In everyday English, obscene words like "fuck" and "hell" have been somewhat semantically bleached into intensifiers. For example, "fucking ridiculous" and "weird as hell" are common idioms that aren't considered particularly obscene in context.

In Greek, I would translate these intensifiers with a particle like δή. But what's the Latin equivalent? For example, if I want to paraphrase Horace and say "seize the fucking day" (intensifying carpe diem), what equivalent can I use?

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    Possibly related: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/9092/…
    – Cerberus
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 23:33
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    There are intensifiers for questions: quidnam. Intensifiers hic & iste: e.g. hunce, istuc. Intensifying adverbs edepol, mehercle. See Q.#2178 by typing mehercule into Search on Latin Language
    – Hugh
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 2:56
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    Pile'em on. Nonne haecce laeta dies carpenda est, Hercle.
    – Hugh
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 11:49
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    Draconis: Sadly, in our time period words like "fuck" are almost accepted as parts of natural conversation. Some almost use it as a punctuation mark; others opine that the word is Anglo-Saxon, in origin. As A-S swear-words were never written down, how does anybody know? The FU-root comes from the Latin, futuo, does it not? Your Q: a part of "ipse": carpe ipsum diem = seize the very day. Have not seen this anywhere so it may be invalid.
    – tony
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 17:51
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    @tony Oh absolutely; I figure such words wouldn't be taught in a standard course or found in Vergil, but we do have evidence of obscene words from less-highbrow poetry (Catullus, Martial), graffiti preserved from Pompeii, the vulgar Latin of Plautus, etc. I'm curious if there's any colloquial way to emphasize a short phrase found in one of those places.
    – Draconis
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


A common way to intensify a phrase in Latin is to place an intensifier on its verb. An intensifier is a prefix, often a preposition or some other adverb, placed on the verb which can intensify it.

In English, we use intensifiers all the time, but they usually follow the verb. For instance, the verb "tear" (rend or rip) can be intensified by saying "tear up". You have to use some care with intensifiers, because they can also be used to completely change the meaning of a verb. For instance, "take up" is not simply an intensifier of "take", but a whole new verb.

Back to Latin. Carpo has several attested prefixed forms: concerpo, decerpo, discerpo, excerpo, and praecerpo. All of these forms are at least somewhat intensified, although they all introduce some change in meaning or at least emphasis in carpo, so you'd have to excercize some judgment in which of the five you'd care to pick.

If you don't care for any of the attested forms, you might want to coin a new one. I can't help but think of succerpe diem, (grab the day from underneath, from sub+carpo). It reminds me of a not-very-polite and mildly obscene idiom in English (Grab it by the b-lls!), which is, however, quite emphatic.


As much as it pains me to say this, because of my stance on profanity, there is a book that might benefit you. It is called X-treme Latin: All the Latin You Need to Know for Survival in the 21st Century, by Henry Beard. In it you will find some rather colorful phrases, some of them profane, some not, that can be used in many situations. It is a hilarious book that also teaches the Latin word for NAZI. Below is the Turabian reference, which should help you find it (try your local main branch library).

Beard, Henry. X-TREME LATIN: All the Latin You Need to Know for Survival in the 21st Century. New York, NY: Gotham Books, 2005.

He also has similar books which also include slang and other terms that might suit your needs, but I would start here. Happy hunting.

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    The question seems to be about intensifiers rather than obscenities. English can use the latter as the former, but how about Latin? Do you know if the book covers intensifying at all?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 18:16

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