If I wear a toga, I can say toga me vestio/induo or toga vestior/induor or I could use the adjective togatus. For normal clothing it is clear what it means when I say that I wear it.

I do not know, however, how to express wearing unusual clothing. Suppose I want to say: "I wear boxes for shoes." In this case "I wear boxes" is not clear enough, since I could wear them in many ways. I could wear a shirt in many ways as well, but not all ways would be equally weird. There is no canonical way to wear a box. I can come up with a couple of Latin translations for this:

  • Cistis pro calceis utor.
  • Cistis me induo sicut calceis.
  • Cistis me calceo. (This is only applicable to clothes that have a related verb.)
  • I could use the attribute cistis calceatus in a clause.

In Finnish and English there is a preferred way to express things like this, and other constructions sound weird although they would be understood. I have no idea what construction would be most natural for Latin.

If I want to wear boxes for shoes and a tent for a shirt, how can I express it in Latin? Is there a structure for this kind of expression that I could always use? The actual words (box, shoes, tent, shirt) are not that important; I am interested in the construction. I would prefer to see actual use examples, but I will be satisfied with any justified answer.

  • 2
    I added a couple uses from actual Romans to my answer. Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 6:01

1 Answer 1


My impulse would be to use the verb usurpare—that is to make use of something, to resort to using something, often instead of another, either because what is appropriate is unavailable or because one is making (either knowingly or unknowingly) an unusual choice—along with pro or ut. Here are some uses I've seen (mostly in private correspondence, alas, and none classical):

Plinius (Nat. 18,191) ‘sápó, Galliarum’ inquit ‘hocc inventum rutilandis capillis’ et idem testatur Martialis (14,27), sed nihil vetat quominus nunc temporis usurpemus etiam sensu moderno (soap / jabón).

Et ‘manducáre’ significat to chew / masticar; tantum sermone vilissimo usurpatur ut to eat / comer (edere, comedere).

In hác sententiá ‘ederem’ male usurpatum est, nam id significaret petulantem istum puerum non sperare se pernam esse habiturum, quamquam pater dixerit ‘quid nón sit?’ potius quam ‘quid nón esset?’; melius ergo ‘libenter pernam edam’ (subj.).

Male vero sententia 18 (et adn. 15) usurpat ‘lúx’ (quæ e Sole venit) pro ‘lúmen’ (ex ignibus ac lucernis).

So I'd probably say Cistas ut calceos usurpo or Cistas pro calceis usurpo.

It's a word with a more general meaning than "wear," of course, but it quite specifically fits the situation you're talking about.

EDIT: I found a couple examples from actual Romans:

Quid veteres Latini dixerint quas Graeci προσῳδίας appellant; item quod vocabulum barbarismi non usurpaverint neque Romani antiquiores neque Attici.
—Aulus Gellius, from the chapter summaries of book 13, chapter 6

Nec vero usquam discedebam nec a re publica deiciebam oculos ex eo die, quo in aedem Telluris convocati sumus. In quo templo, quantum in me fuit, ieci fundamenta pacis Atheniensiumque renovavi vetus exemplum; Graecum etiam verbum usurpavi, quo tum in sedandis discordiis usa erat civitas illa, atque omnem memoriam discordiarum oblivione sempiterna delendam censui.
—Cicero, from Phillipic 1.1

  • Totally unrelated, but it takes a lot of hubris for your private correspondent to suggest that the Vulgate's use of manducare as to eat is an example of sermo vilissimus
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:17
  • 1
    My private correspondent is sort of the dictionary definition of hubris. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:17
  • Though for what it's worth he wasn't talking about the Vulgate—he was talking about some modern Latin guy who was trying to base his Latin on classical models. I don't know about manducare as to eat during classical times; perhaps there's graffiti or something. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:20
  • Thanks! This is a good verb to know (I have never seen it used this way). I hope someone can provide classical use examples for this verb or some other construction.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:28

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