10

I was recently writing in Latin and had the misfortune of getting an English construction in my head that I had a difficult time fitting into a Latin thought pattern:

I will probably be there soon.

I ended up settling on something pretty different:

Credo me mox adfuturum.

Though this works, for the most part, it does not quite preserve the full sense of the English phrase. Here are some other example sentences I am interested in translating:

Are you coming with me? --Probably.
It is probable that he won't come.

Perhaps I'm missing something obvious, but I cannot think of an adverb/adjective that can be idiomatically used in these cases. The adjective probabilis is one possibility, but it has a wide scope, and it appears that one of its usages has been narrowed to the current English meaning. I tend to think that "probabile est" is far less common--and far less specific--than English "it is probable."

What is the best Latin word or idiom to express that something is "likely" or "probable"?

  • 2
    Good question! I don't know a suitable adverb or adjective either, but I would use credo or fieri potest in some way. There's also the potential conjunctive, but it doesn't get the tone right either. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 3 '17 at 15:18
7

Smith's English-Latin lists a few alternatives, all sourced, under probably, which suffice in most circumstances. In summary,

  1. With probability but not certainty : probabiliter ; cum quadam verisimilitudine.

  2. By circumlocution : veri simile est; haud scio an.

Not put forward by Smith are such approaches as nescio quin . . . ', which I take to imply something like '[in my opinion] very likely' : perhaps indicating a less definite probability.

  • 1
    These are great options, though I still think they don't quite capture "probably." Visne mecum ire? --Probabiliter doesn't sound quite write to me, almost like, "It could be demonstrated!" – brianpck Mar 3 '17 at 17:47
  • If you are asking for an improved translation we should need a bit of background before choosing an appropriate Latin idiom. You may find it more polite to use comitari for mecum ire, and velis rather than vis; to reply 'probably' in your example I'd use veri simile [est]; and so on, trying to temper the style of your translation to the circumstances. Would that make it any easier? – Tom Cotton Mar 3 '17 at 19:31
  • Two of these options are also given by Cassell, viz. probabiliter and veri simile est. – rjpond Sep 23 '17 at 16:20
7

Another possibility is the adverb fortasse (and fortassis).

According to Lewis & Short on the Latin word fortasse,1

fortassē (also fortassis , but rarely, and not in Caes.; Plaut. As. 2, 4, 86; id. Bacch. 4, 4, 20; Cic. Clu. 52, 144 Klotz, B. and K.; 71, 201 B. and K.; Hor. S. 1, 4, 131; 2, 7, 40; Plin. 2, 20, 18, § 82; 27, 12, 77, § 102; Traj. ap. Plin. Ep. 10, 63; Dig. 7, 1, 12, § 5; 11, 7, 14, § 9), adv. forte an; cf.: forsan, fortan,

I.perhaps, peradventure, probably, possibly: “nescis tu fortasse, apud nos facinus quod natum est novum,” Plaut. Mil. 2, 3, 10: “dicam me hercule, et contemnar a te fortasse, cum tu, etc.,” Cic. Rep. 1, 19; 2, 34: “in quo (genere) esse videbuntur fortasse angustiae,” id. ib. 3, 33: “fortasse dices: Quid ergo?” id. Div. in Caecil. 12, 40: “requiretur fortasse nunc, quemadmodum, etc.,” id. de Imp. Pomp. 9, 22: “quaeret fortassis quispiam, displiceatur mihi, etc.,” id. Clu. 52, 144: “fortasse dixerit quispiam,” id. de Sen. 3, 8 (for which: “forsitan quispiam dixerit,” id. Off. 3, 6, 29): “sed haec longiora fortasse fuerunt quam necesse, fuit,” id. Fam. 6, 1, 7; cf. id. ib. 7, 3 fin.: “sustines enim non parvam exspectationem imitandae industriae nostrae, magnam honorum, nonnullam fortasse nominis,” id. Off. 3, 2, 6: “poterimus fortasse dicere,” id. Or. 5, 19: “quod tamen fortasse non nollem,” id. Fam. 2, 16, 2; cf.: “L. Lucullus, qui tamen aliqua ex parte iis incommodis mederi fortasse potuisset, etc.,” id. de Imp. Pomp. 9, 26: “puerum, inquies, et fortasse fatuum,” id. Att. 6, 6, 2; cf.: “otioso et loquaci et fortasse docto atque erudito,” id. de Or. 1, 22, 102.—With sed: “praeclaram illam quidem fortasse, sed a vita hominum abhorrentem,” Cic. Rep. 2, 11; cf.: “Marso fortasse, sed Romano facillimus,” id. Div. 2, 33, 70; 2, 22, 50; id. Tusc. 1, 13, 30.—With nisi (for nisi forte): “tu hoc: alius fortasse, quod in animadversione poenaque durior, nisi fortasse utrumque tu,” id. ad Brut. 1, 15, 3.—With sed tamen, Plaut. As. 2, 4, 86; Cic. Rep. 2, 33; id. Off. 3, 21, 82; id. Sest. 5, 12.—With verum tamen, Cic. Verr. 1, 12, 35; id. Arch. 11, 28. —With quidem: “id nos fortasse non perfecimus, conati quidem saepissime sumus,” Cic. Or. 62, 210; so id. Tusc. 2, 17, 41: “res enim fortasse verae, certe graves,” id. Fin. 4, 3, 7.—

