If "ex nihilo nihil fit" means "out of nothing comes nothing" then how would one say "out of nothing comes something"? The best I can come up with is "ex quidem nihil fit." Is that translation correct?

3 Answers 3


I think quidem is wrong here, as it is an adverb. You can confirm this on the Lewis and Short dictionary. Also, you need to keep the ablative phrase "ex nihilo" (you changed it to "ex quidem").

I would use this phrase: aliquid ex nihilo fit. I'm using the word "aliquid" to mean "something", but there might be better choices.

  • 1
    If it's a separate phrase without more context, can you really use quid for "something"?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 23, 2017 at 5:55
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Hm, I don't know. Do you think aliquid would be better? Or does it run into the same problem?
    – ktm5124
    Feb 23, 2017 at 6:00
  • Aliquid is good here. The quid sounds wrong to me, but I may be mistaken.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 23, 2017 at 6:04
  • 1
    I think you are right. I looked it up somewhere, and it says that the indefinite pronoun "quid" is used after certain words, like si, nisi, ne, and num. I'm assuming that in other contexts it should be "aliquid".
    – ktm5124
    Feb 23, 2017 at 6:06
  • That's exactly what I had in mind!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 23, 2017 at 6:07

With Pliny's well-known ex Africa semper aliquid novi in mind, is there any real need for a verb here?

I would use ex nihilo aliquid.

  • 1
    +1, but apparently Pliny actually didn't say ex Africa semper aliquid novi, he said "Semper aliquid novi Africam adferre".
    – Asteroides
    Feb 23, 2017 at 20:14
  • Thanks for the +1 and your reminder that it's not original to Pliny. It's an ancient aphorism, still commonly used, and so a useful pattern here.
    – Tom Cotton
    Feb 24, 2017 at 6:26
  • If I wanted to say it as a question, would it be grammatical to ask, "Ex nihilo aliquid?" That is, 'something from nothing?' Mar 25, 2017 at 2:03

I would use the word nonnihil, "not nothing" or "something". It also makes the comparison to the original phrase clear.

Ex nihilo nonnihil fit.

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