I'm an avid follower of the TV-show "Game of Thrones", and wonder what a Latin translation of the Stark's families motto — "Winter is Coming" — would be?

It's used in the form of a warning, that there are dark and difficult days ahead. Should perhaps also add that in the GoT-universe, a winter lasts for years (decades)...


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    Welcome! Have you tried translating the phrase yourself? You might want to consult this guide for asking translation questions. Online dictionaries listed in our dictionary question might also be useful.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 21:09
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    @JoonasIlmavirta Tried without much success. Admittedly I tried using a book rather than the net, but what stomped me were the subtleties of Latin - is "Winter is Coming" here a general observation, an exclamation, a warning, more of a command...? As I understand it, suffixes are real important in Latin (jfr. Monty Pythons: Life of Brian famous discussion about "Romans Go Home!") Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 21:27
  • youtube.com/watch?v=XbI-fDzUJXI (Sort of scared me... ;-) Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 23:20
  • Immineo can mean "to be near at hand, to impend, to threaten by nearness, to be imminent".
    – Cerberus
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 15:22

4 Answers 4


Caesar (B. Gall., iii, 27) simply uses subest “be close at hand, be near”: ...quod hiems suberat...

Thus, hiems subest.

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    I like this suggestion. The Copious and Critical English-Latin Dictionary also suggests instat and appetit, which (for me) are slightly more evocative.
    – brianpck
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 3:04
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    Add a touch of the medieval with "hiemps" for Winter.
    – Hugh
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 3:36
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    @brianpck I think you should offer these as an answer. In particular instat evokes the threat that always underlies that sentence in Solium Ludus. Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 4:21

I'm surprised appropinquo (sometimes spelled adpropinquo) hasn't been mentioned yet. Caesar (Bellum Civile 3.9) also uses this one, and to my ears, it better fits what is being said in the show.

jamque hiems adpropinquabat

At that point winter was approaching...

I can envision Romans, worried about the coming winter, saying "Hiems appropinquat."

Visually, if you imagine winter to be a person, you could see that person approaching you, but they're not yet there. Meanwhile, subesse means more "at hand," where that person is standing near you but hasn't yet begun to speak; perhaps that person is just nearby.

Similarly, nox appropinquat would mean late afternoon, while nox subest would mean twilight: the sun has just set, but it's still somewhat light out.

This makes sense if we look at a few parallel passages. Livy (3.34) and Cicero both talk about the time relative to the day of the comitia.

A rumour was then spread that two tables were wanting; on the addition of which a body, as it were, of the whole Roman law might be completed. The expectation of this, as the day of election approached, created a desire to appoint decemvirs again.

volgatur deinde rumor duas deesse tabulas quibus adiectis absolvi posse velut corpus omnis Romani iuris. ea exspectatio, cum dies comitiorum adpropinquaret, desiderium decemviros iterum creandi fecit.

The election was fast approaching, but it had not yet arrived. Meanwhile, Cicero's parallel (Pro Milone 42) using subesse shows a more immediate closeness with less movement.

especially, O judges, when the day of contest for the greatest distinction of the state, and the day of the comitia, was at hand.

praesertim, iudices, cum honoris amplissimi contentio et dies comitiorum subesset.

The event being described as occurring when the comitia were being called together, not days before, as they were in the Livy passage. Though voting hadn't taken place it, the nearness of it was already established and not coming into nearness. It was at hand.

This makes sense even etymologically. The root implies non-movement: esse is simply a form of "to be." When Caesar (BG 1.25) expressed the relationship of a town to a mountain, he used subesse:

Tandem vulneribus defessi et pedem referre et, quod mons suberit circiter mille passuum spatio, eo se recipere coeperunt.

At length, worn out with wounds, they began to give way, and, as there was in the neighborhood a mountain about a mile off, to betake themselves thither.

The mountain isn't moving closer to them, but rather is described as close (only a mile off). If anyone were to be moving, it would be the soldiers, and the word to use here (of the two) would have been approprinquare.

