How to swear in Latin? I am not looking for vocabulary, but syntax. Did the Romans only swear using interjections, or did could swearing be used within a sentence? There are several ways to swear in the middle of a sentence to emphasize something:

For X's sake, come already!
The Xing door would not open and I spent the whole Xing night outside.
What the X is wrong with you?

(Replace X with a suitable word. I hope I need not list examples.)

In Finnish the syntax is different. In English you can use "Xing" as an emphasizing particle, but in Finnish it would be "X's" instead. In these languages these seem to be the prevalent ways to swear within a sentence — in my experience at least. The important point is that these two ways are different, so swearing is syntactically different in English and Finnish. I don't know other languages well enough to comment. What is the syntax like in Latin?

If the syntax of swearing in Latin is discussed somewhere, a reference with some examples would make a good answer. Examples and analysis of swearing are also welcome.

Swearing is typically not considered good style, so written evidence may not remain. I prefer the classical period, but any Latin era is fine.

  • 2
    I'd be surprised if there weren't some relevant examples in Petronius or Apuleius. J. N. Adams' The Latin Sexual Vocabulary might have some info, too.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 4:11
  • 1
    @TKR Seconding Adams' LSV. Wiki actually has a good overview.
    – cmw
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 2:09
  • @Joonas llmavirta: Where did you learn these horrible English words & expressions?Latin does not appear to have expletive intensifiers e.g. "The ****ing waiter dropped the plate!". This was explored in Q: latin.stackexchange.com/q/10608/1982. As this is an old Q., you probably already know this.
    – tony
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


There is an amusing little book called X-treme Latin, by Henry Beard. It is billed as 'Lingua Latina Extrema, all the Latin you need to know for surviving the 21st century'. It is published in the UK by Headline. If you really want the authentic syntax, this will demonstrate how it ought to be done.

Or if, of course, you want the authentic Roman, you will probably have to restrict yourself to swearing oaths by Jupiter (pro Iuppiter or pro Iove), Hercules (mehercule, hercle etc) or by Castor (ecastor!) for a woman or Pollux (edepol!) for a man; and so on. For expressly bad language, rather than oaths, it's quite legitimate to use an appropriate indecency — though you will, I think, find examples still (in the words of Edward Gibbon, who no doubt came across a few while writing his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) 'cloaked in the decency of a learned language' without a translation to your vernacular.

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