The Italian word "fare" is often used in a very generic way. English doesn't use "do" or "make" that much, but it can still be a good comparison. Let me give some examples. We may say "fare Greco" ("make Greek", literally, or "do Greek") to mean "do something related to Greek", like studying grammar, translating something. We can say "fare piano" ("do/make piano") for "play the piano". I once kept a diary in Latin, and to render that I simply used the suffix -izo to create new verbs. The examples above gave me Græcizo and clavilizo. But I was wondering: was there something like this in Latin?

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    From what I know, word transformations usually went the other way, from verb to noun. I might want to look into this... Interesting...
    – Sam K
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 13:36
  • To be entirely clear: I made the suffix use up for the diary.
    – MickG
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 14:20
  • Oh I understood. -izo is very rare in Latin and it was apparent in your question.
    – Sam K
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 14:47
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    @SamK Noun->verb derivation is very common (in languages generally and Latin specifically).
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 16:42
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    Two notes: (1) It would actually sound more natural to me to use deponent verbs: graecizari and clavizari. Unfortunately I have no better reference than discussions with old Finnish Latinists. (2) Facere is not as generic as fare is, but agere is pretty broad. The best single Latin verb I know to translate the Italian generic fare is agere. Probably not as idiomatic in Latin as fare is in Italian, though.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


For playing a musical instrument, Latin uses ludere. See II. under Lewis and Short:

II. Trop. A. To sport, play with any thing, to practise as a pastime, amuse one's self with anything: “illa ipsa ludens conjeci in communes locos, Cic. Par. prooem.: Prima Syracosio dignata est ludere versu Nostra ... Thalia,” Verg. E. 6, 1.—Esp., to play on an instrument of music, to make or compose music or song: “ludere quae vellem calamo permisit agresti,” Verg. E. 1, 10: “talia fumosi luduntur mense Decembri,” Ov. Tr. 2, 491: “quod tenerae cantent, lusit tua musa, puellae,” id. Am. 3, 1, 27: “coloni Versibus incomptis ludunt,” Verg. G. 2, 386: “carmina pastorum,” id. ib. 4, 565; Suet. Ner. 3: “si quid vacui sub umbra Lusimus tecum,” Hor. C. 1, 22, 2.

Were it a real word, clavilizo would be more "to turn X into a piano" or "to do the piano thing".

Since facere and agere are mentioned, I might as well mention their possible analogies. E.g., you might have an analogy with facere histrionem as found in Plautus, Amphitruo 89–90:

quid? admirati estis? quasi vero novom
nunc proferatur, Iovem facere histrioniam;

The last three words are to be translated as "Jupiter plays an actor." That's not quite the same as "playing a piano", though, since this is more "playing a part" than making an object work.

In that case, the better word is agere; to drive a cart" is agere raedam, which I feel is better analogy for the piano.

However, for playing the piano or doing any sport or amusement, stick with ludere.


Some examples from the Vulgate:

2 Kings 3:15

  • nunc autem adducite mihi psalten cumque caneret psaltes facta est super eum manus Domini et ait

But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.

(In modern Welsh, the word "canu" means "to sing", but it is also used to say playing an instrument too, (e.g. I sing the piano) is this a similar usage here of the Latin canō?)

1 Samuel 16:16:

  • iubeat dominus noster et servi tui qui coram te sunt quaerant hominem scientem psallere cithara ut quando arripuerit te spiritus Dei malus psallat manu sua et levius feras

Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.

1 Samuel 16:23:

  • igitur quandocumque spiritus Dei arripiebat Saul tollebat David citharam et percutiebat manu sua et refocilabatur Saul et levius habebat recedebat enim ab eo spiritus malus

And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

1 Corinthians 14:7:

  • tamen quae sine anima sunt vocem dantia sive tibia sive cithara nisi distinctionem sonituum dederint quomodo scietur quod canitur aut quod citharizatur

    • And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?*

Revelation 14:2

  • et audivi vocem de caelo tamquam vocem aquarum multarum et tamquam vocem tonitrui magni et vocem quam audivi sicut citharoedorum citharizantium in citharis suis

And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:

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