A friend is interested in conveying the sense of "don't rock the boat", but in Latin. Is there an equivalent saying in Latin, or a phrase which would convey the correct meaning?

  • Interesting question! I edited it slightly; feel free to re-edit or roll back. I don't think transliteration makes sense here, so I removed the word. And welcome to the site!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 16, 2016 at 12:50

3 Answers 3


There's a Latin maxim that means exactly that! Quieta non movere (or, more fully, Quieta non movere et mota quietare—that is, "Don't move things that are at rest, and put at rest things that move").

I don't know whether this maxim comes from Roman times or later, but it's been around for a while; in a 1763 letter to Horace Mann advising him about a move to Naples he was considering, Horace Walpole wrote

I do not know what to advise about Naples. You know I always repeat my father's maxim, "Quieta non movere." Besides, should you like it? After so many years, would you care to tap a new world, a new set of acquaintance?

  • I've accepted this because it's a great answer. Perhaps this saying is a tad more extreme in its intent than "don't rock the boat", but it's pretty damn close. Jul 17, 2016 at 18:50
  • Yeah, this saying seems more akin to "let sleeping dogs lie." But I'm glad it suits your purpose! Jul 18, 2016 at 11:11

Quieta non movere is a common enough expression in mediaeval legal Latin. But I do not think non + infinitive is a very classical way to express a prohibition. Classical Latin would be noli quieta movere (or any other combination of these three words).

  • 3
    I think you're right, though this answer would be better as a comment.
    – TKR
    Jul 17, 2016 at 23:09
  • 1
    I read this as an incomplete infinitive, not as a prohibition, viz. "[Opportet te] quieta non movere" or "[melius est] quieta non movere."
    – brianpck
    Jul 18, 2016 at 18:05

I think Noli labefactare scapham!

  • This is a good direct translation of "Don't rock the boat" (although I would have chosen the more typical accusative scapham), but I don't know if this ever was a saying in Latin. A direct translation of a saying does not always produce a saying. Can you add some details as to where this phrase comes from? If it's just your translation without precedent, tell that that's the case. And welcome to the site!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 18, 2016 at 8:55
  • Sure, scapham. I simply mistyped accusativus. Unfortunately, nowadays no one can surely say, if such a phrase were spelled ever in Latin. All the inheritance of Latin texts we got from antiquity is very short and doesn't allow us to retrieve overall diversity of the language. Besides, any language is a living systems that develops in time. Nobody knows what would be Latin today given it didn't disappear about 1.5 thousands of year ago. Maybe the phrases we write out today would become norms of the Latin.
    – Konstantin
    Jul 18, 2016 at 16:31
  • True, our knowledge of classical Latin is partial. But there are numerous preserved sayings from many eras of Latin, and goofballLogic did not specify any era. An answer that is simply a translation (not a saying attested in extant Latin literature) is fine if the voters decide so. I strongly suggest adding the source to your answer, be it some Latin text or your own translation. It is often not enough to give a good answer; one also has to justify why the answer is good.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 18, 2016 at 16:41
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    Welcome to the site! I'd say that even adding your comment ("Unfortunately, nowadays no one can surely say. . . .") would improve this answer. In any case, I'm appalled to realize that none of us has previously used the word labefactare on this site, and I appreciate your doing so! Jul 18, 2016 at 18:53
  • Well, friends, I'm glad to meet here true fans of Latin.
    – Konstantin
    Jul 18, 2016 at 19:01

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