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Latin Religious Words in English

Latin Religious Words in English

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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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