In English you can say: "This job/movie/party/[anything] sucks!" This is a concise and slightly profane way of expressing displeasure. Is there something similar in Latin?

The corresponding Finnish expression would literally translate to "This is from the deep!" which just goes to demonstrate that these idioms could be completely unrelated in different languages. I don't expect haurit or ab imo est to make sense in Latin.

Is there a compact way to express displeasure with something in Latin, with a meaning similar to the English "sucks"? It can be colloquial or literal language; the exact register doesn't matter. I would like to be able to say "this movie sucks", "her new job sucks", "the weather here sucks", and similar. There is of course malus/mala/malum est, but I was hoping there to be something a little more colorful and maybe stronger.

  • llmavirta: Yourself might need to begin by defining "sucks". Why is "sucking" something bad? Those who like to suck sweets, toffees, ice-cream cones; or, even, in a sexual sense might question this interpretation. If the desire is to bad-mouth someone/ something then: "How to Abuse & Insinuate in Classical Latin"/ Lovric & Mardas; and: "X-Treme Latin"/ Henry Beard. This latter first recommended by Flores on Q: How to Intensify a Phrase. Flores was voted down for this--why? Is it something for the Moderators?
    – tony
    Nov 8, 2019 at 11:38
  • @tony The English idiom doesn't make much sense literally. That's why I gave examples: I want to be able to say "this movie sucks", "her new job sucks", "the weather here sucks" and similar. I'll expand the question.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:47
  • llmavirta: A lovely expression is "malis avibus" = "under bad birds". In the Roman World this was used in the sense of being under the influence of evil--going too far for your request, here? It's always tickled me; but, it's nothing to do with humour: "her new job is under bad birds"; you might just have started something?
    – tony
    Nov 8, 2019 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


I suggest merda est!, nicely mirroring the Romance expressions è una merda (It.), c'est la merde (Fr.) etc.

The following is an excerpt of Martial's Epigrams, Liber III, 17:

Circumlata diu mensis scribilita secundis
urebat nimio saeva calore manus;
sed magis ardebat Sabidi gula: protinus ergo
sufflavit buccis terque quaterque suis.
Illa quidem tepuit digitosque admittere visa est,
sed nemo potuit tangere: merda fuit.

A scribilita [a kind of sweet focaccia] that was moved around for long during the dessert,
burnt violently the hands with too much heat; but Sabidius's gluttony was more fired:
so he immediately blew on it three and four times. It certainly cooled down and seemed to be touchable, but nobody could eat it: it was [by then] shit.

One could object that Martial used the expression for food, and it might not make sense for something else. But I don't think so. Admittedly I couldn't find other instances of this phrase, but looking at Catullus' Carmina, Liber I, 36 I think it's safe to conclude the metaphor was pretty general for the Romans as it is for us moderns:

Annales Volusi, cacata charta,
votum solvite pro mea puella.

Volusius' Annals, shit [literally "shat"] poem,
fulfill the vow for my girl.

  • I agree with you, Vincenzo. Btw, I was wondering if the attested example of cacata charta (rather than something like merdosa charta, which is perhaps not found until Medieval Latin) can be taken as it was caca rather than merda what was metaphorically extended in Vulgar Latin during Classical times. I'm noting this because of what you say in your post ("One could object that Martial used the expression for food, and it might not make sense for something else. But I don't think so"). In any case, the counterparts of Lat. merda est and caca est are extensively found in Romance.
    – Mitomino
    Nov 9, 2019 at 18:02
  • Assuming that merda est and caca est were both extended metaphorically in Vulgar Latin during Classing times, it would also be interesting to work out whether a gradience similar to the one found in (Peninsular) Spanish and Catalan holds: cf. Sp. Este film es una mierda ('This film sucks a lot') vs. Sp. Este film es una caca ('This film sucks'), the former being 'stronger'/more forceful than the latter.
    – Mitomino
    Nov 9, 2019 at 18:22
  • 2
    @Mitomino I think we find cacata rather than merdosa (or similar constructions revolving around merda) because Catullus did actually intend it as a past participle: a defecated poem, hence produced that way and not intellectually. It still shows the "excrement" metaphor works for different contexts: Catullus would agree that Annales Volusi merda sunt, wouldn't he? It seems the reconstructed Vulgar Latin noun is *cacca - I do also wonder if cacca est was used like merda est, or even with different gradience, though it seems hard to even find any attestations of cacca est Nov 9, 2019 at 19:41
  • 1
    Ok! Many thanks, Vincenzo, for your clarification remarks.
    – Mitomino
    Nov 9, 2019 at 20:08
  • Nice find! As a small note on the English translation, tepuit should be "cooled down" rather than "got warm".
    – TKR
    Nov 9, 2019 at 20:28

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