In Cic. Cat. 2.20:

"...quo ex genere iste est Manlius cui nunc Catalina succedit." =

"...of (from) which class (genre) is Manlius himself whom Catiline is now succeeding."

The pronoun, "iste", is often glossed-over by translators; its usual meanings (he/she/it/that/ this-or-that of yours/ that which you refer to/ the well-known [Oxford]). From the Wiktionary entry: "In classical usage, 'iste', frequently has a secondary, pejorative usage of casting the referent in a negative light e.g. 'iste homo' = 'that (infamous/ no-good) man'. Also, 'iste,' inquit, 'sceleribus suis tolletur.' = 'That man,' he said, 'will be taken away for his crimes.'".

In footnote 1 (Perseus: Latin text) "iste est" = "est ipse" = "is himself". Therefore, is it permissible to use "iste" for the intensifier, "ipse"?

Continuing: Cicero had no love for Manlius. By deploying "iste", therefore: (i) = "ipse" = "himself"; (ii) Cicero expresses his contempt for Manlius (& Catiline, by association).

Is this correct?


In Cic. ad Att. 15.20.4:

"equidem etsi mihi videtur iste qui umbras timet ad caedem spectare," =

"truly though he who fears (is frightened of) the shadows seems to me to seek slaughter,".

In this example, "he" is Mark Antony, pretending to fear Brutus & Cassius. (Cicero had no love for MA, either.) Again, is this the use of "iste" to express contempt? Here, "qui" = "he who". If "iste" = "he, himself (pejorative sense)"; then in, "qui iste", we have: "he who, he himself".

How does this work?

  • 1
    Unrelated to the pronoun problem: The translation of the second part seems to be a little off. There is a nominativus cum infinitivo, namely iste videtur spectare, saying "he seems to look". Or perhaps there is more context that would suggest a different translation. Are the translations your own or did you find them somewhere?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 29, 2022 at 10:33
  • @Joonas llmavirta: I didn't like the Perseus translation: "the fact is that though that trembler at shadows appears to me to have his eye on massacre,", so I amended it, a little. Is it the case that "he who ("qui") fears" & "he ("iste") seems to look" require two different pronouns for "he"?
    – tony
    Mar 29, 2022 at 10:52
  • @Joonas llmavirta: I've changed it.
    – tony
    Mar 29, 2022 at 11:00
  • 1
    The Perseus translation sounds good to me; it renders in idiomatic English what was originally in idiomatic Latin, and the factual accuracy is excellent. For example, switching between participles and relative clauses gives flexibility in translation. // I don't think iste was strictly necessary in that sentence, but language isn't all about necessity. I'm not sure if an NCI with the N being a relative clause without an explicit is/iste/ille or something is attested, but it would sound sensible enough to me. // The new translation works well.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 29, 2022 at 11:15
  • 1
    @Joonas llmavirta: Thanks. When I presented these examples to Mitomino in Q: latin.stackexchange.com/a/17967/1982, I asked what would have happened if "iste" had been omitted. He agreed that in a number of alternative translations, translators had ignored it and suggested that a new Q. be asked. Cerberus also made this recommendation.
    – tony
    Mar 29, 2022 at 15:56

3 Answers 3


Latin pronouns are a tricky topic. There are 3 degrees of proximity for demonstratives/determiners largely corresponding to the 3 grammatical persons: hic, iste, ille.

  • hic is the 1st-person, "this here" pronoun used to point to and introduce things to your interlocutor as well as anaphorically in reference what has been last mentioned in the context ("the latter").

  • iste points to things close to the person you're talking to, or the topic of the conversation linked to or introduced by your interlocutor ("this X that you mentioned, that X of yours, your"), or, more generally, a topic that's specific to the current conversation ("the one we're talking about"). It cannot be used anaphorically or in coordination to mean "he who, that which" (for the pronoun is); its reference in the context must be fixed.

  • ille indicates a thing away from both you and the person you're talking to, or a topic that isn't specific to the current conversation but is generally known ("you know which one"), or an earlier piece of context like the first of the two items of comparison ("the former"). It's also often used anaphorically.

