Let me start by apologising for my terrible attempt at Latin. I don't have any knowledge of the language at all. However, I do speak Italian so I've taken a bit of my knowledge and lots of Google Translate help to hopefully convert the phrase to Latin (ancient or modern: I'm not that bothered as long as it back-translates to English as the full phrase).

The phrase is "My Gracious Mistake". It's a phrase my best friend uses to describe his kid, since he was a mistake but he loves him.

I've translated it to "mei misereatur error."

How far off the mark am I? Can it be improved and also how would you pronounce it? Any help would be much appreciated.

  • 3
    Can you explain what you mean by "my gracious mistake"? What's a context where you would say that?
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 9, 2017 at 15:14
  • 1
    Are you trying to refer to or play off of the phrase mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa ("through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault"), formerly used in the Catholic mass? (Explanation here.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 9, 2017 at 15:20
  • 2
    BTW, mei misereatur error would mean something like "May the wandering of me be lamented." Google Translate is usually a disaster.
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 9, 2017 at 15:45
  • 3
    @BenKovitz the context is a little strange I suppose and you'd never probably use it in a sentence as such. Its a phrase a my best friend uses to describe his kid as he was a mistake but he loves him. so for their birthday I was going to get something made up for them with the phrase but wanted to do it in a nicer sounding language than English if that makes sense. In relation to mea culpa that wasn't the intention as to me the meaning or intent of the phrase would be different.
    – Dave
    May 9, 2017 at 15:46
  • 2
    Felix culpa? Happy fault -but it comes with connotations and backstory.
    – Hugh
    May 9, 2017 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


I'd translate it as:

Propitius error meus

(also propitius meus error: word order doesn't matter that much)


  • error (masculine) means mistake. Alternatives: mendum (neuter in gender, not as common nor -apparently- as broadly applicable) and falsum (also neuter)
  • propitius means favorable, well-disposed, gracious, kind, propitious, which seems fit for your purpose, also, more freely:
    • gratiosus (full of favor, popular, regarded, beloved, agreeable),
    • felix with a wide range of meanings: from fruitful to lucky to happy.
  • meus is my, of me, mine, etc.

A couple of notes:

  • If you chose mendum or falsum instead of error, both adjectives have to change gender accordingly: propitium/gratiosum/felix meum mendum/falsum
  • Felix culpa (femine, thus felix culpa mea) is indeed (as noted by Hugh) a very relevant attested expression quite close in meaning to what you want, but I think it underlines a lack of neutrality a mistake does not: a crime/fault is more than just an accident. Besides, it has a strong religious background some people would want to avoid in a joke.
  • Peccatum (neuter) is also an error, but it means a sin too, and became too strongly associated to the later since Christianity.
  • Also, if your friend is addressing the kid (rather than just naming him), it could be propiti error mi, if I am not mistaken.
  • Are you sure propitius is right? I'm not 100% sure, but from the linked definition, it appears to mean something like "in a good/favorable mood" as in "the boss is in a good mood, i.e. now is a good time to ask the boss for a raise."
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 10, 2017 at 8:58
  • @BenKovitz Although a most prominent meaning of propitius applies to well-disposed people as you point, the entry starts with a meaning that applies to things (i.e. application to things is not just by analogy). Since gratious and propicious are listed among the general meanings, I see no harm. Pax propitia is translated as favoring kindness here (currently looking for more examples)
    – Rafael
    May 10, 2017 at 14:06
  • The use of propitius for things may be seen as just a transfer of qualities from people: (pax tua propitia, auribus propitiis), that is a valid, yet arguably free, way of reading my gracious mistake. In the opinion of L&S it is used for the ocean (propitius et tranquillus Oceanus) in the sense of the sea itself rather than the deity. Thus propitius error could also be gratious mistake as in the mistake itself being a personification.
    – Rafael
    May 10, 2017 at 14:35
  • 1
    Here's a possibility (I'm not experienced enough to judge if this is right): propitius might be understood as an adjective for pro in the sense of "on behalf of", adding the meaning of "disposed to be that way"—in other words, primed to take your side. Hence the primary use of propitius for gods, authority figures, and elements/forces of nature that can either foil or favor your efforts—and the verb propitio to mainly mean appeasing/wheedling such people or things.
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 10, 2017 at 14:41
  • 1
    There's even a word propitiatrix—apparently a woman who will help appease an authority to make them propitious to you (maybe Mary could sweet-talk the big guys into going easy on your sins). Notice that tua pax propitia is in a prayer of gratitude to Neptune, for his willingness to calm the winds that had just torn the sails, etc. So I guess my concern boils down to whether propitius strongly invokes a connotation of appeasement and side-taking.
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 10, 2017 at 14:57

Lapsus meus gratiosus

A lapsus (noun, masc.) is literally a slip, a fall, extended to mean a mistake, including a moral mistake. These senses live in English "relapse", "collapse", and of course "lapse". It appears in phrases such as lapsus linguæ, "a slip of the tongue". Christianity uses lapsus to refer to the fall of Adam, whence some unusual English words like "prelapsarian" and "postlapsarian". A lapsus carnalis or lapsus carnis is a "sin of the flesh".

Meus means "my". I put it here after the noun in order not to give it strong emphasis. Putting a possessive pronoun before the noun tends to make it the main point: meus lapsus would mean "my mistake", putting most of the emphasis on the father.

Gratiosus (adjective) is filled with 2,700 years of accumulated positive connotations. Gratus primarily means beloved, dear, pleasing, commonly extended to mean worthy of thanks—a sense that lives in English "gratitude". There is also the well-known Latin phrase persona non grata, a person who is not welcome; so, a person who is grata is welcome, i.e. gladly admitted into the community. As a noun, gratia, it means favor, both that felt by others and favor felt toward another. Christianity picked it up as "grace", and it occurs in such established Latin phrases as Dei gratia regina, "Queen by the grace of God", still used on coins in Commonwealth countries. The suffix -osus is like Anglo-Saxon -ful in English: it makes an adjective signifying an intensified version of the noun. Gratiosus primarily means enjoying the favor of others: popular, beloved—especially, due to agreeable qualities about oneself. In other words, a person who is gratiosus is one that others are very glad to have around. This is imported into English as "gracious", a word which your friend appears to have chosen quite propitiously.

So, I'm thinking that combining the connotations of lapsus with those of gratiosus creates the same benevolent irony of "my gracious mistake". Maybe it's even clearer in Latin!

If the father wants to address the son by this phrase, he should use the vocative case, which comes out:

Mi lapse gratiose

(Note that the e's are both pronounced, like e as in Spanish.)

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