Imagine I was having this discussion with my friend the other day:

  • Me: I need to hang up this picture on the wall. Do you have a hammer?
  • Him: Unfortunately, all I have is a sledgehammer. Would you like to borrow it?
  • Me: Thank you for offer, but I am afraid this wont work. I need a small hammer to delicately hammer a nail into the wall without breaking the wall altogether. A sledgehammer is very big and heavy - if I were to use a sledgehammer for this task, I would probably miss where I wanted to swing and end up breaking the whole wall!
  • Him: Ah, I understand! A sledgehammer is not well suited for this problem! You need a smaller hammer, something more suitable for this problem!

In this case, I would be looking for a Latin expression to summarize the essence of this conversation. I want to say "for a specific problem, a specific solution".

I tried to look online for this and the closest Latin expression I could find was "ad hoc" - but I was hoping to find a more precise Latin expression to summarize this idea: "for this specific problem, a specific solution".

Can someone please help me out here?

  • I'm sure there's an equivalent Roman or Greek expression for this couched in more metaphorical language, which I think suits it better than the chosen words. Think along the lines of Aesop's Fables. I'll keep looking, though so far I haven't found the right one yet.
    – cmw
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 2:57

1 Answer 1


It was surprisingly difficult (to me at least) to find a nice classical equivalent for the modern pair: problem-solution. In Late Latin we can find problema solvere but the term problema seems to be more suited for a technical/a riddle rather than a trouble/difficulty.

For "a way out" (as a solution) there are several alternatives like exitus and via, but I could not find the corresponding term for problem. It is as if the authors simply avoid the (abstract) term as in: inveniam viam aut factiam or difficilius est exitum quam principium invenire; I am almost prompted to also avoid the term problem by using the dative, like: for everything a solution. However, another problem with exitus and via is they are relatively broad in meaning. Another option is solutio though I'm not sure it is actually better.

Tying to inquire this problem from problem yielded the options: difficultas and negotium; from those two I would pick negotium since difficultas might be little too strong and usually implies pain and suffering - not so apt to describe a situation as described in the post of missing the right hammer; in that respect negotium seems quite right as it usually implies an issue/occupation/trouble. Meissner brings negotium expedire as "to arrange, settle a matter". I think it is a good match for "solving a problem/issue"; the problem now is that I didn't find the noun for expedire. Doing a little corpus research on negotium I finally found what was previously escaped me: magnum negotium, cuius exitum non extimesco (A big problem whose solution I fear not; Cicero).

Unfortunately, the sense of exitus in that passage is rather result/outcome/conclusion and not "a solution" as one translator has it: "there is a serious business on hand, the result of which I do not dread". But I say that this distinction is really not that big as it seems to us English speakers; the idea is a way out; Lewis and Short dictionary specifically gives "A means, method, way, device, solution of a difficulty"; i.e., the way. I believe we can add a verb like reperio or invenio to exitus in order to clarify its specific sense as some authors indeed did.

Now, the requested bold part "for a specific problem, a specific solution" calls a known pattern in Latin Suum cuique , Let me thus suggest:

cuique [proprio] negotio suum [proprium] exitum quo expeditur; huic suum. (cf. Suam cuique sponsam, mihi meam)

Every problem has its own solution (by which it is resolved); Also this has its own.

  1. I put proprium as optional as I think it is little redundant here, but it gives the emphasis on the specific part.
  2. quo expeditur can theoretically be omitted, but I found this as an important addition to clarify the meaning of exitum towards solution rather than an outcome.
  3. I'm still not so happy with that. Maybe it sounds too dramatic. Maybe solution, via or remedium instead of exitus would work better.


Trying to seek validation to my suggestion, I saw indeed the pair (felix) exitus - negotuium shows up and not rare, in some mediaeval texts - but it is very hard to judge the exact translation without deep reading of those texts; However, as far as I could tell, it is more of the Cicero sense above.

Then, I used luchonacho's "usual trick", and sought a solution to this problem in the Vatican texts. From what I was able to gather, there is no one formula that was used to signify a solution (maybe even different translators?), whereas for problem the translators were comfortable using quaestio (as it was more in the sense of affair/issue as "the issues of humanity" where I think quaestio makes more sense in the case here. But maybe I'm wrong here, and quaestio is good for the problem of the hammer). At any case here are some formulas (emph. mine):

"We approach the subject with confidence, and in the exercise of the rights which manifestly appertain to Vs, for no practical solution of this question will be found apart from the counsel of religion and of the Church." (source)

«Confidenter ad argumentum aggredimur ac plane iure Nostro, propterea quod causa agitur ea, cuius exitus probabilis quidem nullus, nisi advocata religione Ecclesiaque, reperietur». (source)

While it is true that many Christians understand the moral teaching of the Gospel differently from Catholics, and do not accept the same solutions to the more difficult problems of modern society, (source)

Quod si inter Christianos multi non semper eadem ratione atque Catholici Evangelium in re morali intelligunt neque easdem solutiones difficiliorum hodiernae societatis quaestionum admittunt, (source)

it is for the public authorities "to seek a solution to these questions, with the active involvement of individual citizens and social groups." (source)

ad publicas auctoritates pertinet operam dare his quaestionibus dissolvendis, rem operose communicantibus civibus ac socialibus coetibus. (source)

  • For a semantic pair, perhaps nodus and solutio? Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 20:04
  • @Kingshorsey, interesting suggestion.
    – d_e
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 13:50

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