b. In Plaut. and Ter. ellipt., like fors, with a subject-clause: “fortasse te illum mirari cocum, Quod venit atque haec attulit,” it may be that, perhaps, Plaut. Merc. 4, 4, 42; id. As. 1, 1, 24; id. Ep. 2, 2, 111; id. Poen. 5, 2, 44; id. Truc. 3, 2, 12; Ter. Hec. 3, 1, 33; cf.: sic Plautus: Fortasse ted amare suspicarier. Nam veteres infinitivo modo adjungebant fortasse, Don. Ter. 1, 1; cf. ellipt. use: Q. unum illud mihi videris imitari, orationis genus. M. Velle fortasse; “quis enim id potest imitari?” Cic. Leg. 2, 7, 17.—

c. Ironically (cf. forte, 2, a. β and Gr. ἴσως): Ch. Prorsum nihil intellego. Sy. Hui, tardus es. Ch. Fortasse, Ter. Heaut. 4, 5, 29: “sed ego fortasse vaticinor, et haec omnia meliores habebunt exitus ... eos ego fortasse nunc imitor,” Cic. Fam. 2, 16, 6; Plaut. As. 2, 4, 90.—

d. In designating numbers, about (in Cic. usually placed after the numeral): “elegit ex multis Isocratis libris triginta fortasse versus Hieronymus,” Cic. Or. 56, 190: “Q. Pompeius biennio quam nos fortasse major,” id. Brut. 68, 240: “HS. D. milia fortasse,” Cic. Verr. 2, 3, 50, § 118: “fuimus una horas duas fortasse,” id. Att. 7, 4, 2: “fortasse circiter triennium,” Plaut. Mil. 2, 3, 79: “mercaris agrum, fortasse trecentis, aut etiam supra, nummorum milibus emptum,” Hor. Ep. 2, 2, 164.


References

Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles. Harper’s Latin Dictionary: A New Latin Dictionary Founded on the Translation of Freund’s Latin-German Lexicon. New York: American Book, 1879.

Footnotes

1 p. 771–772

  • I have always read "fortasse" as "maybe, maybe not." Do you think it refers to something more likely? – brianpck Mar 13 '17 at 18:54
  • @brianpck—Honestly, I do not know. :| – Der Übermensch Mar 14 '17 at 1:14
  • I am no expert, but the Oxford Latin Dictionary has "fortasse" as "it may be, perhaps, possibly (sts. iron.)". (Is "probably" an ironical use of "fortasse"?) Even the L&S definition is hardly encouraging: I suspect people want to use a word for "probably" that will actually be interpreted as meaning "probably", rather than one as vague as to be translated "perhaps, peradventure, probably, possibly". Though Döderlein and Ramshorn give some support to "probably" (see Joef Derfner's answer), descriptions like "approaching to probability" possibly fall short of the usual meaning of "probably". – rjpond Sep 23 '17 at 16:19
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Dōderlein, p. 33, has

Fortasse, forsitan,...denote possibility, and indeed, fortasse, fortassis with an emphatic perception and affirmation of the possibility as approaching to probability...forsitan, forsan with merely an occasional perception of the possibility.

Ramshorn, meanwhile, p. 217, has

Forsan...and forsitan...are used if something is imagined as possible....Fortasse...if the supposition is pronounced with a belief in the probability of the event.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure how much I trust them here. Just in case, though, my forsitan usually stays in the middle between e.g. nonne and num, whereas my fortasse is a little closer to nonne.

3

It might be a bit of a stretch, but have you considered using the potentialis ? Then it just becomes:

Mox adsim.

I'm expecting some reservations from you on this one, because I'm not 100% convinced either. It seems to me that the focus is put on being there, not on being there soon.

I think the construction is better suited to the last example sentence:

Non veniat.

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