Sometimes I come across Latin profanities, for example when reading a certain poem of Catullus. Many dictionaries fail to translate profanities properly, perhaps in order to maintain a certain level of tact. This makes it difficult to understand text containing profanities well.

If a Latin verb describing, say, a very specific sexual act is translated as "treating another person disgracefully", I feel cheated. (See this example in L&S.) I would like to have a dictionary that translates profanities honestly, using sufficient detail and equally foul language to give a good idea of the tone and meaning.

Is some online dictionary well suited for this need? Or is there perhaps a printed dictionary? I don't mind if the dictionary is restricted to profane language.

Wikipedia offers a decent list, but it's not very broad.

1 Answer 1


Oh, God, the prudish lengths to which dictionaries go to avoid translating profanity correctly! I feel your pain—I too feel cheated and betrayed when this happens. It's like, aren't you supposed to tell me what this word means? Well, "to practice unnatural vice" is not what this word means.

I don't know of any dictionaries that do their jobs properly in this regard, but you might want to take a look at J.N. Adams's Latin Sexual Vocabulary. I haven't read the whole thing but the chapters I've read have been very illuminating; it doesn't shy away from profanity.

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    +1 Yes, the dictionaries certainly self censor such entries. Rhetorically, if they aren't going to publish a faithful translation why list the headword in the first place? Pun intended. Btw, while it's not of high quality, see the Wikipedia article on latin profanity.
    – andy256
    Apr 17, 2016 at 2:48

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