In the multimedia franchise Warhammer 40,000, a space empire known as the Imperium of Man uses various Latin phrases to name their various government departments. I looked these up in Latin translators and most seem to be untranslatable gibberish.

Such phrases include Astra Militarum ("imperial guard"), Questor Imperialis ("imperial knights"), Adepta Sororitas ("sisters of battle"), Adeptus Custodes, Militarum Tempestus ("imperial stormtroopers"), Adeptus Astartes ("space marines"), Adeptus Ministorum, Adeptus Mechanicus, Adeptus Astra Telepathica, and Scholastica Psykana.

This is supposed to simulate how "High Gothic" (a fictitious dead language used for commerce) sounds to citizens of the Imperium, which to us sounds like bad Latin and the phrases seem to be derived from misspelled Latin or by loaning foreign words (as is often done in New Latin). "Adeptus" appears in many such names, as in "Adeptus Astartes" that seems to be derived from the Latin aster. I got the impression that the names are supposed to mean "Adept of [insert task]" though this never appears in the English names.

Where an etymological origin may be discerned (often grammatically nonsensical, if I understand the inflection correctly), the official English name is often completely unrelated in meaning. "Imperial guard" versus astra mīlitārium ("the stars the military"), "imperial knight" versus quaestor imperiālis ("the questor imperial")," "sisters of battle" versus adepta sorōritās ("the obtained the sisterhood"), "imperial stormtrooper" versus mīlitārium tempestās ("the military the weather"), "space marines" versus adeptus astertās ("the obtained the stardom"), etc.

What is the correct form of such phrases in Latin?

  • 5
    Warhammer games are the purest fantasy, and that also applies to the cod Latin terms that they use. You are right to call them untranslatable gibberish, and I commend the moderation of your language in doing so!
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 21:42
  • @TomCotton: IIRC, Games Workshop devises this gibberish because it may be trademarked, whereas Latin phrases may not.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:14
  • Interesting, I had assumed that Adeptus Astartes had something to do with the goddess Astarte (Ishtar). Astartes would be a genitive singular form of her name.
    – cnread
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 21:42
  • @cnread: Since "adeptus astartes" is supposedly Canis Latinicus for "space marine," then "astartes" should be related to the Latin "aster." Adding the suffix "-tas" is the only way it would have that form. Then somehow the last two vowels were transposed by mistake?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


Tom Cotton is right in saying that all of the provided "Latin phrases" are nothing but gibberish. However, since you asked for the "correct forms" of the provided phrases (that had corresponding English "translations"), I've written them here to the best of my ability:

  • "Imperial Guard": custōs imperiālis
  • "Imperial Knight": eques imperiālis
  • "Sisters of Battle": sorōrēs proeliī
  • "Imperial Soldier": mīles imperiālis
  • "Space Marine": mīles asterum (technically means "soldier of the stars", but it's probably as close as you can get to "Space Marine")

As for whether the single phrase "adeptus astra telepathica" is correct (as you asked in the title of your question): it's not. adeptus doesn't match the number or gender of astra, and "telepathica" isn't even a Latin word, as far as I can tell.

  • Why nominative astēr instead of genitive for Space Marine?
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:24
  • 1
    Also, while telepathica isn't native Latin, it's fairly transparently from Greek tēl- + path- + -icos; I'd think an educated Roman would recognize it as meaning "distant-emotion-having" (i.e. telepathic).
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:25
  • 1
    (That said, good answer; +1)
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:25
  • @Draconis Thanks, and good to know regarding telepathica. As for why I chose the nominative over the genitive in astēr mīles; I just felt that it matched the English noun phrase "space marine" better than something that would've translated as "soldier of the stars" or "marine of space". I suppose it's just a matter of personal opinion there. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:28
  • @EthanBierlein: IIRC English places adjectives before nouns, whereas Latin places adjectives after nouns. So would "astēr mīles" not mean "star of the military" instead?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:53

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