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I am looking to translate the phrase "deeds not words" into Latin. This is for a tattoo. I tried looking at Google Translate and it tells me either facta non verba or acta non verba. I need a precise translation.

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Facta, non verba IS the motto you're looking for.

  • It actually is a common motto (lists of examples: 1, 2)
  • Its grammar is perfectly fine, as already said.
  • It seemingly showed up as a Latinism in English around 1830.

I'm not aware of an ancient source using the exact phrase, though the idea is obviously old (see Expedito Bipes' excellent quote of Cicero in his answer). An analogous idea can be found in the Epistle of James (especially chapter 2), but linking faith and deeds: fides, si non habeat opera, mortua est in semetipsa (Iac 2,17)

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  • ... and in Mt 7:20 we have the famous: ex fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos -- by their fruits ye shall know them. Jun 15 at 16:24
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I would say:

Non verba, sed facta.

Not words, but deeds

This would be consistent with something Cicero once said:

sunt facta verbis difficiliora

deeds are more difficult than words

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  • 1
    If I just wanted the literal translation "deeds not words" from english to latin what would it be?
    – john101
    Jun 13 at 18:22
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    I like the "non X sed Y" arrangement, which is common in Latin, but, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong or un-idiomatic about "facta, non verba." There is a (semi-) common expression "multum, non multa" ("much, not many"), which is usually attributed to Plinius minor, ep. VII, 9, 15, where it actually says: Aiunt enim multum legendum esse, non multa. Jun 13 at 19:14

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