Oscar Wilde said that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. The tricky part of translating this into Latin is the "over" part. This will, I think, have to be expressed in terms "victory"/ "defeat"; or, just one concept overwhelming the other.

Clearly, an example of indirect speech (accusative-infinitive construction) involving a subordinate "qui"-clause; this, including a subjunctive verb (The statement is on the authority of the speaker.) in the passive, governing an instrument-noun (ablative).

Oscar dixit matrimonium aliud esse rem in qua experientia spe obruatur.

Oscar said that a second marriage is a condition in which experience is overwhelmed by hope.

Is this correct?

2 Answers 2


Oscar dixit matrimonium aliud esse rem in qua experientia spe obruatur.

I would not understand this sentence, and the main culprit seems to be the syntax, which is in places English and in places insufficiently Latin. In Latin it reads "Oscar said that marriage is another thing [reads as wrong gender for aliam esse rem] in which a trial by practice is brought down [too strong] by hope". Concerning the choice of vocabulary:

  • aliud mātrimōnium (only this word order) means 'the other of the two,' or just 'not this one' - you were probably looking for alterum, but this means 'yet another' and can in principle by concurrent with the first. Best use secundus 'subsequent to the first';
  • rēs isn't used in the sense 'condition' - locus is, but generally in a more concrete sense;
  • experientia is 'trial by practical application' - we're looking for perītia 'wisdom through experience.'

Kingshorsey also rightly notes that a general characteristic of Latin is that it uses verbal constructions where English goes for highly abstract turns of phrase in which actions are metaphorically conceived as physical objects that undergo logical manipulations using the verb 'to be'. In Latin, your phrasing reads like a literal definition of what a marriage is instead of being an analogy, a metaphor.

This is also partly due to your use of the subjunctive, which yields the restrictive, definitional 'such a thing that'. In a metaphor on the other hand there's no question of evidential authority, and the second state is presented to be true whenever the first is true, so the subjunctive wouldn't be used.

Here's a few ways I can think of expressing your intended meaning in Latin:

Oscar dīxit in secundīs nūptiīs perītiam ā spē superārī/vincī (properly of a second wedding; vincī is more final)

Oscar ait in mātrimōniō secundō perītiam cēdere spei ('In a second marriage experience cedes before hope/expectation')

Quī post dīvortium rūrsus in mātrimōnium redit, perītus ā spē fallitur, ut ait Oscar ('He who marries again after a divorce is being deceived by hope despite being having been wisened through experience')

Mātrimōnium secundum Oscar perītiam spē victam appellat ('Oscar calls a second marriage the triumph of hope over experience' - perhaps this one is closest to the original; the absence of the preposition ā yields a more instrumental sense)

Yet another way to cite the author of the dictum is (ut) Oscarī vidētur, which means 'in Oscar's opinion, point of view' and not the tentative English 'it seems, appears'. On the subject of translating the name, here's one publication that uses Ansgarius.


I think your sentence is grammatically sound, although we might prefer alterum to aliud and in qua to qua.

Stylistically, there's a lot to consider. In what follows, I'm going to write in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness manner, showing how I might work through the task of translation.

First, I take stock of the basic structure of the English expression: [verbal noun] is [verbal noun]. This is certainly grammatically possible in Latin, but I think it's more usual to have these expressed as some kind of verbal clause, using infinitives or participles. So, I'm going to rephrase this in my mind as something more like "To have gotten married a second time is for hope to have triumphed over experienced."

I think this makes particularly good sense with matrimonium, which is not used very often as a noun outside some kind of verbal construction. We do want one of the relatively few intransitive constructions. I think in matrimonium iterum isse is a good start.

If we're trying to keep the structure [x] is [y], we need esse.

Then "hope to have triumphed over experience" may be best transformed into a passive, so the semantic roles are clear: "experience to have been triumphed over by hope": peritiam a spe vinci.

Altogether, we have:

Oscar(ius) dixit in matrimonium iterum isse esse peritiam a spe victam esse.

Now, to me that reads kind of clunky. Lots of infinitives. Maybe we eliminate one and allow some semantic ambiguity. We could convert the second half into a participle phrase: spem peritiam vincentem.

Oscar(ius) dixit in matrimonium iterum isse esse spem peritiam vincentem.

Alternatively, we could move away from the x is y structure and the ugly connecting esse. While we're at it, maybe we can remove the infinitive from the first half by converting it into a gerund: "in the case of entering marriage a second time..."

Oscar(ius) dixit in eundo iterum in matrimonium, peritiam a spe victam esse.

Maybe a relative clause is cleaner:

Oscar(ius) dixit ei, qui in matrimonium iterum ierit, peritiam a spe victam esse.

Here are some options I came up with. Surely there are many more ways of approaching the issue.

  • 2
    I like the last option best, but iterum īre sounds a bit tautological and cacaphonic; also I think the perfect in the second clause gives a different meaning from just simple causal regularity - it's explicitly iterative (or even referring to some definite events) as well as temporally anterior. I think the original intent is rather to express concurrency without repetition.—I don't understand that vincens - surely vincentem? Anyway, I prefer this as a relative clause. Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 16:47
  • @Unbrutal_Russian yes, clearly vincentem. Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 17:34

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