I have a grad student as a Latin teacher. I don't feel comfortable addressing him as teacher, magister, or any other title because he doesn't really command his classroom. Rather, he guides us in interpreting the passages that we had to tell him we wanted to read at the beginning of the class. Also, he chooses to be exceptionally forgiving about missed assignments and unpreparedness.

For that reason, I want a title I can call him comfortably. I'm thinking of some sort of translation of guide, but nothing really stands out to me. "Derector" sounds like a movie producer to me, "Dux" is both too formal and too prestigious a title (considering it developed into the title of Duke), "Gubernator" would feel like I'm calling him a Republican which - while not true in a historical context - feels wrong.

"Rector" seems like a decent translation but it lacks any sense that he has authority, as far as I can tell. Maybe since he is teaching a Latin literature course (the Aeneid) he could take the title "Rector Litterarum?"

What other ways could I translate "guide," and/or what titles could confer a sense of middling dignity for a teacher?


There is "curator, -oris" (masculine) = manager, superintendent; guardian (Oxford). If this does not please, then, "procurator, oris" (masc.) = manager, overseer; agent; deputy. (In some quarters Roman procurators--imposing taxes on conquered peoples--were not popular.)

Alternatively, "vilicus, i" (masc.) = farm overseer, farm manager. Here, a metaphor, "the good shepherd"--looking after his flock (the students). Yes, it's tongue-in-cheek; but, isn't that what you are seeking? This, like the others, can be construed in different (opposing) ways. Then, and again, you want a term of authority which is not over-respectful, if that's possible.

My first thought was "auctor"--going in the highly-respected direction (Lewis & Short)--The Creator--among other things!

  • I really like "Vilicus!" It is a term of respect, but one closer to being a friend/equal than a superior. That seems about right. – Nickimite Apr 23 '20 at 17:04

I would argue quite the opposite for rector; he would have great authority indeed. Rector is still an academic title, and words derived from it are used for positions like headmaster of a school or president of a university. It is an administrative position, and therefore not descriptive of a teacher.

A great number of possibly suitable words carry a meaning in today's academia or other walks of life, like magister, doctor, professor, dux, derector/director. One similar word that seems not to be in use is ductor, which one could translate as "guide" but is often used for commanders in a military context. Some similar words like index and caput seem to miss the mark too. Judging by English and many modern languages, tutor sounds promising, but in Latin it is closer to a guardian.

My suggestion is to go in a slightly different direction with monitor. It has translations like "guide", "teacher", "suggester", "reminder" (person).

One possibility is paedagogus, which is a slave whose job is to teach. That word would certainly strip most of his authority, but can certainly be considered offensive as well. The two aspects often come together. This word is also a way to emphasize the pedagogical role of the teacher, whatever that might mean in your case.

One option is to use a diminutive of magister, the most immediate choice for a teacher. There seem to be no words in L&S ending in -trulus, so magistrulus seems questionable. The similarly declined liber becomes libellus, so perhaps magistellus? This is not attested, but understandable and justified by analogy. A diminutive can be considered offensive ("not a proper teacher") but also endearing ("my little teacher"). Either way, it is not neutral in tone.

My last suggestion is simply magister. Keep your grudges to yourself and call the teacher with a good formal title. It is often the best choice in practice. You are essentially asking for a title to address your superior that secretly mocks them. This sounds very hard, and I have hard time thinking of any word in any language that would achieve that well.

  • llmavirta: Wouldn't "slave" and "little teacher" be offensive? The OP requires an answer that treads the line between truth and insult with the skill of a mountain goat. In English, a "monitor" hands out pens etc., it has to sound good to English ears which accounts, I think, for the OP proscribing "derector"...Just a thought. – tony Apr 23 '20 at 15:43
  • @tony I had forgotten to comment about the tones of paedagogus and magistellus. I updated. I was unfamiliar with the English use of "monitor" apart from a screen. If monitor carries unwanted connotations, then my last suggestion (also updated) is the best I can think of. – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 23 '20 at 15:55
  • llmavirta: I tried to make mine ambiguous--to be interpreted as both/ either truth or insult. This is ironic English humour; e.g. nicknames which are the opposite of reality. Of course, English humour does not travel. I agree, the OP should proceed with his studies--applying maximum vigour. – tony Apr 23 '20 at 16:43
  • Secretly mocking a teacher would be difficult. This is not really my intention; this teacher just doesn't seem to take his role to seriously. He is lax on any rules or structure and constantly asks us what we want to do with seemingly no direction otherwise. This signifies to me a level of skill that is below teacher but above student. – Nickimite Apr 23 '20 at 17:02
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    @Nickimite: I would submit that control and skill are not necessarily related. – Cerberus Apr 24 '20 at 16:30

Besides the obvious magister, which I think would be quite appropriate, I have a few more options:

ductor "leader, guide"

monstrator "guide, teacher"

mystagogus "priest who initiates laymen into the mysteries", also metaphorically (and, so I praesume, mildly ironically) "guide to tourists" (from Pinkster's dictionary)

I myself would probably choose the last, because it is the funniest.

  • Yes, "mystagogus" plays on the English word "mister"; Mister Gogus"--a good one! – tony Apr 27 '20 at 11:46

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