Good day. We are looking to create a motto for a training group for public servants. The motto in English would be "Mentoring guardians of peace". Would this be something like "Docentes custodes pacis"?

Thanks in advance.

  • Note the English phrase is ambiguous (are the guardians the mentors, or are they being mentored?). By chance, your Latin version (which is grammatically correct) has the same ambiguity. Jul 25, 2023 at 17:54
  • @Sebastian Koppehel For "being mentored", would you not have to use passive participle doctus instead of active participle docēns?
    – Arfrever
    Jul 25, 2023 at 18:07
  • @Arfrever Not with an implied subject and custodes being the object, e.g. in hi doctores docentes illos custodes pacis, etc.
    – cmw
    Jul 25, 2023 at 18:18
  • @SebastianKoppehel would changing the English version to "Mentoring the guardians of peace" or "Teaching those who guard peace" facilitate the translation to something less ambiguous?
    – Pete
    Jul 31, 2023 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


You probably used automatic translation software, and result is expectedly wrong.

English -ing is used for 3 unrelated functions: (1) action noun, (2) present active participle (they were distinct in Old/Middle English, -ing / -ung versus -ende / -and(e) / -inde.), (3) some different nouns irrelevant here.

docentēs is plural nominative/vocative/accusative form of Latin participle docēns "teaching, instructing", from verb doceō (infinitive docēre).

docentēs custōdēs or custōdēs docentēs (word order is mostly free in Latin) would mean "guardians teaching/instructing" as in "guardians, who are teaching/instructing", not "teaching/instructing of guardians".

You can use Latin infinitive (here docēre) as action noun: "Docēre custōdēs pācis".

  • @cmw: Seb has said that the OP's offer, "docentes custodes pacis" is grammatically correct. Arfrever claims that this means, "guardians (who are) teaching," not, "teaching of guardians". Given that a present-participle must agree with the noun it's describing, are both versions correct? To eliminate the ambiguity is the infinitive, "docere", the correct choice?
    – tony
    Jul 29, 2023 at 8:16
  • @tony "Docentēs custōdēs pācis" has 2 possible meanings: (1) "guardians of peace, who are teaching" (when docentēs is nominative and custōdēs is nominative); (2) "some other persons are teaching guardians of peace" (when docentēs is nominative and custōdēs is accusative). (If both are treated as accusatives, or as vocatives, then it will be some variation of first meaning.) (You can check their declension tables in Wiktionary if you want. They show that some level of syncretism is present here.) Meaning "teaching of guardians" is not possible for this sentence.
    – Arfrever
    Jul 29, 2023 at 10:24
  • @tony Original question contains 「We are looking to create a motto for a training group for public servants. The motto in English would be "Mentoring guardians of peace".」. With the most likely meaning of English sentence, this means that neither of meanings of "Docentēs custōdēs pācis" matches desired meaning.
    – Arfrever
    Jul 29, 2023 at 10:29
  • @tony For action noun with meaning "(act of) teaching", either infinitive or a real noun (e.g. doctrīna) is needed. Latin noun doctrīna can have neutral meaning, but I would avoid it in English community to avoid confusion with English noun doctrine which has strong philosophical / theological / ideological / political connotations.
    – Arfrever
    Jul 29, 2023 at 10:30
  • @tony so then the proper grammatical form would be "Doctrīna custōdēs pācis"? I'm not clear on why there would be an aversion to using this. Can you expand further as to why it should be avoided? I commented above that it might serve better to change the English version of the motto to "Mentoring the guardians of peace" or "Teaching those who guard peace". Would we end up with the same result?
    – Pete
    Aug 1, 2023 at 14:48

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