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This question seems to assume that the Romans actually used et cetera as we do. But did they really? By that, I mean: did they use et cetera at the end of a clause or phrase, without any noun agreeing with cetera, to mean "and so on, und so weiter, enzovoorts"?

If the Romans did not "invent" it, do we then have any idea when it began to be used in the modern way? I know it exists at least in Dutch, English, and French, but those could be borrowings from humanist Latin, for all I know.

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The Latin expression ''Et cetera'' came originally from the Ancient Greek: they came up with a few expressions like:

  • ''καὶ τὰ ἕτερα'' (literally: ''and the other things'')
  • ''καιὶτα τέρα'' (literally: ''and the other things'')
  • ''καὶ τὰ λοιπά'' (literally: ''and the remainder'')

So the answer on your first question: no, the Romans did not invent the expression 'et cetera', but the Greeks did.

Secondly, there are many exhibits that the Romans used et cetera/et alii in speaking language. The 'et alii' is the most used form, but in the newer Latin, et cetera became more popular. So in the time of the Roman empire, the Romans often used 'et alii', and rarely 'et cetera'. The image underneath, is from the book: Aristophanous kōmōidiai: Comoediae in Latinum sermonem conversae (‎Christian Daniel Beck)

enter image description here

As you can see, the writer used et alii, instead of et cetera.

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    That's very interesting. Could you show us one or more of those exhibits? It should also be noted that et alii as used in your example is not about "things", nor is it used substantively at the end of a sentence. An example of a Greek aequivalent in classical literature would also be useful. (I do remember seeing ta loipa used, but I only seem to recall seeing it used adverbally.) – Cerberus Oct 11 '16 at 21:41
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    There's some kind of typo in καιὶτα τέρα. – TKR Oct 12 '16 at 0:51
  • This example of et aliī has nothing to do with the idiomatic meaning in question, that is "and so on, und so weiter, enzovoorts". It's a plain combination of the adverb et "also" and the adjective aliī headed by virī, so "as many other good men do". Besides, a standalone aliī, being masculine, cannot refer to things - for that you need alia. – Unbrutal_Russian Jun 19 at 20:48

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