I came across this expression in the book: The Invisible Man, (H.G. Wells)

Griffin contra mundum...with a vengeance

From my very basic knowledge of Latin (I'm a Bio. student) I take it that contra mundum literally translates to "Against the World".

But a couple of years back, I recall chancing across another expression on some Wikipedia article (I don't rightly remember, but I think it was about some doctor who worked at a Nazi concentration camp), where this man describes the concentration camp to a colleague as:

Anum mundi

And the corresponding Wikipedia translation was "Anus of the world".

I conducted a cursory search online, and from what I gather, both mundum and mundi mean the same thing.

So, two questions here:

Q1: Do mundi and mundum really mean the same thing, i.e- "World"?

Q2: Even if they do mean the same, can they be used in the same circumstances? For example, would there be anything wrong in me using the hybrids: Contra mundi or Anum mundum?

I mentioned the sources (Contra mundum: Britain, 1890s; and Anum mundi: Germany, 1940s) just in case that may yield a clue...of sorts.

  • 2
    However: There is another quotation you may come across: Mundis omnia munda, 'To the pure, all things are pure.' This mundus is a homonym, meaning 'innocent/ untainted.' Cf. the tag Burton places on page one of his 'Arabian Nights.'
    – Hugh
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 15:01
  • 1
    @Hugh I've always known it as Omnia munda mundis. But, is Mundis omnia munda also acceptable? Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 15:20
  • 5
    @paracresol : Latin is quite forgiving with regard to word order. These mean the same thing, perhaps with a slight shift in emphasis.
    – MPW
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 18:03
  • 1
    My search engine is equally forgiving with respect to word order: so Wiki p and five other sites; both versions found.
    – Hugh
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 3:10
  • Your essay is faultless. I am telling you so in order to pass muster and be cleared for this well-informed group Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


These are the exact same word, and yes both mean "world" but no you cannot substitute them for each other. Latin is a fully inflexional language, which means that the words have endings which change depending on their grammatical use. You can compare mundum and mundi to whom and whose. You wouldn't say, "This is me ball" (well, not in Standard English, at least, but if you want to sound like a pirate...) nor would you say "Give my the ball." This is what we call "declension."

Likewise, mundum is the accusative form of mundus (the I analogue from the above analogies). You use it with the direct object or with certain prepositions (like contra). Meanwhile, mundi in this case is genitive, which is the case used for possession. It's why we translate it as "of the world" not just "the world."

Similar to English pronouns (or other languages like German, Icelandic, Russian, or Greek), you indeed cannot replace them willy-nilly. Because they encode the grammar along with the meaning, you'd end up with nonsense if you tried.


The Latin word used for "world" here is mundus. This word has several forms (singular/plural):

nominative: mundus/mundi
accusative: mundum/mundos
genitive: mundi/mundorum
dative: mundo/mundis
ablative: mundo/mundis

The five grammatical cases are used in different contexts and they are rarely interchangeable. Two examples: "Of the world" requires the singular genitive mundi. The preposition contra requires that the following word is in accusative. Thus the only way to say "against the world" with these words is contra mundum.

Changing the case changes meaning (and sometimes removes meaning altogether):

Anum mundi video. — I see the anus of the world.
Anum mundum video. — I see the world and I think it is an anus.

The exact translation of the second one depends on context.

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