"Et tu, Brute?"

Julius Caesar's last words; according to William Shakespeare's play of the same name.

There seems to be a difference of opinion regarding the exact translation and thus, too, perhaps, the true meaning of the phrase.

What is the exact, literal translation of the aforementioned phrase? What are other, possible meanings?

Feel free to also include your own interpretation, if you wish to do so.

  • 12
    Why do you say that there is a difference of opinion as to the translation? A reference to the actual people who hold these opinions would be helpful. As it is, I'm wondering why you haven't just looked up each individual word in a dictionary if you only want the literal meaning. – Asteroides Feb 24 '16 at 5:15
  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a translation question that doesn't show any research effort. – Earthliŋ Feb 24 '16 at 13:44
  • 2
    I'm voting to reopen as, I believe, we've come a long way in treating questions like these. It's not a perfect question, but it didn't deserve the treatment it got, in my opinion (though I am aware of the context in which it did get this treatment). – cmw Mar 15 '17 at 23:15
  • 4
    In general, I think "low quality" should generally be indicated by a low score, not by a closing—unless the quality is really too low to lead to anything useful or interesting. – Cerberus Mar 17 '17 at 3:23
  • 2
    @tjt263 I fully understand all that. And posting a question shouldn't be made into a lot of work. This website is supposed to be fun! However, when a question immediately calls up another question, one which only the original poster could answer, that is unfortunate. I don't think you would be expected to produce a list or investigate the issue yourself. But you say "there seems to be a difference of opinion". Don't you have a vague recollection of this difference, which you could write down in one or two sentences? No need for quotations or sources (although they would most welcome). – Cerberus Mar 18 '17 at 13:02

Well, without too much knowledge of any deeper, ulterior meanings to the phrase, I can certainly provide and analyze the literal translation for you:

And you, Brutus?

  • et → a simple conjunction
  • tu → vocative, singular case of the second-person pronoun
  • Brute → vocative, singular case of the proper noun Brutus (2nd declension).

Alternative, fairly literal translations:

Even you, Brutus?
You too, Brutus?


Suetonius, in his work Vita Divi Iuli, reports the last words of Caesar being Greek καὶ σὺ τέκνον; which is the original source of Shakespeare's line, translated into Latin fairly literally:

  • the conjunction καὶ becomes its equivalent et;
  • the pronoun σὺ becomes its equivalent tu,
  • τέκνον "child" is replaced by M. Iunius Brutus's own cognomen.

An alternative Latin translation, familiar to readers of Astérix, is the similar Tu quoque, fili: here τέκνον is translated by the equivalent filius, but the conjunction et "and, too" becomes quoque "as well, too, even."

In any case, the meaning is simple: Caesar was chastising Brutus for being among the conspirators, that he expected better from him. "Even you, son?" or "You, too, Brutus?" are standard renderings in English. Because of the simplicity of the phrase, it is rather straightforward to interpret and difficult to ascribe variant readings.

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.