Dædalus solus volare didicit.

Does that mean:

  • Dædalus alone learned to fly?

  • Dædalus learned to fly alone?

  • Dædalus learned on his own to fly?

How could you indicate each of those meanings without ambiguity?

  • 1
    Excellent question! All three translations look equally correct to me. Usually relative or other subordinate clauses are a good way around ambiguities, but I don't see how to make them work here.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 3, 2016 at 23:55
  • I agree that all three are possible translations. For the third meaning, you could disambiguate by saying e.g. sine magistro.
    – TKR
    Jul 4, 2016 at 1:13
  • @JoonasIlmavirta I was thinking that sōlus was only an adjective, so the meaning is the first choice, since in the second two a verb is being modified. No? I thought of the question because I couldn't think of an adverb for "doing something all by yourself". I'm not sure that sōlum fits, since (I think) it usually carries a meaning like "merely" or "barely".
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 4, 2016 at 1:43
  • I think solus can modify the implicit subject of volare (though it would be good to see some classical parallels to this construction).
    – TKR
    Jul 4, 2016 at 2:28

1 Answer 1


I'd probably translate them, in the order you have them, as

Dædalus solus volare didicit.

Dædalus volare incomitate didicit.

Dædalus volare nullo magistro didicit.

(Actually for the third I'd probably use Dædalus se volare docuit, but that's not really an answer to your question.)

  • 1
    Actually, I was indeed wondering if Dædalus se volare docuit was the natural way to say this. I wasn't sure if se docere makes sense in Latin the way "teach yourself" does in English. Thanks!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 8, 2016 at 16:16
  • @BenKovitz I think that's right. There's nothing wrong with Joel's, but se docere is just also a natural way of putting it. There aren't too many hits for se docere side by side, but there is enough, and more, I'm sure, if you put a few words betwixt.
    – cmw
    Aug 14, 2023 at 23:31

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