Sometimes people use the term "hearing Mass". For example, it is used in the Six Precepts of the Church where it is a translation of the Latin "Missam audire":

  1. To hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and to refrain from servile work.

  2. Diebus Dominicis ceterisque festis de praecepto Missam audire et ab operibus servilibus vacare.

What does audio actually mean? Is the meaning broader than I hear?

I am aware that I hear can have had a broader meaning in the older days so it perhaps it is a very good translation.

Some say that audio could be translated as I attend.

  • 3
    For an answer within classical Latin, consulting a dictionary entry on audio is a good starting point. There are several good online Latin dictionaries.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 16, 2023 at 13:18
  • C. To hear, to listen to, to obey, heed; orig. and class. only with acc., but also with dat.— so "I attend" is not correct? Nov 16, 2023 at 13:37
  • Wiktionary: to attend Plato's lectures: audire Platonem, auditorem esse Platonis Nov 16, 2023 at 13:44
  • 1
    @harryjansson What are you doing when you attend someone lectures? You're listening to them speak.
    – cmw
    Nov 16, 2023 at 14:04
  • 1
    Can you not first Posts what three or four dictionaries said, and what collectively they left unclear? Nov 16, 2023 at 23:47

2 Answers 2


It's worth noting, first, that the phrase audire missam goes back at least as far as St. Ambrose (AD c. 339-397).

Moneo etiam ut qui juxta Ecclesiam est, et occurrere potest, quotidie audiat missam. (Sermon XXV, n. 5)

The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources (DMLBS) lists a separate ecclesiastical meaning in 5:

5 (eccl.) to hear: a (mass); b (confession).

  • a 1199 cum ipsi post missam ~itam equitarent versus forestam CurR I 91; venit rumor ‥ quod cancellarius vellet transire per S. Ædmundum apud nos missam in crastino ~iturus Brakelond 135; s1214 cum ‥ in missis ~iendis fuissent occupati W. Newb. Cant. 516; s1271 in ecclesia Fratrum Minorum ‥ missarum solempnia ~ientes Leg. Ant. Lond. 134; [Henricus VII] attente ~iebat quotidie binas ternasve missas quas vocamus P. Verg. XXVI 617.  
  • b 1214 confessiones mulierum ~iantur in propatulo quantum ad visum hominum, non quantum ad auditum Conc. Syn. 32; 1221 quod in nullo jura dicte ecclesie, vel ~iendo confessionem parochianorum ‥ vel divina eis celebrando ‥ diminuet Ch. Sal. 116; 1228 sacerdos de A. ~it confessiones iiij villarum Feod. Durh. 228; s1300 archiepiscopus ‥ octo Predicatoribus et octo Minoribus tantum dedit licenciam predicandi et confessiones ~iendi cum per rectores vel sacerdotes ecclesiarum ad hoc officium sint vocati Ann. Worc. 546; c1520 potestates et facultates ~iendi et faciendi confessiones Conc. Scot. I cclxxiii.

This doesn't quite answer your question, since (as cmw notes in the comments) it's possible this is just an extended sense of the classically attested meaning "I receive instruction from" someone. It is worth noting, in this regard, that English "attend" has the same original meaning: "to stretch toward" something. In fact, L&S gives "attend" as one of the meanings of audio, though it clearly means the earlier sense of "pay attention to."

In short: perhaps there isn't much difference after all in English "attend Mass" and Latin "audire missam."


From the examples I have read the fundamental meaning of audio is to hear. For example:

qui audiunt audita dicunt, qui uident plane sciunt (Those who hear say things which are heard, those who see know plainly)

ecquis haec quae loquor audit? (Can anyone hear what I am saying?)

There is no indication of a deeper meaning. The other usages of audio are figurative. For example, in English if someone complains to us we might say "I hear you", meaning "I sympathize with you". That does not mean that the English word "hear" means to sympathize. It just means it can be used figuratively in some contexts to suggest sympathy.

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