Is there a Latin idiom for preparing for work? In English one can roll up one's sleeves, and the corresponding expression has the same meaning in Finnish. I doubt a direct translation of this idiom works in Latin, especially classical Latin, since sleeves were not as common in antiquity as they are today.

If you can suggest an idiom, please indicate if it is related to a specific kind of work or has other context restrictions. I prefer classical Latin, but also later expressions are welcome. If your suggestion is not attested in literature, please explain why it is good.

2 Answers 2


Cingo or accingo "gird" might be what you're looking for. In the passive (with a reflexive meaning), these verbs are often used in the sense of "prepare for" (some effort).

Lewis and Short on cingo:

As a girding up of the Roman dress was necessary in pursuits requiring physical action, hence, cingor (cf accingor), to make one's self ready for any thing, to prepare: “cingitur, certe expedit se,” Plaut. Am. 1, 1, 152; “cingitur ipse furens certatim in proelia Turnus,” Verg. A. 11, 486.

And on accingo:

accingere se or accingi, to enter upon or undertake a thing, girded, i. e. well prepared, to prepare one's self, make one's self ready (taken from the girding of the flowing robes when in active occupation); constr. absol., with ad, in, dat., or inf.: “tibi omne est exedendum, accingere,” make yourself ready, Ter. Ph. 2, 2, 4; so id. Eun. 5, 9, 30; Lucr. 2, 1043: “illi se praedae accingunt,” Verg. A. 1, 210: “accingi ad consulatum,” Liv. 4, 2.

  • Oh, I like your suggestions.
    – brianpck
    Mar 22, 2016 at 18:47
  • Is that the origin of "to gird one's loins"?
    – JAB
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:31
  • @JAB: "gird your loins" (=accingere lumbos) is a Biblical expression: for example, Jer 1:17, 2 Kings 4:29, Prov 31:17, and (NT) Eph 16:14
    – brianpck
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:51
  • This is an excellent suggestion, thank you! It also has a similar tone with the English expression, since both have to do with adapting one's clothing to work.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 23, 2016 at 7:14

Although this is not entirely idiomatic, a word that I find evocative and powerful is:

obnitor, obniti(er), obnixus (L&S)

It has military connotations of "standing firm":

stant obnixa omnia contra (Verg, A. 10, 359)

obnixos vos stabili gradu impetum hostium excipere (Liv. 6, 12)

as well as more general meanings of "striving":

triumphum Pauli impedire obnitebantur (Vell. 1, 9, 6.)

obnixe omnia facere (Ter. And. 1, 1, 134)

This might not exactly fit the bill of what you're describing: but I recall asking a Latin professor of mine what this word meant many years ago and he (true to the natural method) remained silent and rolled up his sleeves until I understood.

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