The Most Common Latin Words Used in English

Did you ever think that those of us with Latin origins would actually know some Latin? Not necessarily!  Although Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian (among others) all originate from Latin, your average native speaker may not know a word of traditional Latin. Latin phrases and words are typically used in laws and legal documents, and are more commonly written than spoken.

So here’s your guide to the most common Latin words that are used in English. Learn these and you’ll sound like a native English speaker.

It means spontaneous or without preparation. Something that catches you by surprise: “my boss called an impromptu meeting today and my colleagues and I were totally unprepared.”

Quid pro Quo
It means “of equal exchange or substitution.” Literally, it means “something for something”. You exchange something of the other’s interest for something of your own interest. “They finally agreed on a quid pro quo agreement, in which John will disclose confidential information to George in exchange for free access to George’s company database.”

Per se
In itself, intrinsically, of an inherent nature. “My friends and I were celebrating and having a great time, but it really wasn’t a party per se.”

A Priori
Based on hypothesis or theory, rather than experience. Derived by logic, with no observed facts. “Although I have never been a bachelor myself, I of course know a priori that all bachelors are unmarried.”

Ad hoc
For one specific case, many times can be replace by “specific”. “We did not have an HR manager at the company, so I formed an ad hoc HR committee.”

Bona Fide
Unquestionable, in good faith. “Since my boss has never been friendly to me, I was surprised when he offered me his bona fide advice on how I could succeed in business.”

Pro Rata
Proportionally, in equal parts. “Many people like to split the check pro rata so that they can order more than they would if paying the full price.”

Therefore, consequently. “I have never been to Kim’s apartment. Ergo, I cannot tell you what it looks like.”

You can see more Latin words that are used in daily life on the blog Latin IS English.