How to properly write the expression "the best of both worlds" and the shorter phrase "both worlds" (meant in the same context as in the larger phrase) in Classical Latin?


An alternative, more classical phrase for "world" would be orbis terrarum (literally, circle of lands). So "both worlds" would be orbes ambo terrarum and "best of both worlds" would be optima orbium amborum terrarum. This is awkward, so prefer optima mundorum amborum if you are OK with post-classical usage. Also, if the context is clear, optima orbium amborum would work (cf. the papal blessing urbi et orbi, "to the city and the world").

Note optima (plural). The English is short for "the best things of both worlds". The "best thing of both worlds" would hardly make sense as it would just be from one of them.


The standard word for "both" is ambō, which inflects like duō "two", and the most common word I know for "world" (though it was a poetic calque until post-Classical times) is mundus.

So "both worlds" would be mundī ambō. For "the best of…" you would want a partitive genitive, optimum mundōrum ambōrum.

  • Thank you. Would mundōrum ambōrum also be grammatically correct on its own, or or is mundī ambō the only correct way to write "both worlds" without "the best of "?
    – JCG
    Feb 21 '20 at 0:26
  • @JCG Mundōrum ambōrum means "…of both worlds".
    – Draconis
    Feb 21 '20 at 0:30
  • 1
    This actually is NOT a partitive genitive; it's a genitive of possession (since "the best" here presumably includes aspects of each world, like scientific advancement, for instance, that are not composite parts of them, but that are abstract qualities they possess...you also wouldn't say "a girl's beauty" is a partitive either, I hope). A partitive genitive would be "the better of two worlds" (melior orbium duorum terrarum) or the "the best of all the worlds (optimus orbium omnium terrarum).
    – C Monsour
    Feb 28 '20 at 2:02
  • C Monsour: Allen & Greenough p.346 (213 reprint): "Partitive Genitive 2. Numerals, Comparatives, Superlatives, and Pronomial words....". The use of superlative "best" indicates that "the best (parts) of both worlds" is an ex. of the partitive genitive. A & G p342 (211 reprint): "Possessive Genitive: Footnote (1) section (2): "the person or thing that possesses some feeling or quality...In the latter use it is sometimes called the Subjective Genitive; but this term properly includes the possessive genitive and several other genitive constructions..."; "beauty of the girl" --subjective genitive.
    – tony
    Mar 3 '20 at 9:54
  • @tony Sometimes "the best of X" does refer to the best parts of X. Sometimes it refers to the best qualities of X. In the former case, it would be a partitive genitive. I would maintain that this is an example of the latter case.
    – C Monsour
    Apr 8 '20 at 20:25

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