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.


Macte animo! Generose puer sic itur ad astraYoung, 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 astrathose who excel, thus reach the starsor "excellence is the way to the stars"; frequent motto; from Virgil's Aeneid IX.641 (English, Dryden)
magister dixitthe teacher has said itCanonical medieval reference to Aristotle, precluding further discussion
magister meus ChristusChrist is my teachercommon Catholic edict and motto of a Catholic private school, Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana
Magna CartaGreat CharterSet of documents from 1215 between Pope Innocent III, King John of England, and English barons.
magna cum laudewith great praiseCommon Latin honor, above cum laude and below summa cum laude
magna di curant, parva negleguntThe gods care about great matters, but they neglect small onesCicero, De Natura Deorum 2:167
magna est vis consuetudinisgreat is the power of habit
Magna Europa est patria nostraGreater Europe is Our FatherlandPolitical motto of pan-Europeanists
magno cum gaudiowith great joy
magnum opusgreat workSaid of someone's masterpiece
magnum vectigal est parsimoniaEconomy is a great revenueCicero, 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 reverentiagreater reverence from afarWhen viewed from a distance, everything is beautiful. Tacitus, Annales 1.47
maiora premuntgreater things are pressingUsed to indicate that it is the moment to address more important, urgent, issues.
mala fidein bad faithSaid of an act done with knowledge of its illegality, or with intention to defraud or mislead someone. Opposite of bona fide.
Mala Ipsa NovaBad News ItselfMotto of the inactive 495th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force
mala tempora curruntbad times are upon usAlso used ironically, e.g.: New teachers know all tricks used by pupils to copy from classmates? Oh, mala tempora currunt!.
male captus bene detentuswrongly captured, properly detainedAn illegal arrest will not prejudice the subsequent detention/trial.
Malo mori quam foedariDeath rather than dishonourMotto of the inactive 34th Battalion (Australia), the Drimnagh Castle Secondary School
malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitiumI prefer liberty with danger to peace with slaveryattributed to the Count Palatine of Posen before the Diet of Poland, cited in "The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right" by Jean Jacques Rousseau
malum discordiaeapple of discordAlludes 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 sewrong in itselfA legal term meaning that something is inherently wrong (cf. malum prohibitum).
malum prohibitumwrong due to being prohibitedA legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law.
malum quo communius eo peiusthe more common an evil is, the worse it is
manu forteliterally translated means 'with a strong hand', often quoted as 'by strength of hand'Motto of the Clan McKay
manibus date lilia plenisgive lilies with full handsA 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 militariwith a military handUsing armed forces in order to achieve a goal
manu propria (m.p.)with one's own handWith 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 lavatone hand washes the otherfamous quote from The Pumpkinification of Claudius, ascribed to Seneca the Younger.[1] It implies that one situation helps the other.
manus multae cor unummany hands, one heartMotto of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity.
manus nigrablack hand
marcet sine adversario virtusvalor becomes feeble without an opponentSeneca 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 clausumclosed seaIn law, a sea under the jurisdiction of one nation and closed to all others.
Mare Ditat, Rosa Decorat The sea enriches, the rose adornsMotto of Montrose, Angus and HMS Montrose
mare liberumfree seaIn law, a sea open to international shipping navigation.
mare nostrumour seaA nickname given to the Mediterranean Sea during the height of the Roman Empire, as it encompassed the entire coastal basin.
Mater DeiMother of GodA name given to describe Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, who is also called the Son of God.
mater familiasthe mother of the familyThe female head of a family. See pater familias.
Mater semper certa estthe mother is always certaina Roman-law principle which has the power of praesumptio iuris et de iure, meaning that no counter-evidence can be made against this principle (literally: Presumed there is no counter evidence and by the law). Its meaning is that the mother of the child is always known.
materia medicamedical matterBranch of medical science concerned with the study of drugs used in the treatment of disease. Also, the drugs themselves.
maxima debetur puero reverentiagreatest deference is owed to the childfrom Juvenal's Satires XIV:47
me vexat pedeit annoys me at the footLess 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 culpathrough my faultUsed 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 abundatMy hovercraft is full of eelsA relatively common recent Latinization inspired by the Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook sketch by Monty Python.
media vita in morte sumusIn the midst of our lives we dieA 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 estMilan has been capturedUsed 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.
meliorabetter thingsCarrying the connotation of "always better". The motto of the University of Rochester.
Meliorare legem meliorare vitam estTo improve the law is to improve life.The motto of the Salem/Roanoke County, Virginia Bar Association.
Meliorem lapsa locavitHe 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 adsumHoney, 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 moriremember that [you will] dieremember your mortality
memento vivereremember to live
meminerunt omnia amanteslovers remember all
memores acti prudentes futurimindful of things done, aware of things to comeThus, 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 molemthe mind moves the massFrom Virgil. Motto of Newcastle University, Rossall School, the University of Oregon, the University of Warwick and the Eindhoven University of Technology.
mens et manusmind and handMotto of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
mens reaguilty mindAlso "culprit mind". A term used in discussing the mindset of an accused criminal.
mens sana in corpore sanoa sound mind in a sound bodyOr "a sensible mind in a healthy body". Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal (10.356)
metri causafor the sake of the metreExcusing flaws in poetry "for the sake of the metre"
Miles GloriosusGlorious SoldierOr "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 libertatisSoldier of the Bastion of Freedom A phrase on the plaque in commemoration of Prof. Benjamin Marius Telders, Academiegebouw Leiden (Netherlands).
