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I am considering a tattoo in Latin, and I want it to say "destroy the bad", or perhaps "get rid of the evil". I want the translation to be short due to space constraints.

I looked online and I found exitium for "destroy" and malus for "bad". Would "Exitium Malum" work? Exitium is neutral and you would use the accusative malum since it's the direct object, right?

I've learned some individual phrases, but I don't really know any Latin. I'm not going to trust Google on this.

  • Welcome to the site! Can you provide some more background information? That would help us answer you. (At least I have some difficulties understanding your goal.) Some example questions to help you clarify the question: Where did you find the words exitium and malus you want to use for translating "destroy the bad"? What is the translation for (a Latin course you are taking, perhaps)? Is exitium supposed to stand for "destroy"? What is the context of the sentence? – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 26 '17 at 17:56
  • Thank you! It's not for any course it's for a tattoo idea and I'm not gonna trust google. I've learned phrases but nothing grammatical in Latin. My idea was to say "destroy the bad/evil" as in "get rid of the evil." What I got from looking online was Exitium for destroy and Malus for bad, that said there could be a better fit. I'm hoping just to have the minimal wording do to space constraints. – DAHardman Jun 26 '17 at 18:03
  • I edited your question based on your comment. Please edit it again to adjust it to your liking. A +1 for putting in your own thoughts on the translation and going through our site tour! – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 26 '17 at 18:17
  • Another relevant question: do you mean "destroy what is bad" or "destroy bad people"? The English is ambiguous, but Latin can't be. – brianpck Jun 26 '17 at 20:33
  • I was intending on "bad/evil" as what is bad, like a biblical sense. – DAHardman Jun 26 '17 at 20:44
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Exitium is a noun , and technically malum is an adjective (though it's often used substantively), so the phrase together means "evil destruction." That's not what you're going for.

You have several option for "destroy", though, so ultimately it's a matter of picking what sounds best. One option is dele malum. This means something along the lines of "put an end to evil." Scipio, in conquering the Carthaginians, futura bella delevit, "put an end to future wars" (Cic. Amic. 11).

The word has a biblical sense to it, as well. In Genesis 6, when god is talking to Noah, he says that he delebo...hominem "will destroy man." In 6.13, though, he uses the word disperdo, so that's another option. That form would be disperde malum.

Funnily enough, there's yet another word used in the passage at 6.17, interficere, though that most often is a straight forward word for "to kill." It returns to delere in 7.23.

Another very good word to use, that also has a biblical feeling to it, is perde. Classicists will know it from Catullus 8, Catullus' mourning of his lost (perditum) love with Lesbia. Those reading the Vulgate might recall a question Jesus asked the "scribes and Pharisees" about the Sabbath, "if it's permitted to do good on the sabbath or to do evil (malum), to save a life or to destroy (perdere) it?"

Personally, I prefer this one best. It really has the sense of "destroy utterly", whereas delere to me sounds too much like "delete", though clearly this is just my Anglophone ears reacting to the otherwise healthy Latin word. Still, can't beat Catullus. I also think the imperative of delere (i.e. dele) looks funny, too, especially compared to perde.

To sum up, my suggestion is: Perde Malum.

There's a lot to play around with, too, if you want to add more than a simple "destroy the bad."

  • I thought of the imperative too, but after re-reading the whole thing, I wonder if another form (e.g. infinitive) is valid as an answer too... – Rafael Jun 27 '17 at 13:21
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    @Rafael That was the purpose of my last sentence. Infinitives, gerundives, result clauses --- but ultimately, it's for a tattoo, so what it says in English is where I took it. – C. M. Weimer Jun 27 '17 at 13:29
  • Ignoring the imperative, the future tense sounds best to me. Perdam Malum or Delebo Malum. – C. M. Weimer Jun 27 '17 at 16:45
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It would be fun to have "Malum Delendum Est", which means "Evil must be destroyed", because of the famous Cato quote to the Senate during the Punic Wars, "Karthago delenda est," so you could impress us Latin nerds when we see your tatoo. For the command of "Destroy the Bad" that you want, however, my suggestion would be "Perde Malum". "Perde nefas" also sounds cool, which means something like "Destroy evil/sin".

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