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The Lewis Elementary Latin Dictionary (via latinlexicon.org) gives the following definitions:

quidem

  1. [expressing emphasis or assurance] assuredly, certainly, in fact, indeed
  2. [in answers] certainly, of course
  3. [in antithesis] but, however, yet
  4. [introducing an example] for instance, for example
  5. restrictive, at least, certainly, in truth
  6. [in the phrase ne... quidem] not even

That's such a plethora of things that are different but seem somehow related but don't feel the same, and all those things in English can take on so many different meanings/connotations depending on how and where you use them...it's utterly baffling. Can anybody unbaffle me?

  • 1
    Well, now you know how a native Latin speaker feels about learning English: On oxforddictionaries.com run has 15 main meanings with 30 submeanings =) – Earthliŋ Feb 28 '16 at 17:06
  • Yeah, but that's different. Run just means, well, run. :) – Joel Derfner Feb 28 '16 at 21:31
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Quidem took me forever to figure out, and none of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts and grammars I went to gave me any help at all, because they all said things like, "it means forsooth!" and I was like, yeah, great, thanks, dude.

There seem to be three main contexts in which quidem is encountered. The most frequent one sets up an implication of contrast:

Mārcō quidem magistrī verberātus valde placébat.
Marcus really liked the teacher's beating. (With the implication that other kids didn't.)

Meā quidem sententiā est Mārcus īnsānus.
In my opinion, Marcus is insane. (With the implication that other people may or may not be smart enough to be of the same mind.)

The second context in which you see quidem is in reassuring answers.

Tibi epistulam mīsī Latīnē tam pravē ut verisimiliter nōn scripta Latīnē esse dīcī nequeat.
Epistulam lepidam accēpī, quæ Latīnē quidem scrīpta est.

I sent you a letter in such bad Latin that it probably can't be said to have been written in Latin.
I received your charming letter, which was written in Latin.

The third context for quidem is the last one given by latinlexicon.org, which is pretty straightforward.

Tam gustōsa erat cēna ut nē Mārcus quidem Aurēlius abstinere posset.
The dinner was so delicious that not even Marcus Aurelius could abstain [from it].

I'm sure there are other meanings of and contexts for quidem, and perhaps others can add them in answers, but those seem to be the ones I run into most often.

  • It should be noted that the third one has to have ne prior to the word it is emphasizing. You have that correctly placed in your translation, but it's essential the construction. – C. M. Weimer Feb 29 '16 at 4:20
  • Wait—do you mean that it should be "nē Mārcus Aurēlius quidem," or just that for what it's worth you can't say "nē quidem Mārcus Aurēlius"? – Joel Derfner Feb 29 '16 at 4:21
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    There is some room for both, I believe. Generally, if they are close together, they belong together between ne...*quidem*. For example, in De Lege Agraria II.78 Cicero writes ne per Corneliam quidem, and in fact we almost never see quidem intervening between a preposition and the noun it goes with. – C. M. Weimer Feb 29 '16 at 4:43
  • However, in Brutus 54, Cicero writes ne L. Valerium quidem Potitum. While the praenomen and nomen are between ne...quidem, the cognomen is outside. Yet further down at 269, he write Ne T. quidem Postumius. – C. M. Weimer Feb 29 '16 at 4:46
  • Grátiás plúrimás agó! Adeo imperítus sum ut mé jactáre soleam, nec semper récté. – Joel Derfner Feb 29 '16 at 4:49
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A scholar named Joseph Solodow wrote an entire book called "The Latin Particle Quidem". To boil his work down as much as possible, the function of the word (because it's always safer to think of particles in terms of their function, not their dictionary translation)--the function is to acknowledge the truth of a claim, but to let you know that the speaker is about to introduce a qualification. You'll sometimes find a "sed" later in the sentence, though not always. So, you'd use it in sentences like this:

"Sure (quidem), that's a great idea, but I don't think it's going to work."

"Yeah, I know (quidem), but it won't last long.

"Granted (quidem) she was happier; however, I don't think she was entirely thrilled."

  • 2
    A nice encapsulation. I recently got around to reading the copy of Solodow's book that had been lying on my shelves for ever, and I liked it very much. As perhaps you can confirm, it's surprisingly readable. I had developed my own ways of handling quidem over the years, mainly through repeated readings of Pliny the Younger, and Solodow provided backup for much of what I was doing. I especially like your point about function vs. dictionary translation. But perhaps you would consider adding some real (i.e., Latin) examples to your answer, showing how one might translate them in light of Solodow? – cnread Jun 2 '17 at 7:04
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    Welcome to Latin SE, and thanks for the answer! – Nathaniel is protesting Jun 2 '17 at 12:40

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