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I am brand new to the Latin language but have been wanting to start learning for some time. As a first project for myself I’ve attempted to translate my family motto from English to Latin the best I could. I avoided using translators and instead tried to use other resources to find the correct words by context. I’d love if you could check my work and provide feed back. Thank you in advance!

My motto is “We do not bark.”

My translation attempt: “Nos facera non latratus“

I believe it would directly translate to something like “we act, not bark”, which contextually is the closest I could get.I am not sure is there is something more accurate.

I wasn’t 100% sure if the correct word for bark was latratus or Baubari but I saw latratus more so I went with that. I also wasn’t sure is latratus or latrare was more appropriate.

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    My advice would be to spend more time with elementary Latin textbooks before attempting to translate: Based on your translation, it looks like you still need to learn some pretty fundamental concepts (like conjugations and negations).
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 23 at 15:46

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First, welcome to this forum, and congratulations on your decision to learn the beautiful Latin language. Rem pulcherrimam aggressus es, quae tibi magnam adferat gaudiam. (You have embarked on a most noble undertaking; may it bring you much joy.)

I'd like to touch on a point that fantome's answer doesn't dwell on, but that struck me reading your question: you seem to be somewhat at a loss as to how to find the Latin word for a given English word; you somewhat mysteriously hint at “other resources,” but these gave you several options, and you went by which you “saw more,” which happened to be the noun latratus, which doesn't mean “to bark” at all. So that clearly doesn't really work.

What you need is an English-Latin dictionary. There are many of these, but unfortunately those you find online will often just give you single words without any commentary or explanation, which is next to useless. But as it happens, one of the best English-Latin dictionaries ever written, Smith and Hall's “Copious and Critical English-Latin Dictionary,” is available online in several places for free (because the copyright has long expired). I recommend this version at Latinitium.

The web form gives you simultaneous access to several other dictionaries, but you don't need to worry about that and can just type in your word. If you type “bark,” the drop-down list will already offer:

  • bark (subs.)
  • bark (v.)
  • bark at

“subs.” (substantive) stands for a noun, “v.” for a verb, which is what you are looking for, so you click on that, and you get:

bark (v.):
I. To strip trees of their b.:

  1. dēcortĭco, 1: Plin.
  2. glūbo, 3: Cato: Varr.: v. to peel.

II. To make the noise peculiar to dogs: latro, 1: […]

You may be a bit overwhelmed by the abbreviation bonanza, let's just say Plin., Cato, Varr., Cic., Hor. and so on are famous Romans known to have used these words. Anyway, assuming your family motto is referring to the dog noise, latro, 1 is clearly your guy.

Now, can you just put latro in your motto, and what do these numbers (in this case, 1) mean? No, you have to form the right form of the verb, and the number gives you a hint on how you do that by telling you it is in the first conjugation. By convention, dictionaries list Latin verbs in a form that means “I say, I love, I go” etc. – in this case, “I bark” – affectionately known as the first person singular present active indicative.

Unfortunately, at this point you are stuck. I can tell you that you want the first person plural present active indicative, and that that is latramus, but why this is so … is a bit involved.

The thing is that even translating only a short sentence like “we do not bark” requires already quite a bit of grammatical knowledge. So you'll have to learn some grammar – either by the traditional route of memorizing declension and conjugation tables, or through a more modern method like reading simple texts; using a course or through self-study.

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This response is to provide feedback on the translation as asked, as opposed to providing a translation.

The 'we active present tense' form for the verbs:- latro, latrare, is latramus, for the verb:- facio facere it is facimus. The nos for we, isn't always necessary as the 'we' is also expressed in the verb suffix ending, but one of the reasons for keeping it is for emphasis. To negate a verb, non is one option.

Translation into another language offers challenges. In addition to being grammatically correct in the language, there is also often the 'sense' of what is meant in the source language, and how that sense is best (or at least well) expressed in the target language, which offers difficulties unless very familiar with both languages. and which doesn't always result in what appears to be a similar verb from the source language used in the target language, as this can result in verbs can be used out of their languages context for them.

