Is "vulgo voces" an expression with a particular meaning? I have encountered it in an early 18th century text. The full text is:

Equidem vulgo voces Thermometrum & Thermoscopium pro synonymis habentur. Nos tamen has voces sedulo distinguimus, ne imposterum (quod vulgo fieri solet) pro iisdem habeamus instrumenta prorsus diversa, nec porro observationes confundamus, factaque hac confusione conclusiones erroneas ex iisdem deducamus.

Could I translate it as?

Indeed, usually the words thermometer & thermoscope are synonymous. We nevertheless carefully distinguish these words, lest hereafter (which commonly happens) for the same words we have altogether different instruments, and furthermore confuse observations and because of this confusion draw erroneous conclusions from them.


This is not a set phrase, and they do not go together.

Voces here are "words," specifically Thermometrum & Thermoscopium. Vox is commonly used as "word" or "noun" in Latin.

Vulgus, on the other hand, is the Latin word for "the common people." Volgo is an ablative of that with the force of an adverb. It could "literally" be translated along the lines of "with the people," but with a metaphorical sense, was extended to "generally." Lewis & Short gives several ways of translating it:

prop. among the multitude; hence, in gen., before every body, before all the world, generally, universally, everywhere, all over, commonly, openly, publicly.

The translator is translating it here as "usually," which is synonymous with "in general." So: "In general (vulgo) the words (voces)."

  • I disagree that volgo means "generally": it has more the ring of "in common parlance" with the strong suggestion that there is a more accurate way of speaking – brianpck Mar 23 '17 at 1:04
  • @brianpck I agree with you. vulgo is a very specific term, referring to the everyday speech of the illitterates. – Dario Mar 23 '17 at 1:36
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    Words take on new, extended meanings quite often. Look at Cicero's "quas (litteras) vulgo ad te mitto." That clearly does not mean "in common parlance." The real problem with drawing a distinction though is that "generally" also has that meaning. "We generally say "I ain't," but I recognize that in school they want me to say "I'm not." Accuracy too has to be qualified, as you're conflating "correct usage" with "technical usage." I see nothing wrong with having "generally" (or, as the original translator did, usually), and it's crystal clear from context what's meant. – cmw Mar 23 '17 at 6:34
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    @C.M.Weimer Your points are well taken. In this particular case, I read "vulgo" as correlating with "tamen" in this passage, but you're right that it can be used in a more extended sense. – brianpck Mar 23 '17 at 13:29
  • @brianpck I think there is supposed to be a contrast--no disagreement there!--I just also think too that "generally" works as well. – cmw Mar 23 '17 at 13:50

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