I was thinking about the famous Phrase "alea iacta est", and I was wondering: how would be the plural version of it?

I thought about


Because aleas needs to be in the accusative declination since it's the object and not the subject.

Sunt because "they are".

I am just stuck on "iacta" which should be conjugated with sunt and aleas, right?

Should it be IACENT?

  • 2
    "Alea" is not the object, it is the subject. The verb is a perfect passive form (literally, "The die has been cast"). So the plural would be "The dice have been cast", "Aleae iactae sunt". – MPW Jun 2 '17 at 19:40

The plural would be aleae iactae sunt.

Alea / aleae is nominative, because it's the subject of a passive verb-form.

Note that, if you used the accusative case for alea, the verb would have to be in the active and its subject would be implicit, or else would have to be a noun or pronoun. So,

aleam / aleas iecit means 'he (she, it) threw the di(c)e'. Putting in a discrete subject indicates who did the throwing: Gaius aleam iecit.


It does not really make sense to put "Alea iacta est" in the plural form. The reason for this is that alea does not exactly mean "one dice" or "one die" (as some resources claim), but it in original Latin, alea is the name for the "game of dice" or "set of dice". As a consequence, using the plural would mean something like "The sets of dice were thrown" which is most probably not the intended meaning.

I found this explanation on the German wikipedia. It says:

Common incorrect translations are:

  • „Aleum iactum est“ (assuming there is a singular aleum)
  • „Alea iacta sunt“ (as above, but plural)

The word alea in the singular form means the "game of dice" as a whole. Consequently, "Alea iacta sunt" would be a correct plural, but would refer to multiple games (or sets) of dices. In fact, alea can be translated in the singular as wells as the plural form. However, in Latin the verb is always in the singular form.

The English wikipedia does not discuss the grammar of the English translation.

Also interesting (quoted from Wiktionary):

The form “the die is cast” is from the Latin iacta ālea est, a grammatically incorrect translation by Suetonius, 121 CE, of the Ancient Greek phrase of Menander ἀνερρίφθω κύβος (anerrhíphthō kúbos), which Caesar quoted in Greek (not Latin). The Greek translates rather as “let the die be cast!”, or “let the game be ventured!”.

  • 2
    I’ve checked several online Latin dictionaries, and while all of them give dice game and/or game of chance as possible definitions, all of them give die as the primary definition. Moreover, it seems very likely to me that Caesar meant die when he said alea iacta est simply because one throws dice; one doesn’t throw games. To throw a game means to lose in English, but I doubt that the idiom was the same for Romans. So can we get more evidence than an assertion that it’s on the German wikipedia (without even having a link, so we cannot even investigate that article’s sources)? – KRyan Jun 2 '17 at 16:19
  • 2
    The key information is that there are resources stating there is no plural aleae because alea is a Plurale tantum which cannot be put into the grammatical plural. However, for some strange reason, I can find only German quotes for this. Giving up. – not2savvy Jun 2 '17 at 17:26
  • 2
    @KRyan I actually agree with this answer. Lewis & Short translates alea as a "game of dice", and only mentions tessera or talus as an actual "die." As further evidence, I did a corpus search and did not find a single example of alea in the plural (surely that is significant!). Can you propose a single example where alea can only refer to a physical die, not the game itself? – brianpck Jun 2 '17 at 19:03
  • 2
    @KRyan You're welcome to think so, though he did link to the same L&S entry. The German Wiki entry, though unsourced, is not worthless. I decided to ask the question more explicitly elsewhere: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/4499/… – brianpck Jun 2 '17 at 19:18
  • 2
    Interesting discussion. As a side point, Wiktionary is slightly wrong to translate the Greek ἀνερρίφθω κύβος as “let the die be cast!” or “let the game be ventured!”: ἀνερρίφθω is a perfect imperative, so the literal meaning is "let the die have been cast". Latin can convey this with alea iacta esto, which seems to be a variant of the phrase. The Greek κύβος, btw, does mean a single physical die, not a game of dice. – TKR Jun 3 '17 at 0:29

I study Latin and Greek: a lot of phrases cannot and should not be changed, as they must be used "as is". No one will try to modify an English like "Beat around the bush" in "bushes".

For grammar, answer from Henry is clean.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.