"Ut quid" there is usually translated as "why", but I know the usual word for "why" is "cur". So, why the weird phrasing? I can kind of see how "ut quid" can mean "why", as it literally translates at "so-that what", but it seems to me the phrasing is weird.

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    Note that Psalms has "quare me dereliquisti?" instead.
    – Draconis
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 5:33

2 Answers 2


Jerome is translating the Greek here:

ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες (Mt. 27.46)

The phrase ut quid then is a translation specifically of ἱνατί (especially when spelled out separately as ἵνα τί). Both ἵνα and ut for example are used to create a purpose clause, and τί is simply the Greek neuter singular interrogative, corresponding with quid.

This is common enough in Greek literature, as the LSJ shows:

c. [ἵνα] τί (sc. γένηται); to what end? either abs. or as a question, Ar.Ec.719; or with a Verb following, Id.Pax 409, cf. Pl.Ap.26d, etc.; ἵ. δὴ τί; Ar.Nu.1192.

I don't see this particular usage mentioned in Lewis and Short under ut, though, and I don't see it used in this way quickly scanning PHI results, so I tentatively chalk it up as Jerome being literal with the Greek.

Interestingly, in the Psalms it is translated more normally:

quare me dereliquisti?

This is likely because Jerome is translating here from the Hebrew לָמָ֣ה, which is a more straightforward way of asking "why."

(In Latin, cur might be one word for "why", but quare is another common one; see e.g. Catullus 85: quare id faciam fortasse requiris, "why do I do this, perhaps you are asking.")

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    What does "Quare id faciam fortasse requiris." mean? "Maybe you are asking me why I did that.", or? Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 10:56
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    @FlatAssembler yes en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Catullus_85
    – AakashM
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 13:22
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    Actually the Hebrew is more literally translated as "for what" or "to what". Despite it being only 3 letters, it is a compound word לָ = "for" + מָ֣ה = what. I think "ut quid" seems a more fitting translation than "quare".
    – JoelFan
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 1:52
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    @JoelFan "For what" = "why" anyway. But ut quid isn't quite the same. Ut quid isn't an idiomatic way to express "why" in Latin. Jerome is just being overly literal in both places.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 2:12
  • ‘Overly literal’ is a qualitative assessment of his chosen translation, but without considering whether that was consciously chosen, is it not? Translation is after all generally done in one out of three ways: Either as close to the original phrasing and syntax as possible, for the explicit purpose of reflecting that in the translation; or reinterpreted in the target language to optimise flow and permit a natural reading experience for those not fluent in the original language (e.g. The Lord of the Rings); or some un-/conscious in-between.
    – Canned Man
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 9:49

In the Iuxta Hebraicum (Weber and Gryson), ut quid shows up 1x, quare 23x.

In the Iuxta Septuaginta (Gallicanum), ut quid shows up 7x, quare 15x.

Cur shows up in the Iuxta Septuaginta 1x (XLVIII.6 cur timebo in die malo iniquitas calcanei mei circumdabit me). Iuxta Hebraicum uses quare in XLVIII.6 and the Psalterium Romanum uses ut quid. The Psalterium Romanum does not seem to use cur.

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