I was wondering if there is a stock Latin phrase in English for something that is the default, done by default, or something that exists just the way it is, something that is since always.

For example: "he likes fruits *" where * would be Latin phrase for "by default", "since always", etc. Or maybe "they are mortal enemies *", like "they are mortal enemies by default", "they are mortal enemies since always", "they are mortal enemies, it just is that way". I hope I described it clearly.

I'm looking for a phrase that you would use in modern languages, like de facto and de jure are.

  • 2
    I edited your post to clarify what you mean, given your comments to Joonas.
    – cmw
    Jul 15, 2022 at 13:53
  • 3
    Um, "by default" does not mean "since always" or "it just is that way." "They are mortal enemies by default" means "they are mortal enemies unless certain circumstances dictate otherwise" or something to that effect. Jul 15, 2022 at 17:04
  • @SebastianKoppehel I am aware of that. English is not my first language so I tried to explain what I mean with few expanded examples.
    – dosvarog
    Jul 21, 2022 at 12:10

2 Answers 2


This is a fairly common expression in law, so it is not surprising to find an attested (post-classical) Latin version: per defaltam.

de maritagio amisso per defaltam: A writ available to a tenant of a frankmarriage to regain land lost by default. — Henry Campbell Black. Law Dictionary. Ninth Edition.

It is also present in several dozen books indexed by Google Books.

Moreover, the form is close to what we find in French (par défaut) or Spanish (por defecto) for example.

  • 3
    But wait, what does it actually mean, "to lose land by default"? Does it not have something to do with failure to meet certain obligations? In any case, would inimicissimi sunt per defaltam make any sense? Jul 15, 2022 at 22:59
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    @SebastianKoppehel Indeed. I'd interpret "he likes fruits per defaltam to mean "he likes fruits because he did not do what he was supposed to do."
    – Figulus
    Jul 28, 2022 at 3:45

This answer concerns writing in Latin, not using a Latin phrase within an English sentence, as that is how I construed the original question. I'm trying to adhere to classically usage or something similar enough. In a specific technical context, like law or programming, you will probably want something different.

For the fruit example I would suggest consuete, "in the usual manner, according to custom". This is an adverb derived from the perfect participle of the verb consuescere, and some dictionaries (at let Lewis and Short) list the adverb under the verb. See the very end of the linked entry for consuete.

In some cases the more natural choice might be to use a form of the verb itself. A direct translation of such an approach will easily sound clumsy in English, so consider recasting the whole sentence using elements Latin has to offer; translating word for word restricts you quite a bit. Another verb to consider in this context is solere.

For the enemy example this suggestion feels less apt. Perhaps it should be closer to "unless otherwise stated" than "as usual".

  • I am more interested in just a phrase (not whole translation) which you would use in everyday language as it is case with phrases "de jure" and "de facto". Something like Anserin proposed in his answer.
    – dosvarog
    Jul 15, 2022 at 11:46
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    @dosvarog Do you mean you want something that you'd use within a sentence in English? If so, please edit it into your question. My answer concerns writing in or otherwise using Latin, as is the default on the site.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 15, 2022 at 12:47
  • Yes, that is precisely what I mean. I thought my intentions were clear when I wrote examples in English with a star (*) and wrote that star would be Latin phrase (and rest of sentence is in English).
    – dosvarog
    Jul 21, 2022 at 12:08

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