Latin Meets Contemporary English

5 Commonly Misused Latin Words or Phrases

As fast as we are able to speak, write, or sign, language continues to evolve. One of the most fantastic examples of this is the Latin language.

Although considered a dead language, Latin is still very much alive today. It has influenced many of the languages spoken around the world, including the romance languages and even English. Used by students and scholars from the sciences to philosophy, Latin is still taught in many schools around the world. Even choice Latin words or phrases are used in the presence of another language to offer a subtle turn of phrase in order to convey an idea, thought, or even settle a legal matter.

Discover 5 of the most common Latin words or phrases that are often misused used by English speakers and writers:


The Latin phrase exempli gratia (meaning: for the sake of example or for example) is abbreviated e.g. and is often followed by a comma (depending on the style) because it’s a parenthetical phrase. Also, e.g. should not include every possible scenario, only a sampling.

George is a huge fan of cyborgs, e.g., the Terminator, Inspector Gadget, and Robocop.


Commonly confused for the abbreviation e.g., i.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est (meaning: that is) and not “in example.” Similar to the abbreviation e.g., i.e. is followed by a comma and it indicates a complete list, an explanation, or defines the previous part of the sentence.

Standing behind a horse can result in broken ribs, i.e., you’re more likely to get kicked.

per se

The Latin phrase per se (meaning: by itself or through itself) may be just two little words, but the combination has big implications. Commonly used in legal terms, per se is used to convey something requires no reasoning, no reference, or it implies it’s intrinsic.

Street usage indicates per se has evolved to reflect that something is not entirely accurate or that it means “in and of itself.” For example: We’re not stating that Latin shouldn’t be preserved per se; language has always evolved in everyday use.

In order to prove negligence per se, the plaintiff must show that the defendant violated the statute.


The Latin word sic (meaning: in this, in such a manner, or thus), as in sic erat scriptum (meaning: thus was it written), is often confused as an acronym for “spelled in context” or “spelling is correct.” In contemporary English usage, sic is often used to cite poor grammar as well as connote factual or logical errors. We recommend avoid abusing sic, because it can often make the author look like they are attempting to affect superiority over the person who made the error or even the reader.

“She’s got ticket to ride,
She’s got a ticket to ride,
She’s got a ticket to ride,
But she don’t
[sic] care.”

– The Beatles, Ticket to Ride

quid pro quo

The Latin phrase quid pro quo (meaning: something for something) is generally used to convey a favor or advantage was granted in return for something. In modern day English usage, quid pro quo has taken on the meaning that adds evidence to an argument. For example: “I made dinner; quid pro quo, you should do the dishes.”

The prisoner’s pardon was a quid pro quo for their help in solving the case.

If you choose to use Latin in your articles, please heed this warning: Dropping Latin into your articles is often perceived as pretentious or conceited. Know your audience and ensure you’re using the phrase correctly.

Use these Latin language tips to strengthen your writing skills, as well as maintain your credibility as an Expert Author. Let us know if there are any other Latin words or phrases you would like to see uncovered in the comments section below! More grammar, punctuation, and language tips are on their way, so stop by the Blog again for the latest and greatest tips to error-free articles.


Randall Magwood writes:

The first 2 I know and understand well – and know how to use them. But “per se”, “sic”, & “quid pro quo”… are absolutely foreign to me.

Comment provided August 24, 2012 at 7:30 PM


David writes:

This article is so good, it’s sic, i.e., it’s beyond OK.

Comment provided August 25, 2012 at 12:06 AM


Jean Reynolds writes:

This sentence doesn’t make sense: “The prisoner’s pardon was a quid pro quo for their help in solving the case.” If it’s one prisoner, as the apostrophe shows, the police can’t be thankful for “their” help.

And here’s a sentence with an agreement error: “We recommend avoid abusing sic, because it can often make the author look like they are attempting to affect superiority over the person who made the error or even the reader.”

“The author” is singular, so you should use “he or she” or…better yet…make “author” plural so you can make the sentence more natural: “it can often make authors look like they…”

This annoying rule about pronoun agreement is gradually making its way out of the language, and I (for one) am looking forward to its demise. But if you’re writing an article about grammar, you risk losing credibility with constructions like “the author”…”they.”

Comment provided August 25, 2012 at 6:04 AM



Thank you. Have a blessed Sunday, all!

Comment provided August 25, 2012 at 6:29 PM


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Comment provided August 27, 2012 at 4:03 PM


Dr Michael Pilon writes:

Wow I was just discussing Latin he other day. I studied it for 4 years in High School in Montreal. I guess as a subject in school it is a dead language, I had fun with it and still love definitions I can figure out thanks

Comment provided August 31, 2012 at 9:49 PM


A S Gunadharma writes:

Thank you for the article, I often got baffled and misplace the e.g. with i.e. and vice versa when I’m too tired

Comment provided September 5, 2012 at 5:44 AM


Kara Nelson writes:

good article, thank you for sharing with us!

Comment provided October 16, 2012 at 4:52 AM


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