In the Monty Python sketch "Dirty Hungarian phrasebook", one of the English sentences erroneously translates to "My hovercraft is full of eels". Obviously, not a sentence you'd hear back in the days when Latin was widely spoken, but I'm still curious, how would one most correctly translate it into Latin?

The current working version I have is "Mea navis aëricumbens anguillis abundat", as per the Wikipedia translation.

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    "Obviously, not a sentence you'd hear back in the days when Latin was widely spoken" ← today, on everyone's lips? Mar 20, 2022 at 21:14
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    @SebastianKoppehel Well, not on everyone's lips, but it's well known as a trope, and finding translations of it in many languages is something people do, since that's the original point of the sketch.
    – David Cian
    Mar 20, 2022 at 22:16
  • @SebastianKoppehel There's an old Omniglot page on it. The Latin is different!
    – cmw
    Mar 21, 2022 at 0:20
  • ...which I think is more accurate than Wikipedia: "Navis volitans mihi anguillis plena est."
    – cmw
    Mar 21, 2022 at 0:21
  • @cmw navis volitans seems quite a strange description for a hovercraft. Mar 21, 2022 at 8:38

1 Answer 1


I can sort of make out the Wikipedia version. It seems to be saying "my floating? boat is overflowing by means of/by/with eels." The only thing there is aëricumbens, which I can't exactly figure out. It looks like it a present participle with something to do with the air, but I can't find it in a dictionary.

The Lexicon Morganianum translates hovercraft as "scapha (automaria) Hoveriana." Hovercraft is not a Classical concept, to my knowledge, so I think navis is an adequate word for it, and, following this logic, scapha is also a fine word for it. I would choose the one that best fits the size you imagine your hovercraft being. If it is a small one, use scapha, but, if it is a large one, use navis. You could also do what some of your examples do and make hovercraft a construction with a participle. This would produce something such as scapha volans (the small, flying boat). Or maybe scapha pendens (the small, suspended/floating boat).

For "full of," I might lift a construction from Caesar. Caesar says that "Caesar, scaphas longarum navium, item speculatoria navigia militibus compleri iussit" (Gal. 4.26) and "cum fluctibus complerentur . . ." (Gal. 4.28). So I might suggest that you use compleor + abl.

For eels, I might suggest anguilla, which is the word used in the Wikipedia entry. You could use either mea or mihi to show possession. The former is the possessive pronoun (my [boat]), and the latter is the dative of possession ([the boat] for/to me).

When combined this gets you scapha hoveriana mea anguillīs complētur or scapha pendens mihi angullīs complētur or. You can, of course, change the word order to change the emphasis or rhythm.

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    To me, aëricumbens looks like a transparent compound: it's a boat that rests (cumbere) on the air (aēr). Cumbere is an odd verb in that it's only normally found in compounds (recumbere, succumbere).
    – Draconis
    Mar 21, 2022 at 2:18
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    @Draconis Is cumbere actually attested? I don't see it in OLD, L&S, or searching PHI.
    – cmw
    Mar 21, 2022 at 3:01
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    @cmw Not on its own, I don't think, but it appears in prefixed form often enough that I'm not surprised to see it in a compound. (I suppose succuba and its ilk are evidence against that though.)
    – Draconis
    Mar 21, 2022 at 3:19
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    @Draconis Well, there's also cubare.
    – cmw
    Mar 21, 2022 at 3:31
  • @cmw Right; my understanding is that mostly displaced its cognate cumbo but didn't displace the compounds built off it.
    – Draconis
    Mar 21, 2022 at 3:46

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