This 2000's document by the Vatican, clarifying some issues relative to the Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office), states (original in Latin):

c) per se Laudes recitari debent horis matutinis, Vesperae autem horis vespertinis prout ipsa nomina denotant;

The questions is whether ipsa nomina denotant refers only to the horis Vesperae or also to Laudes. Already in Classical Latin vesper denotes the evening. But the etymology of "Lauds" (laudate) does not seem to refer to a particular moment of the day. The name of this liturgical hour seems to come from some psalms. As Wikipedia states:

The name is derived from the three last psalms of the psalter (148, 149, 150), the Laudate psalms, which in former versions of the Lauds of the Roman Rite occurred every day, and in all of which the word laudate is repeated frequently. At first, the word "Lauds" designated only the end, that is to say, these three psalms. Little by little the title Lauds was applied to the whole office, and supplanted the name of Matins, which in turn was reserved to the night office and replaced the name "Vigil".

So, it might seem that the phrase ipsa nomina denotant refers only to the Vespers. However, the Spanish translation of the above document states:

c) De suyo los Laudes deben recitarse en las horas de la mañana y la Vísperas en las horas del atardecer, como lo indican los nombres de estas partes del Oficio.

I couldn't find another official translation, but there is an English translation, made by a [seemingly non native Spanish-speaker] priest and academic, with the same result:

Morning Prayer (Lauds) should be recited during the morning hours and Evening Prayer (Vespers) during the evening hours, as the names of these parts of the Office indicate.

The emphasis in both translations is to remark that the plural is referring to both hours. So, are these translations wrong? Or does perhaps laudate imply morning hours? (Or maybe translations are right and the Vatican document is wrong?)

  • 2
    I would postulate a bit of circular reasoning: the word laus is now associated with the early morning because the Catholics have been saying laudes every morning for centuries.
    – Draconis
    Aug 26, 2019 at 16:48
  • I agree with @Draconis, this seems pretty intuitive to me (though with no immediate proof to argue in its favor). As you quote, Laudes supplanted the name of Matins thus coming to mean (in a purely liturgical, Ecclesiastical sense, but trully nonetheless) the morning part of the office and also by extension the time at which this part is recited. In this context, it is not wrong to say that these have to be recited in the morning as the name indicates.
    – Rafael
    Aug 26, 2019 at 20:47
  • 1
    Catholic Encyclopedia's article on canonical hours says: In the Acts of the Apostles we see that prayer was designated by the hour at which it was said (Acts 3:1). Four out of the eight canonical hours retain this logic in their names. Hence it seems still somewhat natural to me to use the remaining names for times of the day too.
    – Rafael
    Aug 26, 2019 at 21:03
  • 1
    @Draconis Mmm, so would the answer be something like "in Classical Latin, laus had no reference whatsoever to the morning of the day. This meaning was acquired after centuries of Christian worship of Lauds"?
    – luchonacho
    Aug 27, 2019 at 7:40
  • @Draconis "the word laus is now associated with the early morning". Also, is this the case?
    – luchonacho
    Aug 27, 2019 at 9:28

2 Answers 2


The full name of Lauds is laudes matutinæ. In the Latin you quote, prout ipsa nomina can be taken either as referring to the vespertinity of Vespers only (Vesperæ being plural), or as referring also to Lauds under its full name "Laudes matutinæ" rather than its abbreviated one. Probably the latter.

The Spanish translation must be making the same implicit one-word reference to the two-word name. The English translation, by including the condescending name "Morning Prayer", makes its own plural correct.

To give a definite source for the "laudes matutinæ" name, see, for example, the Institutio generalis de Liturgia Horarum (I thought there was an electronic version online but I cannot see one at the moment; you will find it in vol.1 of the printed Breviary). When first introducing the different Hours of the day, at §37, it has the heading DE LAUDIBUS MATUTINIS ET VESPERIS.

  • Are you saying laudate does not imply morning hours of the day, because this has to be specified by adding matutinae to it?
    – luchonacho
    Aug 27, 2019 at 7:38
  • That's right. Laudes are praises and that's that. The fact that you may not bother to write "matutinæ" every single time doesn't make the word "laudes" matutinal in and of itself. To refer to the Institutio generalis again: it consistently and repeatedly says "laudes matutinæ", but when the name occurs twice in a paragraph (§41) it is simply given as "laudes" the second time. And when, in §43, it is in the genitive, to say "psalmodia Laudum matutinarum" would have been pompous and pedantic, so they don't. Aug 27, 2019 at 8:07
  • 1
    This seems right, but I don't understand why you say, "The Spanish translation is wrong." It's a pretty literal translation of the Latin.
    – brianpck
    Aug 27, 2019 at 12:46
  • I said "unless it is making the same implicit one-word [sc. Laudes] reference to the two-word [Laudes matutinæ] name". So I have edited accordingly. Aug 28, 2019 at 7:29

I agree with Martin's answer, but perhaps with a different nuance.

Are these translations wrong?
Or does perhaps laudate imply morning hours?
Or maybe translations are right and the Vatican document is wrong?

I'm inclined to explore the there's no actual contradiction alternative in this case. Plus, it is always good that someone plays the devil's advocate to reach firmer conclusions. So my answers to your questions are:

I don't think the translations are wrong, nor the Vatican document is wrong. I think the key to make everything else fit is in the it's complicated answer to your second question. The relation between laudes and morning hours is complicated, as has been already pointed out.

  • On one hand, the primary meaning of the word laus in both Classical and Ecclesiastical Latin can be said related to praise and not to the early hours of the day.

  • On the other hand, Laudes (specifically in plural) is the short version of the official name for the first of the canonical hours, before dawn (the complete name being Laudes Matutinae).

  • The term hour in canonical hours has a lot of implications beyond that of the common meaning we give to the word, but is there for a reason. As was commented, since the very beginning prayer was designated by the hour at which it was said (Act 3:1). In fact, most (all?) of the names of canonical hours match the names of hours (third, sixth), or times of the day in a broader sense (vespers).

  • Now, rubrics sometimes ask that something be done/said at specific times of the day, e.g. vespere, post I Vesperas, ad vesperas. Here, ad + (time acc.) means at that point in time (see L&S, meaning I.B.3)

  • Ad laudes and ad laudes matutinas seem to be used interchangeably in the rubrics.

My argument is that the name laudes (in pl.), being one of the liturgical hours and even treated (arguably) as a time of the day by rubrics, is by itself strongly associated with the early morning (as Draconis put it), either by itself, or—if you wish—through association with the full name (laudes matutinae), even to the point that it can be asserted that the name Laudes in its current usage indicates that they should be recited during the morning hours.

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