How would one say, “We are triumphant while our enemy sleeps.”? Gratias vobis ago!

  • Thank you so much! That is the exact answer I needed. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 23:24

3 Answers 3


Here is a simple suggestion:

Inimicis [nostris] dormientibus triumphamus.
We triumph while/when/because [our] enemies sleep.

There is a good Latin verb for being triumphant: triumphare. It means celebrating victory rather than winning, but I find that appropriate in this context. If you want something closer to winning, please edit the question to add more details. I chose the present tense to make this a general fact. If you want to change to future tense ("we will triumph" instead of "we triumph"), use triumphabimus instead.

A clause like "while the enemies sleep" can be nicely phrased with an absolute ablative. The construction has many possible interpretations as indicated in the translation, but there is no real danger of misinterpreting the message here.

I would personally leave the word nostris out; it is quite clear that if we triumph, then the mentioned enemies are ours. There are couple of different words for an enemy. I went with inimicus, but hostis, adversarius, perduellis, or maybe something else would also work. To see the differences between these words, please consult an online Latin dictionary of your choice.

  • llmavirta: " With the enemy having been sleeping/ dormant we triumph"; did you consider the future tense, here?
    – tony
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 9:56
  • @tony Good idea! I added a note on the future tense.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 10:14
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    Are you sure that triumphare can mean "gain a victory"? The main meaning is "celebrate a specific ritual as a consequence of having gained victories". You triumph, in other words, many months or even years after "triumphing" in our sense. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 11:30
  • @MartinKochanski I thought the intention was close enough to a victory celebration. That is for the original poster (OP) to clarify. The English verb "triumph" does also mean celebration, not only victory. (So says Merriam-Webster.) My intention was to say "we will gain victory" indirectly, by reference to the following triumph.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 13:02
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    This seems perfect to me. I understand the sentence to be a poetic expression of "We're celebrating too early", which would make the present tense just right.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 8:58

I understand 'we are triumphant' to mean simply 'we are victorious' or 'we prevail.' Therefore, I'd use vincimus (superamus would also work). Although triumphamus, suggested by Joonas in another answer, would seem the logical choice, this verb most often refers, as Martin Kochanski has pointed out in a comment, to something very specific: the celebration of a triumphal procession, which is awarded (or not) to a general after a decisive victory. This is something quite special and is also quite distinct from the mere occurrence of such a victory.

As I understand it, 'while (our enemy) sleeps' describes just a temporal relationship: during the time that the enemy is asleep, we take advantage of the situation and effect our victory. Therefore, dum dormiunt will work.*

For 'enemy,' there are a couple of options. The best option depends on how/in what context you plan to use the motto.

  • Hostes are external enemies (or pernicious, conspiratorial citizens whom one wishes to paint as enemies of the state). This is probably the best choice if you plan to use your motto in a military context – or if you'll use it in some other context, but you want strong martial overtones.
  • If you mean 'personal enemies' specifically – people that you have a private feud with or grudge against – inimici, as suggested by Joonas, will work.
  • For something more all-purpose, try adversarii (also spelled advorsarii). It's used for personal, political, athletic, and martial opponents. In the Civil war, Caesar typically uses this word to refer to his fellow-citizens who are fighting on the other side.

Finally, I take your motto to refer to a general, timeless truth; therefore, I'd use simple present tense for the verbs vincimus (or superamus) and dormiunt.

So, putting it all together:

dum hostes [or inimici or adversarii] dormiunt vincimus [or superamus].

You could also play with the word order somewhat. Here are two other possibilities:

dum dormiunt hostes vincimus.

vincimus dum hostes dormiunt.

* If you have in mind a more complex relationship, encompassing not only time ('while'), but also causality ('because') or contingency ('if'), Joonas's inimicis dormientibus is an excellent alternative. In that case, though, if you want to use a different word for 'enemy,' you would replace inimicis with hostibus or adversariis.


The implication is that "we" can only win, provided that the enemy, conveniently, falls asleep. Let's depend on luck. In Latin "provided that"/ "if only" is given by dum (or dummodo) plus subjunctive. This may have to go into the future tense, because, presumably, "we" are waiting for the enemy to (conveniently) fall asleep; then, and only then, will we attack. (You may already know that, in Latin, the present tense cannot be used to mean the future, as it can, in English.)

"vicerimus dum hostes (commode) dormiant" = "We shall triumph provided that the enemy (conveniently) sleeps."

  • I don't think commode works the way you're trying to make it work. If I saw dum hostes commode dormiant, I would assume that it means 'provided that the enemy sleeps comfortably,' which makes for a somewhat bizarre sentence.
    – cnread
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 18:30
  • @cnread: Pock. Ox. Lat. Dict., gives "commodus" (adj.) = suitable, convenient, advantageous; lucky; obliging--all of these, in the adverb, convey the meaning that the enemy is almost "co-operating", in providing an easy victory for "we". Remember the Schlieffen Plan? Brilliant; inspired gamble; but, it could have only worked if the belligerent nations had conveniently co-operated--they didn't.
    – tony
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 10:02
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    I'm not denying that it can mean that; I'm just saying that, as your sentence currently stands, it more naturally reads as 'sleep comfortably.' Context and word placement matter.
    – cnread
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 19:13
  • @Joonas llmavirta: Some help, please? The exchange of comments between cnread and myself: how does yourself understand the use of "commode" = "conveniently", in the context of the enemy "co-operating" in his own downfall?
    – tony
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 14:52
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    @tony The adverb is ambiguous. It can be convenient for the sleepers or for the winners, and the difference is huge. I can't see a way to remedy it other than leaving it out, but I might be missing something. (The ping doesn't reach me if the post isn't mine and I haven't commented. You can use the chat to point me to something. I happened to see this by chance.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 15:19

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