How would you translate the idiom "word for X" in Latin? Would you say "verbum pro X" ("Exsistitne in lingua Klingonica verbum pro solitudine?")? Or would you say "verbum quod significat X" ("Exsistitne in lingua Klingonica verbum quod significat solitudinem?")? Or something else?

1 Answer 1


A couple of points (numbered for easier reference):

  1. If you want a relatively direct translation for "word for X", consider e.g. verbum significans X, more literally "word meaning X". There might be better verbs than significare, but at least it sounds far better than verbum pro X to me.

  2. Related to #1, it's generally a good idea to try casting the same sentence with both a relative clause and a participle. Sometimes one works better than the other. It doesn't matter much which one is used in the original language you are translating from. What matters is how easy and nice the resulting Latin is to parse.

  3. I'm taking your adjective Klingonicus as given. Whether it's the correct way to derive this word should be taken to a separate discussion. I find it much cleaner to keep vocabulary and syntax separate when it's obviously possible, and here the core of your problem seems to be more syntactical.

  4. Existere is not a great general translation for "to exist". It means more like "to become loud or visible" or "to emerge". There is also a sense close to "to exist", but more in the spirit of "to be eminent/visible/notable". As you appear to be asking about mere factual existence, existere does not sound like a good fit. A simple est would work better.

  5. Verbum is possible for "word" but not the only choice. See this question and its answer for a discussion.

  6. To give an actual translation of "is there a word for X in English", I would do something far less literal that should still prompt essentially the same answer:

    • Quomodo X Anglice appellatur/dicitur?
    • Quo verbo Anglico X dicere possum?
    • Quale verbum Anglicum X dicere possit?

    I think Quomodo Anglice dicitur X? is a decent formulaic approach to asking questions of that kind.

  • 1
    a variation taken from Cicero, Pro Flacco: etiam qui Graece nesciunt hoc quibus verbis a Graecis dici soleat sciant [even those who do not understand Greek know the Greek words for this expression] Commented May 29 at 16:16

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