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Is there a Latin phrase similar to the English "well done!" to be used to congratulate someone for achieving something? Translating from English, one might expect bene factum! or bene fecisti! or something similar, or just a plain adverb (bene!, egregie!, optime!...), but I have never encountered any such thing in use. Is there a set phrase for this purpose?

  • If I remember correctly, teachers tended to use multa bene or optime for this purpose, but I do not know of any specific/official source for this information. – Sam K May 30 '18 at 19:27
  • @SamK I remember teachers using plain adverbs (which I added to the question), but it would be nice to see what more native speakers would use. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 30 '18 at 20:21
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Macte (voc. of mactus - from Greek μάκαρ) is used in this way, with or without with esto. According to Lewis & Short, it can be used alone (Macte!) but it is much more commonly used with virtute.

“macte virtute esto” sanguinolentis ex acie redeuntibus dicitur

it is to the blood-stained soldier returning from the front that men cry: “Well done!”

Seneca the Younger, Epistles, 66

‘Oratorem’ legas? macte virtute!

You're reading The Orator? Well done!

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 243 (XII.6a)

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  • Your write that macte is the ablative of mactus. Judging by L&S, it's a vocative. This looks like a very interesting saying, much in the spirit of "well done!", but I seem to have difficulties parsing it syntactically. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 31 '18 at 13:18
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Oops! You're right, macte! I've changed it accordingly. I agree, it is odd, very idiomatic. – Penelope May 31 '18 at 13:23
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    At least one grammar book says in a footnote, "[macte] is generally, but without good reason, considered as the vocative of an adjective otherwise unused." The L&S entry, though, seems to have at least one example of mactus in the nominative, from Cato. – brianpck May 31 '18 at 13:30
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    Allen & Greenough, though, wants to have it both ways: it initially describes it as vocative, but adds in an aside, "As the original quantity of the final e in macte is not determinable, it may be that the word was an adverb, as in bene est and the like." – brianpck May 31 '18 at 13:33
  • The quality of the vowel is short in Vergil, Statius et al. (checked with pedecerto). It still doesn't exclude it being an adverbial form of mactis, an ablative of the same agreeing with virtūte, or a derivative of mag- "big". – Unbrutal_Russian Jun 10 '19 at 22:25
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In questions of spoken Latin, Plautus is my go-to. One good term for this, frequent in Plautus, is euge, from the Greek εὖγε. A corpus search reveals quite a few examples, often with native Latin repetitions:

Euge euge, lepide, laudo commentum tuom. (Miles Gloriosus)

Euge, euge, exornatu's basilice; (Persa)

(great adverb!)

There are many other excellent choices, but I'll leave those for other answers.

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How about: te laudo; or, if you are really proud of your student: te amo; but, in the current climate, that could be misunderstood.

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    If one uses te amo with a student, there is a chance they'll ask how to translate "me too" to Latin. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 31 '18 at 19:20

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