
  9. ^ a b Martínez, Javier (2012). Mundus vult decipi. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas. p. 9. ISBN 978-84-7882-738-1.
  10. ^ a b Harbottle, Thomas Benfield (1906). Dictionary of Quotations (Classical). The Macmillan Co.
  11. ^ a b Burton, Robert (1990). Kiessling, Nicolas K.; Faulkner, Thomas C.; Blair, Rhonda L. (eds.). The Anatomy of Melancholy, Part 3, Sect. 4. Memb. 1. Subs. 2.. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. p. 347.
  12. ^ a b Plutarchus, and Theophrastus, on Superstition; with Various Appendices, and a Life of Plutarchus. Kentish Town: Julian Hibbert. 1828. First Appendix, p. 5. Based in part on material by Daniel Albert Wyttenbach.

Additional sources