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The expression "to have the last laugh" means to come out on top in a dispute or contest eventually, even if it may at first not seem so. This is particularly so if the person was laughed at before, e.g.

All the courtiers ridiculed the stranger who, when any wish would have been granted to him, only asked for a chessboard full of rice, but he had the last laugh when it turned out all the king's granaries did not hold enough grains ...

But it is also often used when someone's fortunes simply turn for the better, although I think there should always be some form of conflict, e.g.

The rebellious generals seized two dozen of the emperor's ships, yet he had the last laugh, because the aging vessels with their discontented crews proved a disastrous addition to their fleet ...

How can we say this in Latin?

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  • Do you have an example of this expression being used only when someone's fortunes improve? If you deploy this then the natural response could be: "The last laugh over whom or what?". Is it vindictive or simply a case of "schadenfreude"?
    – tony
    Apr 25, 2022 at 12:19

1 Answer 1

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You would use derideo with an adverb or conjunction or other word that indicates finality. So, for example, in the Satyricon there is a passage as follows:

...Lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tamquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. nec tamen derisit, etiam si fugit; servus enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit. Petronius, Satyricon, liber 62, line 11.

(A wolf got into the estate and exsanguinated all of the sheep like a butcher. But he did not get the last laugh, even though he escaped, because our slave pierced his neck with a spear.)

Additional note: the reason why one might prefer deridio as above rather than ridio, is that the latter just means a simple laugh and has a relatively positive connotation, but the former means to laugh in a mocking or gloating way, hence is more consistent with the target idea.

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  • Could you provide more exact references, please?
    – tony
    Oct 29, 2022 at 9:06
  • @tony You mean like the exact book and line of the Satyricon? Oct 29, 2022 at 10:56
  • 1
    Yes please; it saves a lot of time and if you're looking at that line it's no trouble, is it? Congratulations on 16-upvotes! (I'll find this one but for future ref. Thanks.)
    – tony
    Oct 29, 2022 at 11:33
  • @tony I did that. Oct 29, 2022 at 12:04

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