If I want to describe the dimensions of my office, I might say that it is about two by four meters. How do I phrase this size, "two by four meters", in Latin?

I don't just want to say that the area is eight square meters, and I was hoping there to be something lighter than latitudinem duorum et longitudinem quattuor metrorum habet.

When it comes to just multiplication of numbers, "two times four" would be bis quaterna. Perhaps this could be worked into something viable? Bis quaterna metra quadrata habet?

I am not sure if anything like this is attested classically, so I don't mind getting more recent suggestions. I struggle to find a nice way to put this.


Caesar's a great source for stuff like this. Near the beginning of book 2 of the Civil war, there's a detailed description of a novel type of tower and moveable shelter that some of his soldiers devised at Massilia. Here, Caesar uses the adjectives longus and latus, and then puts the measurement in the accusative (an accusative of extent of space, I suppose):

storias autem ex funibus ancoriariis tres in longitudinem parietum turris latas IIII pedes fecerunt… [BC 2.9.5]

'mats 4 feet wide'/'four-foot-wide mats' (lit., 'mats wide to an extent of 4 feet')

ubi ex ea turri quae circum essent opera tueri se posse sunt confisi musculum pedes LX longum ex materia bipedali quem a turri latericia ad hostium turrim murumque perducerent facere instituerant. [BC 2.10.1]

'a shelter 60 feet long'/a 60-foot-long shelter' (lit., 'a shelter long to an extent of 60 feet')

Therefore, you can say something like cubiculum metra II latum ac (metra) IV longum est, or the office can be described as metra II latum ac IV longum.

This isn't quite as pithy as '2 by 4 meters,' but it's somewhat lighter than cubiculum latitudinem duorum et longitudinem quattuor metrorum habet.

If the length and width of the office are equal, you can adapt this bit from earlier in the same passage:

patebat haec quoquo versus pedes XXX, sed parietum crassitudo pedes V. [BC 2.8.2]

'It extends 30 feet on each side'

(Note: quoquo versus can also be written as a single word, and versum and vorsum are sometimes found instead of versus.)

Therefore, for an office that is 8 meters square (as opposed to 8 square meters), you can say cubiculum patet quoquoversum metra VIII, or the office can be described as metra VIII quoquoversum.


The answer by cnread is excellent, but I think the ideas there can be developed a little further. A good way to give a single measure is patere with an accusative of measure:

Cella mea duo metra patet.

Two directions can simply be given by giving two measures:

Cella mea duo et quattuor metra patet.

Used in context, perhaps supported with a suitable hand gesture, this is pretty hard to misinterpret. I doubt a lot of people would understand duo et quattuor as the number six — I would have said six if I meant six! — instead of two different measures. I am not aware of anything better than et for "by" in this context.

I think this comes pretty close to "My office is two by four meters." Of course, even the English phrase is technically ambiguous, and one could interpret that my office is eight (i.e. two times four) meters tall, but such ambiguity will be quickly dissolved in practice.

If you want more clarity — which is particularly important if you only have text without sufficiently clear context — you could indicate the two directions with little direction words as cnread suggests in a comment. Hac and illac make a good pair. So perhaps:

Cella mea duo metra hac [et] quattuor illac patet.

  • I agree that, when spoken and accompanied by appropriate gesturing, this would probably work well enough. As a text, though, without the gesturing, it feels somehow incomplete. Perhaps even something as simple as hac ('in this/one direction') answered by either illac or another hac ('in that/the other direction') would help (even when the sentence is spoken), and you could even omit the et in this case: cella mea duo metra hac, quattuor illac/hac patet.
    – cnread
    Aug 20 '19 at 19:26
  • @cnread Good suggestion! I agree that there's no way to make it as unambiguous as the English with similar brevity, but I still wanted to see how far I could push it that way.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Aug 20 '19 at 19:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.