In Ancient Greek, the Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan, "adversary") is sometimes translated as διάβολος (diábolos, "betrayer") and sometimes adapted as Σατανᾶς (Satanâs).

In Latin, it seems like there would be three translation options: translate the word into Latin, transcribe the Greek, or transcribe the Hebrew. Jerome seems to have chosen the second and third exclusively, which is why we have Latin diabolus and Satanas.

But if he'd chosen the first, what would be an appropriate word? Something like inimicus "enemy" feels too tame for a fallen angel.

(This question arose while answering another question about Satanas.)

P.S. Is the #english-to-latin tag appropriate when it's really more Hebrew-to-Latin and/or Greek-to-Latin?

2 Answers 2


"Adversarius" is in fact used at least once in the Vulgate to refer to the devil, so it presumably was felt to have a fitting meaning.

Sobrii estote, et vigilate: quia adversarius vester diabolus tamquam leo rugiens circuit, quaerens quem devoret

(1 Petri 5:8)


Well, first off, the Romans, themselves, referred to him as Satana in the Vulgate (cf: I Timothy 5:15 VULG). However, if you wanted to refer to him in the literal sense as the "enemy" or "adversary," you have several options:

  • Advorsarius
  • Adversarius
  • Perduellis

Seeing as Perduellis means "national enemy," I think that would be more appropriate here; however, since Satan is commonly referred to as "the Adversary," the other two would also be appropriate.

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