Latin expressions used in English - Part 2

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Today we’re back with more Latin phrases. You may think of Latin as a dead language, but in actuality we still use many Latin phrases as part of modern English. If you would like to read Part 1 of this series (including terms like ‘et cetera’ and ‘in camera’), you can click here.

  • Ad hoc is one of those terms that is thrown around in the workplace all the time. For years, I was too scared to ask anyone what it meant. When I finally did, the person who used it said: ‘You know, I actually have no idea…’ .

    The phrase translates to ‘for this’, and describes something that is created or done for a specific and immediate purpose. Something that is created ad hoc, by definition, usually cannot be planned for in advance, because it responds to unexpected needs.

    Example sentence: The company hires more staff on an ad hoc basis.
  • Are you confused about when to use ‘e.g.’ and when to use ‘i.e.’? You’re not alone!

    E.g. is commonly used in English as an abbreviation for ‘exempli gratia’ and means ‘for example’. I.e. is the abbreviation for ‘id est’ which means ‘that is’ or ‘in other words’.

    If you are providing an example, use ‘e.g.’, but if you are clarifying a piece of information, use ‘i.e.’. You should never begin a sentence with one of these abbreviations; instead, write ‘For example’ or ‘In other words’, or use a conjunction such as ‘Therefore’ or ‘Because’.

    Example sentence: When applying for a job, make sure everything your potential employer sees is spelled correctly; i.e. you should check your CV and any other documents (e.g. cover letters, application forms, etc.) for spelling mistakes before sending them in.
  • Re is an abbreviation often used in correspondence – you may recognise the term from the top of official letters or from the subject line in your emails. ‘Re’ comes from the Latin ‘res’ (‘thing’) and means ‘in the matter of’, or, more literally, ‘by the thing’.

    When found at the top of a letter, the information following ‘re’ will advise on the letter’s subject matter, and this has led many people to assume that it must be short for ‘regarding’, as in ‘This letter is regarding…’. While this is not true, it is a great way of remembering what ‘re’ means. The word ‘regard’ actually comes from the Middle French ‘regarder’, which translates as ‘to look at’.

    Example sentence: I am writing to you re your spelling difficulties and would like to recommend you try an excellent online resource called Spellzone.

There are so many Latin expressions used in English that these two blogs posts have only begun to scratch the surface. If there are any Latin phrases you’d like to know more about, Tweet us or let us know on Facebook, and we’ll be happy to help!

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to take a look at the calendar – ever wonder where the months get their names from? What about the days of the week? Stay tuned to find out!

Avani Shah

04 Nov 2013
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"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students!  I'm sure Spellzone will be invaluable in helping them to improve their spellings and therefore improve the quality of their writing in all subject areas!"

Teacher, High School, UK