The US Navy's railgun project's badge (see this YouTube video at timecode 00:14) has the motto "Velocitas Eradico" — I have no formal instruction in Latin, but my familiarity with Romance languages and etymology leads me to believe the translation would be "With speed, eliminate/destroy [the target]" — that is: the railgun fires projectiles so fast the need for an explosive warhead is eliminated. To double-check this I put it into Google Translate and it gave me "get rid of speed" — which seems like the complete opposite of what the railgun project is about :S

Is either translation correct? Or are both wrong?

  • It's funny that they get this stuff wrong but I'm pretty sure they we're going for something like "speed kills". – Jim Oct 14 '17 at 16:06
  • Once they fix the grammar, there's a good reason to have the motto in Latin. "Speed" is ambiguous (since it could refer to a drug) in a way that velocitas is not. – C Monsour Dec 9 '19 at 17:29

I agree with varro that neither translation is correct. The most sensible translation seems to be indeed "I, the speed, eradicate". It's a weird personification, but possible. However, it is more likely to be wrong than clever.

I suspect that someone looked up the two words in a dictionary but did not realize that the words might need to be inflected. They are precisely in the form listed in many Latin dictionaries. Therefore the first person singular is possibly coincidental.

If you want to say "I eradicate the speed", the speed needs to be in accusative: Velocitatem eradico. If you want to say "I eradicate with speed", the speed should be in ablative: Velocitate eradico. If you want to replace "I eradicate" with "we eradicate", just replace eradico with eradicamus. The English verb "eradicate" is just one possible translation for eradicare; there are also other options like "get rid of" or "eliminate" as you suggested.

I know, they are not likely to change the wording now, but I just wanted to record how the thing should be written properly. As with any language, you should not be using it in important situations without consulting an expert.

  • 1
    Maybe the real translation is a hidden message: "This device was built by a bunch of clueless know-nothings" ;) – alephzero Sep 18 '17 at 21:45
  • 2
    @alephzero I will leave any such conclusions to be drawn by readers. (And in their defense, my experience suggests that operating weapons and writing Latin are rather independent skill sets.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Sep 18 '17 at 21:47
  • @JoonasIlmavirta What if the weapon was a pilum or gladius? – Dai Sep 18 '17 at 22:35
  • 1
    I selected this as the Accepted answer despite fewer votes because of the extra detail you provided. Thank you! – Dai Sep 18 '17 at 22:39
  • @alephzero at risk of being off-topic, when it comes to railguns that is a horrifying thought. – Neil Hibbert Sep 21 '17 at 11:02

Neither translation is correct, and I suspect the Latin motto was intended to mean something other than what it actually says. As it reads, though, it means something like: "I, speed, eradicate". Seems odd, to say the least.

  • 4
    Leave it to the US government & military to not actually consult with an expert on something this simple. – cmw Sep 18 '17 at 20:55
  • @C. M. Weimer It's not only the US government and military. Some years ago, I managed to embarrass the San Diego PD by pointing out that their motto was incorrect Latin! – Tom Cotton Oct 14 '17 at 21:21

I add another possibility to Joonas Ilmavirta's excellent answer: "speed eradicates", which would be translated as velocitas eradicat.


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