In the mental file framework, iste opens and reuses a temporary, situational mental file, while ille reopens existing mental files and summons shared background knowledge, and hic opens a new mental file. Latin leverages these basic semantics for some pragmatic effects. I'm hoping to show that these effects aren't lexical/inherent but arise in discourse.

The pragmatic effect in your question is that of expressing the speaker's attitude towards the thing mentioned. Since ille summons a well-known referent from among several possibilities ("the one visible to both of us"), this naturally results in a positive, even reverential interpretation:

Lūcius ille Brūtus ("Lucius Brutus - the senior, the famous one etc.")

Clāzomenius ille Anaxagorās, vir summus in maximārum rērum scientiā ("That famous Clazomenian Anaxagoras, a man most accomplished in...".)

  • In this use ille is almost always post-positive, and comes rather close to a definite article.
  • But ille Philosophus was the medieval moniker of Aristotle, ostensibly following the syntax of the Romance article.
  • This use can be exploited for sarcastic reversal with the addition of scīlicet, vidēlicet, nīmīrum.

And this is what the negatively evaluation iste contrasts with. Since the reference is temporary, contextual, connected with or introduced by the addressee and potentially new and unfamiliar to the speaker, this naturally results in a dichotomy and a constrast with the known and familiar ille - it's the good old attraction to the familiar vs. the fear of the other.

The contrast can be illustrated in one phrase:

Ille Lūcius, nōn iste! ("The other Lucius [who we both know], not this one [who you're talking about]!")

So far so good, but the trouble is that this "deragotary iste" has over time turned into a self-propagating dogma that Latin teachers recite, and students (mis)interpret to such an effect that they even end up using iste to try and translate "f*cking(, bloody, wretched)" - I've seen it more than once! I think the reason for this is not understanding how this meaning automatically arises from the interaction between the pronoun's basic meaning, the intonation it's uttered with and the context it appears in (both linguistic and otherwise). If something doesn't make sense, it needs to be learned by heart and artificially impressed on the students.

Consider the English parallel "that thing of yours" - clearly the evaluation is negative and regularly so, but hardly anyone teaches that "yours" is a derogatory pronoun, or even points out this use. Consider also the accusatory use of "your" in "look at what your dog/country/ideology/advice did!" In Cicero's speeches addressed to his opponents, there are many uses of iste, but so are there in his letters to his associates - and it's this context that the interpretation hinges on, similar to what is the case in English. For this reason I prefer to avoid strong terms like "pejorative" and "derogatory" in describing this use - I think "negative evaluation" suffices, though this isn't quite precise, it's more like "dismissive, belittling". In any case, properly understanding how this contextual meaning arises should eliminate the need for these explicit lables.

It's worth pointing out that no special deragotary meaning appears in the word's Romance descendants. Instead, the pronoun simply replaces hic in the 1st-person demonstrative function ("this"), sometimes with the addition of the presentative ecce/um. In several languages its function is then taken up by ipse/um. Vegawatcher tells me that the Spanish esto < iste has no such meaning, but eso < ipse does. This confirms my contention that the "derogatory" meaning wasn't lexical, nor is it in Spanish; it's a pragmatically-determined interpretation which only arises in discourse.

Now to consider the individual examples:

