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I should start by saying that my experience with latin extends as far as the fact that some words sound similar in italian, not much more.

I'm trying to translate the idiom "mind over body", meaning that through sheer will power you can surpass the limits of your physical body.

Mind can be translated in mentis (Mens since it's feminine?) or maybe animus, which is better in this instance? From what i understand animus can be translate in "intellect" which might be also a good fit.

Body i think will be translated to corpus but i see that it has a bunch of different meanings, is there a better translation for that?

Over i'm not sure about it. Google translates it to in but i feel like it has more of a spatial connotation, or am i wrong?

So my translation will be Mens in Corpus, is it right? Is there some actual latin idiom that has the same meaning?

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  • 2
    Welcome to the site! Idioms can be interesting to translate.
    – Adam
    Jul 26 at 13:07
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As an alternative to my somewhat literal-minded first answer, it is also possible to look for similar ideas in the Latin literature.

It happens that the Roman poet P. Ovidius Naso (born 43 BC, died probably in 17 AD), better known as Ovid, had a similar thought once; he wrote in a letter-poem (Epistulae ex Ponto 2,7,75):

Omnia deficiunt: animus tamen omnia vincit;
ille etiam vires corpus habere facit.

Everything is lacking, but the mind conquers all;
it even makes the body have strength.

If you like (you are not bound by any metre, after all), you can distill this down to:

Animus omnia vincit: etiam vires corpus habere facit.

⋯ or even lose your mind and shorten it to Animus omnia vincit – the mind conquers all.

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  • And of course Ovid here is echoing Vergil's omnia vincit amor.
    – cmw
    Jul 26 at 18:56
  • @cmw Utrum verius sit miror … Jul 26 at 19:10
  • I believe I made a convincing case for this being so long long ago, but alas, I'm a few hdd crashes past having evidence of that.
    – cmw
    Jul 26 at 21:12
  • @cmw Minime, utra harum sententiarum vero propior, volui dicere. Jul 26 at 21:24
  • Ignosce mihi, celerrime legi. Fortasse neutra est verissimas, omnia enim vincet mors.
    – cmw
    Jul 26 at 21:58
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It is indeed true that “mind” can be translated as mens, but also as animus, and the two words are almost, but not quite synonymous and can be a little difficult to tell apart. Reading this belaboured discussion, I suspect the willpower would be better captured by animus, with mens stressing the intellectual capabilities. In your case, I would recommend animus.

(Mens and mentis are the same word, by the way, just different cases – mentis being the genetive.)

Corpus is indeed the straightforward translation for “body.” Yes, it has all kinds of other meanings (just like “body,” come to think of it), but first and foremost it's a living being's body.

The preposition in certainly does not mean “over,” it means “in” or “into” just like in English. Over as in a higher position in a hierarchy would be super or supra, as exemplified by the expression Caesar non supra grammaticos (freely, the emperor has no higher authority than the grammarians). The difference between super and supra was discussed previously on this site; in short, they are both equally appropriate in this case.

So you could say:

Animus supra corpus.

(You may be wondering, what, we can just string words together like that in Latin? Hahaha, no, we normally most certainly cannot, it is pure chance that it works here.)

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Sebastian's answers are good, but I will defend the choice of mens and corpus by appealing to Juvenal's mens sana in corpore sano (Juv. 10.356). The full line is orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano, loosely "pray that you have a sound mind in a body").

You also see the two paired in Cicero's In Verrem 2.2.74.11 (non solum mente, verum etiam corpore, "not only the mind, but also the body) and his Pro Cluentio 146.7, which repeats mens but not animus after listing them both:

mens et animus et consilium et sententia
civitatis posita est in legibus. Vt corpora nostra sine mente...

So there's nothing wrong with mens.

Often in Roman literature, the two form a pair, but it is easy to prioritize one over the other. There are a couple different ways to write this, but your way is not grammatical. Mens in corpore would mean, was you see above, "mind in a body."

One way to write what you want is to compare the two with a comparative adjective. Perhaps something like mens fortior corpore ("the mind is stronger than the body") would work.

You could also show this with a verb like praefero or antepono: mentem corpori praeferamus ("let us prefer the mind to the body"). You could even echo Juvenal's grammatical structure: mens corpori praeferendum sit ("the mind must be preferred to the body", cf. Livy 28.41.4.1).

They may not have the ring of the pithiest of expressions, but they work just as well.

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