The motto for Concordia University Saint Paul (MN) reads: "In litteris proficere volo, malo diligere Jesum."

The CSP website, magazine (Spring 2009), and various internet sources offer these translations—some literal and some interpretive:

  • I wish to be proficient in academics, but even more I wish to know Jesus.

  • It is good to pursue knowledge, better to know Jesus.

  • Will Prosper in Academics and Be Diligent in Christ.

And even this interesting adaptation:

  • Lord, give us joy in education especially knowing the love of Christ.

I'm having a hard time fitting "malo" into this, because everything I've found or learned relates it to bad or evil. I've tried my Cassell's, and the Latin Dictionary.

Is there a comparative or superlative at work (or play) here, that I am not comprehending?

Any insight would be much appreciated! Thank you in advance.


2 Answers 2


malo here is the first-person singular active indicative form of malle, which means “I prefer”. It has nothing to do with either malus “bad” (or, for that matter, malum “apple”). I believe that the verb is a contraction of maius “better” and velle “to want”.

EDIT: Lewis & Short says that it's actually from magis "more" + velle.

  • Thank you, NRitH, for your answer. Please see disclaimer in my comment above. However, I wanted to let you know that I learned something else (beyond my momentary myopia when attempting a search this arvo) interesting from your post, namely the idea of the "contraction of maius 'better' and velle 'to want'" that I had not considered. Cheers!
    – Verbiwhore
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 1:59
  • I'm confused by the rollback of the edit--any particular reason you want it to stand this way?
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 20:10

To add to this, there's an old mnemonic rhyme for the word malo:

Mālō, I would rather be
Mālō, in an apple tree
Mālō, than a ship at sea
Mălō, in adversity

It's a confusingly ambiguous word! In the first line, it's a form of mālle, "to want"; in the second line, it's the ablative of position of mālus, "apple tree"; in the third line, it's the ablative of comparison of mālus, "upright beam, post, mast" (or "ship" by synecdoche); in the fourth line, it's the masculine ablative of mălus, "bad". The fourth of these is the only one that looks any different, since it has a short ă rather than a long ā.

  • This is wonderful!
    – NRitH
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 22:34
  • 2
    What a fascinating word pond! Charmed I am to be / sprouting cognitively / at sea in synecdoche / enlightened incredulity!
    – Verbiwhore
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 1:31
  • I just saw this, but the fourth line would actually be neuter, no? I think I remember learning this (or something like this?) way back in high school, but I had entirely forgotten it!
    – cmw
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 18:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.