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  • Writer's pictureGwen Mak

Caveat auctor!

Translation: Careful author!

English is an interesting language because we have borrowed many words and phrases directly from other modern and ancient languages. Being a romance language, many of our words have roots in Latin. To this day, we also use actual Latin phrases, but because few people learn, let alone speak, Latin anymore, these phrases are often misused. Perhaps one cause for confusion is that we often see these phrases in their abbreviated forms which obscures their full form and makes their meanings even less easy to decipher.

Let's take a look at some commonly used Latin phrases, shall we?

et cetera (etc.)

  • Translation: and the rest

  • Pronunciation

  • ​How to use: in place of writing out a list of more than three items, when the remainder of the list is plainly obvious to the reader

  • In a sentence: Let's arrange these by color; red, orange, yellow, etc.

vice versa

  • Translation: conversely

  • Pronunciation

  • How to use: when the order of two things can be switched

  • In a sentence: Should we eat first, then shop, or vice versa?

id est (i.e.)

  • Translation: that is

  • How to use: to give further explanation

  • In a sentence: My favorite meal is high tea - i.e. British style tea around 4pm with scones, lemon curd, and other cute snacks.

exempli gratia (e.g.)

  • Translation: for example

  • How to use: when providing multiple possibilities

  • In a sentence: We need to offer more flavors, e.g. strawberry, blueberry, or lime.

Now you know the full forms of these abbreviations and the correct pronunciations. Please don't go around using these guys like sprinkles. Using more than one Latin abbreviation doesn't make you look smarter - it's more likely to just be wrong (no etc. and e.g. in the same list!). If you're not sure, remember that Google is your friend! Go forth and use your Latin well!


All pronunciations provided by the Cambridge Dictionary

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