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I've met this phrase in some book:

qui cupit, capit omnia

Google translate states that it is "who desires to do the earth holds everything" which I don't understand. After reading some web-sites I understood it to mean something like "if you try hard to solve the problem then you'll succeed".

Can someone explain the meaning of this phrase? It's also interesting to find the source. It doesn't seem to be a well-known citation like "veni, vidi, vici". Google offers some 17th century books but they are written in Latin and I don't know Latin.

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So, I do not know the source, but I do know what it means.

qui cupit, capit omnia

He who wants, takes all things

You are pretty much correct on the more metaphorical meaning, as it is trying (in my opinion) to convey that if you want something (and presumably work for it), you can accomplish anything you want. The qui is a relative pronoun, and the cupit, capit is most likely an intentional choice to bring together the alliterating elements and make it sound nice.

If anyone knows the source, that would be greatly appreciated.


EDIT

I found the source! It appears to have come from a book by John Amos Comenius called Janua Linguarum Reserata. This was a Latin textbook for learning the language (as far as I can tell) and the quote itself can be found here. The English translation found in this copy reverses the clause order:

He conceiveth [catcheth] all things, who desireth to do it.

The quote actually continues:

Etiam quae prima aggressione captum superant.

Even those things which at the first undertaking go beyond his reach or capacity.

This again implies the sense of "he who sets his mind to it can accomplish anything." Rather inspiration, I would think!

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  • 2
    Yes, it's the earliest known Motivational Poster ;o) The earliest Demotivational Poster was provided by Virgil, non omnia possumus omnes. – Will Crawford Mar 20 '18 at 2:06
  • It's also perhaps better translated to if at first you don't succeed… ? – Will Crawford Mar 20 '18 at 2:09
  • @WillCrawford Certainly the second half of the phrase could be interpretted as such! I think I may have been a bit unclear with the very last comment, as I was actually referring the first half... – Sam K Mar 20 '18 at 2:58
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Google Translate's answer is, as usual, nonsense. Google is particularly bad with Latin and its responses tend to be meaningless or wildly inaccurate or both.

This phrase literally means "he who desires, takes everything". Qvī is a masculine relative pronoun "[the man] who"; cupit means "longs for"; capit means "takes"; omnia means "everything".

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