mictus cruentusbloody urinesee hematuria
minatur innocentibus qui parcit nocentibushe threatens the innocent who spares the guilty
mirabile dictuwonderful to tellVirgil
mirabile visuwonderful to seeA Roman phrase used to describe a wonderful event/happening.
mirum videtur quod sit factum iam diuDoes it seem wonderful [merely] because it was done a long time/so long ago?Livius Andronicus, Aiax Mastigophorus.
miscerique probat populos et foedera jungiHe approves of the mingling of the peoples and their bonds of unionLatin 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 uncertainQuoted by Samuel Johnson in his paper for James Boswell on Vicious intromission.
miserabile visuterrible to seeA terrible happening or event.
miserere nobishave mercy upon usA phrase within the Gloria in Excelsis Deo and the Agnus Dei, to be used at certain points in Christian religious ceremonies.
Missio Deithe Mission of GodA theological phrase in the Christian religion.
missit me Dominusthe Lord has sent meA phrase used by Jesus.
mittimuswe sendA 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 morons
(Dog Latin)
Dog Latin based on wordplay with modus ponens and modus tollens, referring to the common logical fallacy that if P then Q and not P, then one can conclude not Q (cf. denying the antecedent and contraposition).
modus operandi (M.O.)method of operatingUsually used to describe a criminal's methods.
modus ponensmethod of placingLoosely "method of affirming", a logical rule of inference stating that from propositions if P then Q and P, then one can conclude Q.
modus tollensmethod of removingLoosely "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 vivendimethod of livingAn accommodation between disagreeing parties to allow life to go on. A practical compromise.
Monasterium sine libris est sicut civitas sine opibusA monastery without books is like a city without wealthUsed 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 liberimountaineers [are] always freeState motto of West Virginia, adopted in 1872.
Montis Insignia CalpeBadge of the Rock of Gibraltar
more ferarumlike beastsused to describe any sexual act in the manner of beasts
morior invictus I die unvanquished[4] sometimes also translated as "death before defeat"[4]
morituri nolumus moriwe who are about to die don't want toFrom Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero
morituri te salutantthose who are about to die salute youUsed once in Suetonius' De Vita Caesarum 5, (Divus Claudius), chapter 21,[5] 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 incertadeath is certain, its hour is uncertain
mors mihi lucrumdeath to me is rewardA common epitaph, from St Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, 1:21 (Mihi enim vivere Christus est et mori lucrum, transated in the King James Bible as: "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain")
mors omnibusdeath to allSignifies anger and depression.
mors tua, vita meayour death, my lifeFrom 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 senectusold age should rather be feared than deathfrom Juvenal in his Satires
mortui vivos docent The dead teach the livingUsed to justify dissections of human cadavers in order to understand the cause of death.
mortuum flagellasyou are flogging a deadFrom 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 maiorumthe custom of our ancestorsan unwritten code of laws and conduct, of the Romans. It institutionalized cultural traditions, societal mores, and general policies, as distinct from written laws.
motu proprioon his own initiativeOr "by his own accord." Identifies a class of papal documents, administrative papal bulls.
mulgere hircumto milk a male goatFrom Gerhard Gerhards' (1466–1536) [better known as Erasmus] collection of annotated Adagia (1508). Attempting the impossible.
mulier est hominis confusiowoman is man's ruin"Part of a comic definition of woman" from the Altercatio Hadriani Augusti et Secundi.[6] Famously quoted by Chauntecleer in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
multa paucisSay much in few words
multis e gentibus viresfrom many peoples, strengthMotto of Saskatchewan
multitudo sapientium sanitas orbisa multitude of the wise is the health of the worldFrom the Vulgate, Wisdom of Solomon 6:24. Motto of the University of Victoria.
multum in parvomuch in littleConciseness. 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 senescitthe world grows old
mundus vult decipithe world wants to be deceivedAscribed 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.[7][8][9][10]
mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiaturthe world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceivedAscribed 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).[7][8][9][10]
munit haec et altera vincitthis one defends and the other one conquersMotto of Nova Scotia.
mutatis mutandisafter changing what needed to be changed"with the appropriate changes"
mutato nomine de te fabula narraturchange but the name, and the story is told of yourselfHorace, 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. 1 2 "morior invictus".
  5. "Divus Claudius".
  6. Larry D. Benson, ed. The Riverside Chaucer. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. p. 939, n. 3164.
  7. 1 2 Martínez, Javier (2012). Mundus vult decipi. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas. p. 9. ISBN 84-7882-738-2.
  8. 1 2 Harbottle, Thomas Benfield (1906). Dictionary of Quotations (Classical). The Macmillan Co.
  9. 1 2 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.
  10. 1 2 Wyttenbach, Daniel (translator) (1828). Plutarchus, and Theophrastus, on Superstition; with Various Appendices, and a Life of Plutarchus. Kentish Town: Julian Hibbert. First Appendix, p. 5.


  • Adeleye, Gabriel G. (1999). Thomas J. Sienkewicz; James T. McDonough, Jr., eds. World Dictionary of Foreign Expressions. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0865164223. 
  • Hardon, John, Fr., Modern Catholic Dictionary 
  • Stone, Jon R. (1996). Latin for the Illiterati. London & New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415917751. 
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