Verbs associated with animals can be what they do and this includes the sounds they make. What do animals say in classical Latin?

The Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary at https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/ gives definitions for the noun latratus latratus and the verbs latro latrare and baubor, baubari for which those forms are in the header words in dictionaries. The noun latratus usage looks to only involve the barking of dogs. The verb baubor (the I form) refers to dogs barking, but only barking moderately and latro (the I form) in contrast is mentioned as referring to dogs barking angrily. latro, in its own definition, is mentioned not only for dogs barking angrily, but also in respect of other things, the roar of water, and for people to rage/snarl (at others) or to demand.

But these senses of meaning are still different from the sentiment for noise praised in Shakespeare's Scottish play, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

A literal translation of we do not bark is nos non latramus. This isn't offered as a translation for your motto, as from Latin, this can also be translated back as "we are not barking" as well as "we don't bark", and there isn't in Latin with barking any sense of only making noise, instead of there being action. At least as far as I know in classical Latin, as opposed to any meaning applied or implied in medieval or modern Latin.

Similarly to modern English speakers quoting from Shakespeare, people quote from Greek and Latin works. A latin phrase sourced from Veni, Vidi, Vici by Eugene Ehrlich is "consequitur quodcumque petit" with a not literal meaning given as "he attains whatever he attempts". Loeb Classical Library shows the quote in context in Metamorphoses Book VII by Ovid, referring to the magic spear the latin phrase is explained as meaning 'it goes straight to any mark'. Also mentioned in Veni, Vidi, Vici is that this phrase is able to be applied to a ruthless person who will stop at nothing to gain success.

In that prior example where a specific phrase took upon a generalised meaning I hope it can be seen that translations are not necessarily straightforward, and opinions will differ.

Some sources for Latin learning (some also for not on one's own) are mentioned in this post How can I study Latin on my own?

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  • What an incredible answer thank you and thank you for the resources as well. I will try to go back to the drawing board using this information and try again. So, “nos non latramus” would be grammatically correct and a direct translation of what I said but not necessarily what I am trying to confer? I didn’t really think of that, I guess I was only considering the context in English and not how it would be contextually read by a Latin speaker. Thank you! So many translate mottos into Latin, do you find as a Latin speaker motto translations often lose their context? Commented Apr 24 at 13:22
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    I honestly can't see what peculiarity of the English language could bestow a mysterious subtext on “we do not bark” that would be lost in a straightforward Latin translation, especially since the OP hasn't given us the slightest hint what in the world the motto is supposed to express. So non latramus seems perfectly fine, unless the OP wants to emphasize his family is not in the business of removing bark from trees, in which case it would have to be non decorticamus. Commented Apr 24 at 20:40
  • When translating/interpretating non latramus back into English it is possible to translate into multiple English present tense meanings and I think the more likely as 'we are (currently) not barking' as opposed to the desired 'we do not (ever) bark' (= we never bark).
    – fantome
    Commented Apr 26 at 1:51
  • The other reason I suggest for a non literal translation is that the meaning from the given Latin was "we act, not bark" which meant I took the sense of not barking in the motto as 'rather than simply making loud noises, actions are taken', from the Shakespearean quote where only loud noises (the barking) are made, but they signify nothing is done. After further consideration I still think other than a striclty non literal translation would carry the intended sense 'better' which is definitely open to opinion.
    – fantome
    Commented Apr 26 at 1:53
  • To reply to the question ending the first comment. The book Veni, Vidi, Vici by Eugene Ehrlich has more than 1000 Latin phrases giving literal translations and 'real meanings' ('real meanings; is quoted from the back cover). For an online example for carpe diem see latin.stackexchange.com/questions/4938/… Translation is subjective , open to interpretation, and different opinions offered by people can make for a better translation.
    – fantome
    Commented Apr 26 at 2:16

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