How can one translate the Finnish phrase "elämä kantaa" or "elämä voittaa" to Latin? The literal English translations are "life carries" and "life wins". The first phrase means roughly "even in hard times life will carry you forward". The most similar English saying I know is "life will prevail".

If I want to offer my condolences in Latin with these ideas, how can I do that? What would be a good translation or a suitable Latin proverb? I doubt the literal vita porta(bi)t would be good and understandable Latin.

(A friend of mine asked me this recently. I adapted the question to fit here and gave the answer I gave my friend below in case others are looking for this as well. I found this question in an online forum, too, but without a good answer. Other answers are most welcome.)

(To make this easier to find, let me repeat the key question in Finnish: Miten sanotaan "elämä kantaa" tai "elämä voittaa" latinaksi?)

3 Answers 3


Let us start with the famous omnia vincit amor, "love conquers/wins all". This is close to the original intention if we replace love with life: omnia vincit vita.

The word order omnia vincit vita makes the connection to the love phrase clear. Vergilius used hexameter, and for that vita omnia vincit is more convenient — although both are possible. Perhaps this full hexameter verse is close to what you are looking for (with prose translations):

Tempore duro nunc vita omnia vincit, amice.
Now in hard times life conquers everything, my friend.
Nyt kovana aikana elämä voittaa kaiken, ystäväni.

These were prose translations. For hexameter, I offer:

Life shall prevail, my friend, in times of hardship upon you.
Ystävä, nyt kova aika kun on, voittaa elo kaiken.

(Hexameter in English is not my strongest suit.)

If you wish to adress a female instead of a male, replace amice with amica.

The word vincit has a double meaning: it can mean "wins" or "conquers" (from the verb vincere) or "chains" or "confines" (from vincire). But since both love and life both conquer and confine all, I believe this is not a problem. This ambiguity was treated in more detail in a separate question.


I like the suggested emendation of Vergil's phrase. Another suggestion comes from the Preface of the Requiem Mass (text available here): Vita mutatur non tollitur, which literally means: "Life is changed, not taken away." The context is religious but I think could be applied more broadly.

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus: per Christum Dominum nostrum. In quo nobis spes beatae resurrectionis effulsit, ut quos contristat certa moriendi conditio, eosdem consoletur futurae immortalitatis promissio. Tuis enim fidelibus, Domine, vita mutatur, non tollitur: et dissoluta terrestris hujus incolatus domo, aeterna in caelis habitatio comparatur. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia caelestis exercitus, hymnum gloriae tuae canimus, sine fine dicentes: etc.


In order to capture the full feeling of your phrase, I suggest:

Vita Superat.

It's simple, but it means "life conquers" or more literally "life goes above." It contains the feeling in both English translations you suggest: life wins, and life carries (aka, goes above.)

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