(I've never posted on StackExchange before so sorry if I'm missing any tags etc.)

I'm currently tasked with some creative writing tasks and have been asked to title a work dealing with nightmares (specifically figures crossing from dreams into the real world).

I'm looking to find a good Latin translation for 'from a dream' (I'm toying with the idea of something in the vein of deus ex machina) but am unsure on how Latin declension works (I'm an ex-linguist so this is very embarrassing for me).

Any and all suggestions welcome! Thanks :)

  • 1
    Thank you for your post! It's always nice to see new contributors. So help me help you -- I'm bit confused about what "in the vein of Deus ex Machina" means to you. Do you mean a dream is accomplishing something by fiat? It would be helpful if I had a bit more context to work from.
    – Nickimite
    Oct 5, 2020 at 18:55
  • @Nickimite, I simply interpreted the OP such that when he wondered how to express X from Y in Latin, he remembered the phrase deus ex machina and thought: if it works with machina, it should work with other words as well. Which reasoning is sound :) Oct 6, 2020 at 6:01
  • I did indeed mean in the sense of how to express X from Y. Apologies if that wasn't clear - was very overworked last night!
    – js2020
    Oct 6, 2020 at 10:23
  • Ex typically takes the ablative, and dream is "somnium" so "Ex somnio" would be correct.
    – Dus
    Aug 25, 2022 at 14:36

2 Answers 2


Somnus means "sleep". Somnium means "dream". One need not be an (ex) linguist to see these words are related, but they are distinct words with different meanings. I suppose you could work with both, but since you explicitly asked for "dream", I would recommend somnium.

Now ex is a preposition that always requires the ablative case. You can easily find the oblique forms (i.e. the forms of a word that are different from the dictionary form) at Wiktionary. From this we see that the ablative singular is somnio and the plural would be somniis.

Thus we can construct:

  • ex somnio from a/the dream
  • ex somniis from (the) dreams

(At this point you may be wondering: Hey, what about deus ex machina? No ablative there? It's the ablative too, but you only see it when vowel length is denoted in writing; the ablative of māchina is māchinā, and the expression is: deus ex māchinā. You would also hear the difference in spoken form if the speaker does correctly render vowel length, which in this case, even with experienced Latin speakers, is a bit hit-and-miss.)

There is also the adjective somnurnus, which is rare, but understood to be analogous to nocturnus etc., meaning: "belonging to sleep". In particular, the only use I find is: imagines somnurnae, meaning: "sights seen in sleep" - i.e., presumably when dreaming. The singular would be imago somnurna. But you can get creative and write: res somnurna (thing from the dreams) or animans somnurnum (being; I'd avoid animal, though that would work also), etc.

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    Thank you so much for this! I have settled on 'ex somnio' :) Clearly I need to start re-reading my notes from historical linguitics!
    – js2020
    Oct 6, 2020 at 10:25

When speaking about the product of something or some person, the word used is the preposition de, which means handed down from. So, if some idea comes from a dream, then it would be sententia de somnio. There is a famous book by Cicero entitled De Somnio Scipionis, Of a Dream of Scipio.

The word ex is used when something physically exits another physical object. The difference is whether something is being produced, or is merely exiting.

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