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18 Latin Phrases Everyone Should Know

Some of these are more common than others. Some are catchphrases of ancient philosophers, some mottoes of universities and other organizations. Some you may have heard; some will be new to you. All of them are useful and all of them will make you sound very smart when you use them.

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4. O tempora! O mores!

Quite common, this phrase means “O the times, O the values!” Origin: Roman philosopher, statesman, and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, commonly known as simply Cicero.

5. Errare humanum est

An extremely common phrase, this means “to err is human.” Origin: Roman philosopher, statesman, and dramatist Lucius Annaeus Seneca, or simply Seneca.

8. Caveat emptor

Very common, this Latin phrase means “let the buyer beware” and is both a proverb and a property law principle that controls the sale of property or goods, such that the buyer cannot recover damages from the seller for defects.

17. Habeas corpus

A commonly-used phrase in law, this literally means “may you have the body” and is a legal action that requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court.

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