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I am looking for a Latin word that describes a person who:

  • protects (is a guardian)
  • is kind to
  • takes responsibility of
  • is kind of a deity

for animals or for nature. Is there a certain word for that?

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  • Welcome to the site! That list of four properties is a tall order. Can you think of a suitable word in English or any other language?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 11:52
  • I couldn't find a single word for it in English or any other language, it doesn't have to satisfy/mean each of these, but as close as possible to them Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 21:41

5 Answers 5

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In translation there is a problem known as 'false friends.' If you are translating French you have to take care not to translate 'sensible' as sensible. In Latin 'tutor' invites the translation 'tutor:' "A private teacher, typically one who teaches a single pupil or a very small group."

Pastor also has overtones; and (as with tutor) this subtext may suit you or be an annoyance:

Pastor: shepherd boni pastoris esse tondere pecus, non deglubere, Suet. Tib. 32. 1 A keeper: pavonum, Varr R. R. 3, 6, 5: columbarius, id. ib. 3, 7, 5: gallinarum, Col. 8, 2, 7: anserum, Dlg. 32, 1, 66.—
(the idea of a shepherd is to shear the sheep, not to flay them)

You could reverse this by using Aegis a word that in English means "The protection, backing, or support of a particular person;" and in Latin means a shield belonging to a god, occasionally a metaphor for any protection. I hope that covers divine protection in a metaphorical way with the right overtones.

Aegis (Lewis/Short) A The shield of Jupiter, Verg. A. 8, 354; Sil. 12, 720.—
B The shield of Minerva, with Medusa's head, Verg. A. 8, 435: contra sonantem Palladis aegida, Hor. C. 3, 4, 57; so Ov. M. 2, 753; 6, 78 al.

'Upilio' (Lewis/Short Dictionary)is free of these complications.

ūpĭlĭo (eollat. form of ōpĭlĭo, q. v.), ōnis, m. ovis,
I: a shepherd, Verg. E. 10, 19; App. Mag. p. 279, 35.

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  • 2
    Do you mean that tutor is here a false friend? If so, it's an extraordinary idea. The underlying concept is of protection, in every English sense, as the questioner requires. On the other hand pastor (derived from pascor) is at root a herdsman, one who feeds his flock, etc. Can I invite you to reconsider your answer?
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 19:29
  • @TomCotton I'm not trying to speak for Hugh or Glorfindel, but the English word "tutor", at least here in the USA, means a guy who helps you with your schoolwork. The Latin word tutor means so much more than just that.
    – Figulus
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 3:16
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The word that you want is tutor, -oris. The verb that describes all the functions you require is the regular, 1st conjugation deponent tutor, tutari, tutatus, and an associated adjective is tutelaris.

[In English, a 'tutelary deity' is a 'protective spirit'.]

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  • I do like tutelaris, especially in light of the last bullet point. Numen tutelare has a nice ring to it.
    – Figulus
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 22:31
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This might be in the wrong direction, but one option I suggest considering is Diana (cf. Greek Artemis). She is a goddess who is a kind guardian of animals. Admittedly it is a proper noun, but in some contexts you can speak of someone as a Diana.

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I think custos works pretty well, too:

a guard, watch, preserver, keeper, overseer, protector, defender, attendant, etc., protectress, etc., in a friendly or hostile sense (freq. and class.).

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Many here have answered tutor, which is an excellent suggestion. A closely related alternative is tutela. It is a slightly more abstract word, and it can also refer to that which is protected (the "ward" if you will). But given sufficient context, tutela could work as well as tutor.

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    +1 for the very root of 'tutelary.' I think this certainly works despite the passive meaning, since the passive sense is only found in Augustan poets (and one iffy use in Cicero), at least as far as I can tell from Lewis and Short.
    – cmw
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 3:57

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