  • ...quō ex genere iste est Mānlius... - is this negatively evaluating? Cicero is accusing the man of conspiracy, so on this basis it ought to be, but I again think this isn't inherent. I think iste is the natural choice by simple exclusion: hic would introduce something new, present and salient, while ille would imply that centurion what's-his-name-again (ah yes, Manlius) should somehow be known to everyone present. Here it's "the defendant's Manlius [whom we've contextually fixed]", but not "this Manlius here" or "the Manlius who you all know" He's an unknown quantity even to Cicero himself, and this surely is baked into the negative atittude. In any case, it certainly doesn't mean "that wretched Manlius".
    • There's almost certainly a hesitating pause in iste est, Mānlius because the copula attaches to prominent, stressed words, and there must be a pause for iste to be stressed. Hence my rendition - witness the automatic belittling effect of such a pause in English.
  • etsī mihi vidētur iste quī umbrās timet ad caedem spectāre "although it seems to me that he-who-trembles-at-shadows (= Mark Antony) is headed for a massacre" - the choice of pronoun tells us that the entire definite restrictive clause iste quī umbrās timet functions as a single determiner phrase (like iste homo) as opposed to ana-/cataphora (ille quī est homō), whose referent is fixed in the discourse as Mark Antony. It neither introduces a new referent nor draws upon background knowledge. Shackleton Bailey renders it brilliantly as "that trembler at shadows".
    • If Cicero had said mihi vidētur quī... or ille quī..., the pronoun would be cataphoric and the meaning indefinite and generic: "(such) a man who fears the shadows". A definite interpretation would require specific context.

Linked articles:

  • 1
    The occasional "pejorative" use of ese in Spanish is will established. Etymologically, it descends from ipse but semantically is almost identical to iste. Here is one definition from the online dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy : "3. adj. dem. coloq. Indica menosprecio respecto de algo o alguien. U. m. pospuesto. Las máquinas esas no sirven para nada. No conozco al hombre ese." ("3. adj. dem. colog. It indicates scorn in regards to someone or something. Used more after the noun. Those (darn) machines are useless. I don't know that (darn) guy.") Mar 29, 2022 at 20:06
  • I like the reference to "mental files," which I tried to grope at in my answer. I also find interesting that the position of postpositive ille in Latin (and in furor iste) and postpositive ese in Spanish match. Mar 29, 2022 at 20:20
  • @Vegawatcher Thanks for that, that's an important qualification. I actually think menosprecio is exactly the right word (I think it's equivalent to Ru. пренебрежение, "an aloof neglect but not quite disdain"), but the English "pejorative" is quite a bit stronger than that. I don't expect this meaning is as stressed by Spanish teachers, or results in students who are reluctant to use the word unless abusively. Nevertheless, articles on Spanish might be a good avenue of investigation to confirm or refute my intuition of how this negative use developed. Mar 29, 2022 at 20:25
  • Your comment sent me looking through Wiktionary and Wikipedia in English, Spanish, and Russian. I only know a tiny bit of Russian, however. I can't find any significant difference between "pejorative," menospreciar, and пренебрежение, especially in linguistic contexts. There is an article in Wikipedia entitled Пейоратив that includes презрение in its definition. I think the word "derogatory" is stronger and is used often used for slurs and abusive language that go beyond "pejorative." In any case, I agree that none of these terms rise to what "f*cking" represents. Mar 29, 2022 at 20:54
  • @Vegawatcher Another thing that occurs to me: the fact that esto < iste has no such meaning but eso < ipse does demonstrates that iste didn't possess this meaning lexically; instead it's consistent with my contention that we're dealing with a pragmatically-determined interpretation which arises in discourse.—As for "pejorative", I think the difference I feel is bc. the English word is a learned, specialised Latinism that has no formal semantic motivation, no cognate words in the language. пренебрежение is about as ordinary and motivated as "unbecoming".—"pejorative" ≈ презрительный. Mar 29, 2022 at 21:08

Yes, iste can be pejorative. Examples of this are shown in Lewis and Short:

B. It freq. implies scorn or contempt: “non erit ista amicitia, sed mercatura,” Cic. N. D. 1, 44, 122; id. Cat. 2, 7: “iste otii et pacis hostis,” id. Dom. 5, 12: “animi est ista mollities, non virtus, inopiam paulisper ferre non posse,” Caes. B. G. 7, 77: “hic vestis cum isto squalore permutandus,” Curt. 4, 1, 22; 3, 2, 16: “tuus iste frater,” Petr. 9: “o isti, an urgent form of address,” Arn. 1, 23, 36 et saep.—

The reason it's so often missing in translation is that it's difficult to express this in English in words without resorting to an informal register. Much of the time, it's better represented with tone, which isn't easy to get across on paper, let alone when it's a translation. But it can be made clear with a little relaxing of formality and a bit of an idiom:

iste qui umbras timet

the one who fears shadows (you know the type)

It's difficult without adding something to get what the Latin naturally implies.

