According to this post "ad nutum" can be used to mean "instantly." However, in this translation of a text of Thomas Aquinas, the translator uses the word "blindly" to translate "ad nutum." Aquinas's text reads:

Ad tertium dicendum quod alia ratione regitur corpus ab anima, et irascibilis et concupiscibilis a ratione. Corpus enim ad nutum obedit animae absque contradictione, in his in quibus natum est ab anima moveri, unde philosophus dicit, in I Polit., quod anima regit corpus despotico principatu, idest sicut dominus servum. Et ideo totus motus corporis refertur ad animam. Et propter hoc in corpore non est virtus, sed solum in anima. Sed irascibilis et concupiscibilis non ad nutum obediunt rationi, sed habent proprios motus suos, quibus interdum rationi repugnant, unde in eodem libro philosophus dicit quod ratio regit irascibilem et concupiscibilem principatu politico, quo scilicet reguntur liberi, qui habent in aliquibus propriam voluntatem. Et propter hoc etiam oportet in irascibili et concupiscibili esse aliquas virtutes, quibus bene disponantur ad actum.

Is there any warrant for translating "ad nutum" as "blindly" in either classical or medieval texts?

1 Answer 1


The word nutus means several things, and the most appropriate translation here seems to be "command". The most direct translation of ad nutum seems to be "at command" or "on command". (I am not sure which is closer in nuance to what I want to say, but I hope the point gets across anyway.) Coming with ob(o)edire ("to obey"), it means obeying on command, doing whatever ordered instantly without hesitation.

Therefore both "instantly" and "blindly" are good translations, but only in this context (with this verb). If you close the door instantly after entering your room, ad nutum is not a good Latin idiom. Similarly, if you believe blindly every lie told to you, ad nutum is again a bad choice. I would suggest using "at/on command" as the main translation, and changing the wording to something more natural as context permits.

I see no difference in this usage between classical and later Latin.

  • 2
    You're right that "on command" would be more idiomatic, at least in American English. Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 15:43
  • @JoelDerfner, thanks! It's good to have native speakers here. I wish we had native speakers of Latin, too...
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 16:11

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