We can again visualize the way the word works by comparing it to other esse words. Below I put TU et EGO together to show the relationship of the verbs:

1. TUEGO (adesse)
2. TU  EGO (subesse)
3. TU
     EGO (subesse)
4. TU                               EGO (abesse)

To put all this back into winter, bearing in mind that language can be imprecise, and bearing in mind that descriptions can be exaggerated (so I'm not saying necessarily that hiems subest is wrong!), but were I to hear hiems subest, I would imagine December already, on the eve of winter, whereas I would use hiems appropinquat to describe the action of winter approaching, though it still be fall. This could be late October when the chilly north wind blows or November when frost begins to appear. In either case, signs are present that winter is approaching, but not yet here.

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    Now that you mention it, I, too, wonder why appropinquare had not been suggested. Thanks for bringing it up and elaborating on nuance and classical precedent!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 19:03
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    Thank you, that verb did not come into my mind when I remembered the subest paradigm. To me appropinquo sounds more immediate and more effectful if not threatening than rather stative subest Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 23:13
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    @cmw: Exactly! Menacing was the word I was in a loss for! Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 1:51
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    @JoonasIlmavirta I believe to answer your first question the reason is because too often in a language people will not actually translate meaning, but words. But words cannot ever be translated in isolation, as they lack meaning without context. It's the difference between connotation and denotation. To make matters worse, often people will look for what's possible, rather than what's likely, as if no usage could be idiomatic or awkward.
    – cmw
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 3:38
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    @cmw Indeed. If only we found a way to communicate that to all new users about to ask their first translation question... The way I've described translation to many is that you read a story in one language, understand it, and then retell it in another. That usually brings about the right mindset. Near-synonyms that technically work are often weird or unsettling.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 6:32

I believe it is: Hiems venit (hiems is winter, venit is comes).

Hiems: Winter

Venire: To come/go

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    Welcome to the site! Hiems venit is indeed a good translation. It should be noted that it means more "winter comes" than "winter is coming". I am not sure if this tone is a problem.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 21:04
  • This answer could be improved if you added some more information, like the dictionary entries for the words.
    – anon
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 21:30
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    Intuitively, the reverse order Venit hiems sounds more natural to my ears, though I can't quite explain why. (Btw venire is not "to go", but only "to come".)
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 22:51
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    @JoonasIlmavirta There is technically no difference between the two when going from English to Latin. You could do hiems est veniens, but that is more using venio as an adjective to describe winter, and doesn't truly mean the same thing deep down.
    – Sam K
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 0:09
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    @SamK, hiems est veniens is not good, but hiems est ventura is more idiomatic Latin. I would suggest using it if one wants to make the distinction between "comes" and "is coming" in Latin. If there's no need for the distinction, venit is good. It's just a matter of getting the tone right.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 20:30

Hiemis imminet adventus.

This construction gets at the foreboding idea of the "winter is coming" phrase used in "Game of Thrones". Like the original English, it has three words. As a saying, it gets your attention with its stylish emphasis on the verb, imminet, framed by hiemis and adventus. I like the other suggestions too, but wanted to add this for your consideration.

As far as I know, this is not a classical construction. I adapted it from a sentence in a commentary on Vergil's Aeneid written by Maurus Servius Honoratus, a grammarian of the 4th century in Rome. (accessed on the Perseus Digital Library). See reference below.

Vel quia hiemis imminebat adventus.

to explain fessi --Book 3, line 276 of The Aeneid:

Hunc petimus fessi et parvae succedimus urbi.

Maurus Servius Honoratus. In Vergilii carmina comentarii. Servii Grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii carmina commentarii; recensuerunt Georgius Thilo et Hermannus Hagen. Georgius Thilo. Leipzig. B. G. Teubner. 1881.

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    I like this suggestion I also think you're selling yourself short by saying "this is not a classical construction": of course it is! Just because no author has put certain words together doesn't mean it's dubious--that would more apply to an unattested grammatical form or a neologism.
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 16:55

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