my Latin is terrible and a buddy of mine wants a proper translation for a tattoo, “Revenge is in the hands of the father” and I am getting mixed up by vindicta and ultio. Would it be, “Ultio in manibus patris?” Or Vindicta […]?

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    I changed the title to better reflect the question.
    – cmw
    Jul 7, 2023 at 16:09
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    Döderlein’s Hand-book of Latin Synonymes has an entry for it: "Vindicta is an act of justice, like avenging: ultio, an act of anger, like revenge..." The book is not always correct, just for reference. Jul 7, 2023 at 18:16

2 Answers 2


Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord is from Romans 12:19. The Vulgate has, mihi vindicta; ego retribuam, dicit Dominus.

Taking that as a model, I would translate "Vengeance is in the hands of the Father" as Vindicta in manibus Patris.

The lead up to that quote is scriptum est enim, "for it is written". That got me curious, where is it written? Deuteronomy 32:35. The Vulgate has this for Deuteronomy 32:35, Mea est ultio, et ego retribuam in tempore. Using that as a model, you could go with ultio.

So what is the difference between ultio and vindicta? I suppose it must be the difference between translating from the Greek (Romans, vindicta) or the Hebrew (Deuteronomy, ultio).


I'd choose "ultio".

"vindicta" is a staff or rod with which a slave was touched in the ceremony of manumission, a liberating-rod, manumission - staff. According to Lewis and Short. And also "Vengeance, revenge, punishment (syn. ultio)" It isn't the original meaning. And "ultio" as an act of taking vengeance, avenging, revenge. It came from the verb "ulciscor" "to take vengeance on" I'd use the preposition "penes" "in the possession or power of" instead of "in manibus alicuius" So "VLTIO PENES PATREM EST"

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