It's easier with your first example, though. It's very uncommon in English to use "that" with a proper name without implying something. Written out, you don't need to add anything extra. That Manlius can be as derogatory in English as iste Manlius can be in Latin. You can almost hear a Hank Hill-type muttering in the background, "That Manlius ain't right."


I generally agree with cmw's answer, but had started my own answer and also want to add enough thoughts that I need to use a full answer, rather than respond in the comments.

From the Wiktionary entry: "In classical usage, 'iste', frequently has a secondary, pejorative usage of casting the referent in a negative light e.g. 'iste homo' = 'that (infamous/ no-good) man'. Also, 'iste,' inquit, 'sceleribus suis tolletur.' = 'That man,' he said, 'will be taken away for his crimes.'".

I think this is correct to a certain point, but may be somewhat overstated. I think it would be more accurate to say that iste has a distancing function that in context can imply scorn.

Latin has three main sets of deictic adjective/pronouns: hic, iste, and ille. These have a very close semantic match with the Spanish adjective/pronouns este, ese, and aquel. The Spanish words do not exactly match the Latin words etymologically, but do match the semantic distribution quite well. What I say below mostly applies to both languages, and Spanish usage can give an indication of the Latin connotations from a related language with a similar system of demonstratives.

The Latin word hic and the Spanish word este both can "point" to something near the speaker. The Latin word iste and the Spanish word ese can point to something near the addressee or at a medium distance from the speaker. The Latin word ille and the Spanish word aquel can point to something near some third party and/or remote from both the speaker and the addressee.

From these core meanings come various means of managing discourse, in which the two languages have similar, but not identical usages. One usage they share is to use iste/ese to indicate something not in the immediate discourse field, but retrievable from the mind of the addressee in a form relevant to the discourse. This usage is particular signaled when iste/ese is otherwise not the right adjective/pronoun or when the noun it is associated with is already determined, making iste/ese syntactically unnecessary.

"...quo ex genere iste est Manlius cui nunc Catalina succedit."

One entailment can be to refer to the kind of thing something is, so that iste Manlius can express "such a man as Manlius," giving an alternative translation like: "of which class is such a one as Manlius, to whom Cataline now is succeeding." This usage begins to verge on scorn, because the discourse distances the referent by referring to its kind rather than simply to the referent.

Because of this usage both iste and ese can express scorn, although the Spanish usage is primarily restricted to placement after a noun (e.g., Las máquinas esas no sirven para nada. ("Those darn machines are useless."). Lewis & Short express these Latin meanings in this way:

[II] A. Like is in the sense of tantus and talis, such, of such a kind: “quare cum ista sis auctoritate, etc.,” Cic. Mur. 6, 13: “servi mei, si me isto pacto metuerent, ut te metuunt omnes, etc.,” id. Cat. 1, 7, 17: “homines ista auctoritate praediti, qua vos estis,” id. Rosc. Am. 53, 154: “animo isto esse,” Nep. Eum. 11, 4: “egon, quidquam cum istis factis tibi respondeam,” Ter. Eun. 1, 2, 73.— B. It freq. implies scorn or contempt: “non erit ista amicitia, sed mercatura,” Cic. N. D. 1, 44, 122; id. Cat. 2, 7: “iste otii et pacis hostis,” id. Dom. 5, 12: “animi est ista mollities, non virtus, inopiam paulisper ferre non posse,” Caes. B. G. 7, 77: “hic vestis cum isto squalore permutandus,” Curt. 4, 1, 22; 3, 2, 16: “tuus iste frater,” Petr. 9: “o isti, an urgent form of address,” Arn. 1, 23, 36 et saep.—

Such a pejorative connotation is not automatic, however, in either Latin or Spanish, but is context dependent. It is an implication of the use of this adjective/pronoun, rather than a direct meaning.

