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How does one say "tact" in Latin?

OED:

  1. Ready and delicate sense of what is fitting and proper in dealing with others, so as to avoid giving offence, or win good will; skill or judgement in dealing with men or negotiating difficult or delicate situations; the faculty of saying or doing the right thing at the right time. [ < French tact (Voltaire 1769).]

Dexteritas?

2 Answers 2

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There are a handful of words in classical Latin that denote skill in handling social situations: urbanitas, humanitas, comitas, facilitas.

Facilitas in particular might be ideal for representing being at ease in or having an easy-going manner in a given situation. However, it has a rather wide semantic field. Therefore, to specify it as a social grace, ancient authors often paired it with another word that is more recognizably social in nature. In Cicero we find in one instance comitatem et facilitatem, and in another facilitate et humanitate.

Also, lenitas denotes a gentle manner that might be considered tactful as opposed to forceful.

Dexteritas is a rather uncommon word, but Livy does use ingenii dexteritas parallel to comitas in describing Scipio. The meaning there seems to be that he was a very quick-witted or highly adaptable.

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Bona venia M. Tullii Ciceronis (qui vix illam veniam mihi negare potest) proponam: "Tact" est facultas sentiendi quid deceat, et in factis dictisque qui sit modus.

Nam ille scripsit (De officiis, 1,14):

Nec vero illa parva vis naturae est rationisque, quod unum hoc animal sentit, quid sit ordo, quid sit quod deceat, in factis dictisque qui modus.

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