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Readers Respond: How Do You Say Happy Birthday in Latin

Responses: 23


It's not even clear that Romans went around saying "happy birthday" to one another, although they did honor birthdays. It's possible that there were birthday greetings and it's also possible they were varied. How do you think the Romans would have said "happy birthday" in Latin? Please provide a word-for-word translation into English of your Latin version.

Forget literal translations.

Literal translations are generally considered incorrect - they often seem stilted or just plain odd to a native speaker. Of course, we don't have a native speaker to ask, but using that logic and lifting from a birthday invitation found in northern England, I would submit "felix dies tibi sit" is the natural way to say "Happy birthday".
—Guest Aeomer

Happy Birthday

I got taught by my Latin tutor that it was 'Felicium Diem Natalis' So, Yeah... :3
—Guest Chezliee

happy birthday

I also agree it should be in accusative. Also, someone said we should concider Italian over other romanic languages because it is the closest of all, but why not Sardinian? From a Latin forum, I was informed that of all romanic languages, this has been the most isolated, and thus, the least vulgarized. Additionally, I read in a Latin coursebook about this wealthy man that payed for a gladiator show in an amphitheatre and invited the people of Pompei and Nuceria to celebrate his birthday, so saying "Happy birthday" in Latin may not have been so odd - at leas not to someone that payed for everyone's entertainment! BTW, I got this part from Cambridge Latin Course unit 1 (121). I know this may not be too reliable but they usually take real charcacters and real situations.
—Guest mapaxe

Imperative Alternative

I would avoid the subjunctive altogether. Personally, I believe that an imperative is more vernacular or "real" Latin; unless Virgil were wishing you a happy birthday, I think that "Habe bonam diem natalem!" is more probable.
—Guest Alan P.


The best of saying "Happy Birthday" would be carpe diem, memento mori!!!!!!!!!!!
—Guest Ganeshan

Happy Birthday

I believe the correct ancient form would be, Moltos et foelices.
—Guest Cornelia Garcchi

Happy Birthday in latin

well my teacher has always taught us 'salutatio tibi', im not sure of the spelling of the first part, but that works for singing, so thats what we use. :D
—Guest Latin scholar

Laetissimus Sit

I always thought that the way to say happy birthday was like that because that is the way I was tought. I have only taken one year of latin but we always say happy birthday to eachother when the time is right. I hope this information is helpful to you because it was to me.
—Guest booobosodo


Even though this greeting comes to you a little late, The wish it brings for happiness is good on any day date. Happy late Birthday
—Guest Emanzi

How to properly say Happy Birthday

felice diem natalem and because i need a minimum of 50 characters, I wrote this. Huzzah.
—Guest aleah

Correct Way To Say....

Ad Multos Annos is how Catholics say it. It means (for {lit. toward} many {ed. more} years) or similar to "happy returns". In Catalan (Per molts anys!), it's very similar as is in Romanian (La Multi Ani!), which is one of the closest languages to Latin.
—Guest Raven Lee

Latin Happy Birthday

Fortuna dies natalis! is how BBC's h2g2 page lists happy birthday in Latin. I've always respected the BBC's language Latin language dept. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1053640 ------------------- The Catholic newspaper of the Vatican had a front page article on Pope Benedict's birthday titled, "Ad multos annos" (for many more years).
—Guest Raven Lee

Felicem Diem Natalis

I would go with "felicem diem natalis" being, literally, "happy day of birth". Ordering of the words isn't crucial. I've had 3 years of latin and that's how I was taught to translate it.
—Guest ghost

Which Latin?

We must remember that classical Latin was different than the commonly spoken "Vulgar", or peoples', Latin. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot on record to show us today what would have been said in "real life", vs. what scholars recorded in the formal Classical Latin. I would imagine looking at the "real" way to say Happy Birthday in Italian would be a starting point: "Buon Compleanno" Happy "progression to" or "Completion of" another year, in essence. But, again...it's important to consider the difference btwn vulgar and classical.

Habeas Laetum Diem Natalem

On my birthday, I think my brother wished me Habeas Laetum Diem Natalem. I don't know if this is correct because I never took Latin, just French. So I wanted to make sure I got it correct for his birthday today, but nobody translated it the same as him and I may be remembering wrong.
—Guest Robyn

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