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Latin Religious Words in English

Latin Religious Words in English


If you want to say that the prospects are bleak, you could say "it doesn't augur well." Augur is used as a verb in this English sentence, with no particular religious connotation. In ancient Rome, an augur was a religious figure who observed natural phenomena, like the presence and location to left or right of birds, to determine whether the prospects were good or bad for a proposed venture. If a bird were on the left, it would literally be sinister. The morning star, which is also known as the planet Venus, was known as Lucifer, the light-bearer. Today Lucifer is thought of as Satan and not just a light-heralding morning star. English has acquired many words from Latin, or from Latin via French, and of these some had a religious significance in Ancient Rome or gained one in English. In the case of Lucifer, the religious significance was gained. A 'tenet' is something one holds as an element of one's belief system. In Latin, tenet simply means 'he holds.' Sometimes the religious words maintained their religious connotation: An omen is an 'omen'. A creator can still refer to the 'Creator'.

Here is a list of some of these religious words. Single quotes represent literal translations.

  1. credo - 'I believe'.
  2. omen - 'omen'; a portent of good or evil.
  3. A.D. - Anno Domini - 'in the year of our Lord'.
  4. ave - 'hail'; now used in prayer with "Maria".
  5. requiem - 'rest'; now used in a mass for the dead.
  6. sinister - 'left'.
  7. lucifer - 'light-bringer'; Satan.
  8. pastor - 'shepherd'; leader of a congregation.
  9. pax vobiscum - 'Peace be with you'; used in church services.
  10. requiescat in pace - 'may he rest in peace'; prayer for the dead.
  11. pater noster - 'our father'; used as the start of the Latin Lord's Prayer.

For more, see "Latin Expressions Found in English: A Vocabulary Unit for the First Week of Beginning Latin or General Language," by Walter V. Kaulfers; Dante P. Lembi; William T. McKibbon. The Classical Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1. (Oct., 1942), pp. 5-20.

Also see:

The Meaning of Confusing Pairs of Greek and Latin Roots

Where Do You Add the Ending?

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