Animi est ista mollitia, non virtus, paulisper inopiam ferre non posse. (Caes. Gal. 7.77.4-5)

"Such a thing is cowardice, not bravery, when one cannot bear privation for a short time."

quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? (Cic. Catil. 1.1.1)

How long will that madness of yours still mock us?

The word ille also has discourse functions, but rather than referring to some discourse-relevant entailment that the addressee should be familiar with, it points to a referent known outside of the discourse context. Here is a quote from Lewis & Short:

[II.A] that, to indicate some well-known or celebrated object, equivalent to the ancient, the wellknown, the famous: si Antipater ille Sidonius, quem tu probe, Catule, meministi, Cic. de Or. 3, 50, 194: “Xenophon, Socraticus ille,” id. ib. 2, 14, 58: “auditor Panaetii illius,” id. ib. 1, 11, 45: “a qua (gratia) te flecti non magis potuisse demonstras, quam Herculem Xenophontium illum a voluptate,” id. Fam. 5, 12, 3: “ut ex eodem Ponto Medea illa quondam profugisse dicitur,” id. de Imp. Pomp. 9, 22: “magno illi Alexandro simillimus,” Vell. 2, 41: “honestum illud Solonis est,” Cic. de Sen. 14, 50: “illa verba,” Quint. 10, 7, 2: “velocitas,” id. ib. 8.

"equidem etsi mihi videtur iste qui umbras timet ad caedem spectare,"

Given the conclusions above, a literal translation of this would be:

"and yet to be sure it seems to me that such a one as fears shadows has slaughter in view"

In footnote 1 (Perseus: Latin text) "iste est" = "est ipse" = "is himself". Therefore, is it permissible to use "iste" for the intensifier, "ipse"?

To the extent that both iste and ipse are both demonstratives and determiners, I think that this statement is correct and that these two words can have similar discourse effects; however, I think their semantics are quite different and that it is misleading to imply that iste and ipse are ever truly equivalent or interchangeable.

  • Nice answer - a comparison with Spanish gives a really useful perspective (I don't speak it myself). Also your observation on "such a X" - I never considered translating it like that (thats what I get for not consulting L&S while answering!). That said, while I agree with that interpretation elsewhere I'm not sure it works as well with Manlius. He's a temporary discourse-fixed reference that "belongs" to the party Cicero's arguing against (2nd person). But I will grant it has that "generic indefiniteness" vibe to it - C. doesn't know him personally after all. Mar 29, 2022 at 20:01
  • It just occurred to me that another way of capturing the derivation of the Latin sense is to use an expression like "that Manlius (you know the type)." The second person reference brings out the entailment of using iste to retrieve a mental version of Manlius that has unpleasant characteristics. Mar 29, 2022 at 20:24
  • @Vegwatcher: Thank you. A most comprehensive answer! I like the translation: "...it seems to me that such a one ("iste") as ['he, who' = 'qui'] fears shadows...". This [ ] incorporates "qui", as well as "iste", which soothes my literal mind. My first comment to Joonas, above, attempted to translate both pronouns. Any thoughts?
    – tony
    Mar 30, 2022 at 8:55
  • @Tony I think saying "such a one as he who fears..." is fine for the literal meaning. You could also say "that type who fears" to get the same nuance across. Mar 30, 2022 at 18:30
  • @tony Again, I think this interpretation is incorrect. iste is specifically the only 3p pronoun that cannot be correlative as in "he who". The translation "such a" is in the definite demonstrative sense of "this [exact kind of]", not the indefinite correlative "any such one as". iste directly points at Mark Antony and can be swapped for the name, while the quī-clause is "adjectival", non-restrictive or appositive: MA quī umbrās timet "Mark Antony who trembles at shadows." It can be put in the 1st person: ego quī umbrās timeō "I (Mark) who tremble at shadows", not "such a me who...". Mar 30, 2022 at 20:01

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