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I came across the phrase "excelsior aude" which seems to translate to courageously onward and upward? Is this accurate and would be it better reversed to aude excelsior or excelsior aude? Any thoughts? Perhaps there's a more elegant way to phrase this?

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Audeo is 'I dare'

Aude is the imperative, an exhortation, 'Dare,' or 'Be daring.'

Excelsus, is 'noble,' 'lofty.'

Excelsior is 'more noble' and describes the person you are speaking to when you tell them to be daring. It is also the single-word motto on the banner of an absolutely fearless, honourable, daring knight in a poem by Longfellow; "A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice, A banner with the strange device, Excelsior!"

All the best mottoes have a double meaning; in this case it lies in the word Excelsus which can also be a past participle meaning 'When you have been overcome, When you have been beaten,...' So the subtext is: when you have been overcome, that is the time to be daring.

A more predictable version would be Excelsius aude. 'Be more nobly daring.'
But that would lack both the subtlety and the moral courage of your version.

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  • Interesting. Thank you. Would it read better as Excelsior Aude or the other way around (Aude Excelsior)? – Kenneth Gorton Sep 25 '18 at 6:55
  • Latin verse was not comfortable with two vowels between words: in poetry it's used to describe torrent, muddle; and there's disagreement about whether they garbled the vowels Audyexelsior or elided Aud'excelsior. But whatever feels right to you is fine. – Hugh Sep 25 '18 at 13:18
  • If you want to find out more about adjacent vowels in separate words, type or paste elision in the Search box (towards the left in the top black band); and then try synizesis – Hugh Sep 25 '18 at 13:29

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