Some people still think of Latin as being primus inter pares, as languages go. The problem is that, like jargon, its bad effects (alienating those who don’t understand it) outweigh the good (giving those who do understand it a fleeting warm glow). It is also frighteningly easy to get wrong – is first “primus” or “prima”? is among “inter” or “intra”? are equals “pares” or “pari”? And the price of getting it wrong is to alienate those who do understand it as well as those who don’t. If you have to use a Latin phrase – because it has a legal meaning, for example – always give the English in brackets afterwards, or make the meaning plain in some other way.

It is useful to know the meaning of a few Latin phrases and abbreviations that are so common that they can be used without scruple. (See also the note on i.e. and e.g.)



ad hoc

Literally means “for this”, so is used when something has been improvised for this particular purpose or occasion – such as “an ad hoc arrangement”.

bona fide

“In good faith”


Short for et cetera: “and the rest”

per annum (p.a.)

Literally “by the year” or each year.

per capita

Literally “by heads” – meaning “for each person” or “per head”.

per se

By, of or in itself.

pro bono

Short for pro bono publico, or “for the public good” and thus not chargeable.


Quod erat demonstrandum means “which was to be demonstrated” or “as you can see, I’ve proved my point”.


“Thus” – inserted after a quote which contains spelling mistakes or other features that you’d like people to know were in the original and are not of your making. It doesn’t, as some people think, stand for “spelt incorrectly”.

status quo

“The state to which”, meaning the current situation. Also status quo ante, which means “the way things were before”.


“Let it stand” – used when proofreading, to show that on reflection you wish you hadn’t crossed out or changed whatever you have written it next to.

vice versa

“The position being reversed” – meaning “the other way around”. People argue about the pronunciation, but it can be pronounced “vice” or “vice-y” these days. To be really authentic you should pronounce it “weekay wersar”, as it was in Caesar’s time.



Find out about Robert Taylor Communications in the Media...

Media details


If you’d like to get in contact, please call, email, or fill in the contact form...

Contact details