I'm wondering how the Romans would have said "yes" as in "yes please" or "no" as in "no thank you". I don't know if they would have said it exactly like that, but what would they have said if they had to mean something like that?

  • 1
    Not sure if classical, but i bet it is. Basically no is non, while for yes you use the verb (eg volo for yes, I want, etc). If you want to emphasize, you may use etiam for yes!/of course and absit for no!/of course not/please no. The former means primarily too/also but also has the sense of ofc; the latter literally means sth like may it go away/may it not be. Sorry, but no time to source/elaborate until Monday – Rafael Sep 24 '16 at 13:14
  • 1
    @Rafael I have rarely seen non written alone to mean "no." – brianpck Sep 24 '16 at 18:09
  • 1
    A very useful paper by Rolando Ferri, "How to say no in Latin" academia.edu/2026111/How_to_say_No_in_Latin – Alex B. Sep 25 '16 at 1:39
  • Related thread: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/3016/… – C. M. Weimer Apr 20 '17 at 3:23

In Classical Latin, there were no words exactly corresponding to "yes" and "no". Non and ne were negatives, but they needed to combine with other words (like "not" in English).

There were, however, particles which could be used to agree with something. Both ita and sīc meant "thus", and became words for "yes" in the Romance languages. So if someone asked if you were lost, for example, you could respond "Ita!" ("It is so!"). For a stronger "yes", add vērō ("truly").

"No" on its own was a bit more unwieldy to express. Minimē is "not at all", minimē vērō even stronger. Negō means "I deny it!", nōlī is "don't!".

Another way to respond to a yes/no question is to repeat the verb, in the positive for "yes" and in the negative for "no". So if someone asked "are you lost?" you could say "I am" (sum) or "I'm not" (non sum).

  • 4
    immo is also a great way to oppose the speaker's statement if it is not a question. "Fortis sum! --Immo ignavus es!" – brianpck Sep 24 '16 at 18:12
  • Immo is an interesting case, and I've never really been sure if I'm using it correctly. My understanding is that it introduces further information about the previous statement, but could either strengthen or refute it: "Vivitne Caesar?" "Immo Dictator est." ("Is Caesar alive?" "Not only alive, he's the Dictator!"). – Draconis Sep 24 '16 at 18:23
  • @brianpck, immo is indeed a good word, but after all the years with Latin I'm still confused about it. I decided to ask about it in a separate question. – Joonas Ilmavirta Sep 24 '16 at 21:17
  • If I ever deny or approve of something in Latin, I say, type, or write "sic est" and "sic non est." – Middle School Historian Mar 16 '17 at 14:04

At least in a few cases, I have been taught that Ita or ita vero is correct for yes. I have seen it used when answering questions. As @Draconis pointed out, Ita means it is so, and vero means truly or something like that. However, ita seems to be a shorter, more casual form, not different in strength. Another tactic I have seen (rarely) is to just reply with a verb. In English, this would look like: Do you speak Latin? I speak it. A standard form of no (at least for beginners) is minime.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.