I'm looking for a Latin phrase for starting your exposition by explaining the terms, i.e. its title. I believe the quote is "initium doctrinae sit consideratio nominis," but I'm not sure that that's correct. I haven't been able to find it online, so I'd also like a reference to it in use.

  • 1
    The current answers provide the source of the phrase you are using, but are you also looking for earlier, native formulations of the same idea in Latin?
    – brianpck
    Aug 8, 2016 at 13:26
  • @brianpck Yes, I'd like to have such formulations as well.
    – GJC
    Aug 13, 2016 at 17:15

2 Answers 2


As Joel Derfner points out, the quote comes from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, and is originally in Greek; it can be found here, in a collection of his sayings by his student Arrian, in the form ἀρχὴ παιδεύσεως ἡ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐπίσκεψις. In that text the quote seems to be ascribed by Epictetus to the fifth- and fourth-century BC philosopher Antisthenes, a student of Socrates.

The earliest Latin version I can find is from 1604, in Justus Lipsius's Manuductio ad Stoicam Philosophiam. The Latin translation -- initium disciplinae nominum consideratio -- is presumably Lipsius's own, unless there's an earlier Latin version I've missed.


So actually your translation isn't correct—or, rather, it's technically correct, but it's not actually correct. I'll explain.

(I should note that this is an edited version of my previous answer—the edits are based on @TKR's comments to this answer.)

The sentence you quote the Latin version of a sentence from the Discourses of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. The Discourses are transcripts of his lectures, written not by him but by his student Arrian, who wrote in Greek rather than in Latin. Epictetus, however, attributes the sentence to Antisthenes. The sentence means, more or less, "The beginning of education is the consideration [or "the study"] of names."

  • The quote from Epictetus is ἀρχὴ παιδεύσεως ἡ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐπίσκεψις, Discourses 1.17.12, where it is ascribed to Antisthenes: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/….
    – TKR
    Aug 8, 2016 at 0:56
  • @TKR Do you want to write your own answer to this question? I could go back and edit mine to be correct but it would be completely based on the information you gave, and I'm loath to take the credit for your knowledge! Aug 8, 2016 at 1:10
  • I've posted an answer, but I was led to the Greek original by your reference to Epictetus, so I think you deserve as much credit here as I do!
    – TKR
    Aug 8, 2016 at 1:31

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