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In Latin, how would you refer to the concept of sorting events according to temporal proximity (i.e. most recent, or nearest to now, first); as opposed to sorting by priority, or starting from the beginning and proceeding in chronological order.

I thought something along the lines of proximus tempus or proxima temporis, but they seem to translate to simply "next time".


A quick example to help illustrate

I hope this is a helpful example. Imagine something to the effect of:

Person#1: "Tell me what happened."
Person#2: "I wouldn't even know where to begin."

The response could be to:

  • Start from the beginning or first event.
  • Start with the most urgent, important, significant or highest priority event.
  • Start with the most recent or next upcoming event.

3 Answers 3

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One Latin word for "proximity" is proximitas and "temporal" can be translated as temporalis. Therefore I would translate "in order of temporal proximity" as in ordine proximitatis temporalis.

This is in contrast with in ordine chronologico or in ordine prioritatis. Alternatively, you could drop the in and go with the plain ablative ordine.

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  • Actually, my original assumption was proximus temporalis. But after looking into it, it seems temporalis is closer to "temporary" than "time" itself. Whay do you think about that?
    – voices
    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:04
  • @tjt263 It means various things, but the best overall translation of temporalis is "time-related". It can mean "temporary", but it is also widely used as "temporal". The phrase proximus temporalis means roughly "the closest time-related guy" or something in that direction; it has good elements, but I can't quite make sense of it. You need something to say "closeness" instead of "close" here, but proximitas is probably not the only option.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:14
  • Where does "guy" come from? Which part indicates or refers to a person or object?
    – voices
    Nov 20, 2018 at 10:34
  • @tjt263 It comes from the fact that proximus is masculine. In isolation (without a noun) and without context a masculine adjective often refers to a human male. If it were proximum (neuter) instead, I would have replace "guy" with "thing".
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 20, 2018 at 10:56
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The answer given by Joonas is good, and exactly along the lines that you suggest. However, this concept can often seem rather awkward to express in Latin, so I think it worthwhile to expound more widely on it.

We should first remember that proximus means not only 'nearest', but 'adjacent'. Whether it is to be translated as 'most recent' or 'next to come' has to be indicated by the context. Thus we might see proxima nocte abivit and proximo die statuerat, where it is clear that the actions were in the past and took place ‘on the night before’ and ‘on the preceding day’. In the opposite sense we might find proximo die abibunt, ‘they will go away on the day following’, se dixit proximo tempore aliter acturum esse, 'he said that next time he would act differently' and so on.

A useful word for referring to the past is the adjective nuperus,‘recent’ which has normal comparative and superlative form ; the corresponding adverb is nuper, ‘lately’, which has comparative nuperius and superlative nuperrime. To indicate future action more explicitly than using proximus, the participle (in)sequens may serve better.

Some other words that might be useful in this sort of context are the adverbs temperius, ‘sooner’, ‘earlier’, serius, ‘later’ and, when describing the regular succession in chronological order which your question specifies, deinceps may be particularly apposite, an adverb with the meaning 'successively' or 'in turn'.

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In this situation, Romans tend to use superlatives. So, for example, the word novissime means "most recently." In more detail, let's look at the way Cicero talks about chronological arrangement:

Deinde est ad facta veniendum, quorum collocatio triplex est: aut enim temporum servandus est ordo aut in primis recentissimum quodque dicendum aut multa et varia facta in propria virtutum genera sunt dirigenda. De Partitione Oratoria, Ciceronis

(Next, coming to the deeds of men, as to which there are three possible methods of arrangement: either one must keep their chronological order, or speak of the most recent first, or classify a number of different actions under the virtues to which they belong.)

So, the way Cicero describes your method of chronological arrangement is by saying in primis recentissimum which means the most recent in the first place. Note that there are several closely words, primus (an adjective), prima (the first part), and primum (a neuter noun meaning the start). In this case, the word Cicero used is the ablative plural of primum. When primum is used in the plural it can either mean the first parts or elements (like prima) or it can indicate the first place itself, which is the sense it has here. So, even though it is a plural form, it has a singular meaning.

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    I would say that the quodque is an essential part of the phrase here. A form of quisque with 2 superlatives (including primus), one of which agrees with the form of quisque, is used to convey the idea of proportionality. Cicero means that the more recent a thing is, the closer to being mentioned first it will be. The example given in Allen & Greenough §313.b is from Cicero, De senectute 83: sapientissimus quisque aequissimo animo moritur, stultissimus iniquissimo, by which he means that the wiser a man is, the more equanimity he dies with; the more foolish, the less.
    – cnread
    Oct 19, 2022 at 16:14
  • @cnread In your example, quisque agrees in number with sapientissimus (every of the wisest). In the example I cited, I read quodque as agreeing in both case and number with recentissimum (each of the most recent). Oct 19, 2022 at 16:37
  • Quite right. My example is talking about a person, so masculine; whereas yours is talking about a thing, so neuter. I don't think I get your point. For the record, I think the example that you found provides the/a correct answer to the question, but only because of the quodque; it's the quodque that adds the idea of proportionality, suggesting not just that the first item in the list is most recent but that, as you go down the list, items become progressively less recent.
    – cnread
    Oct 20, 2022 at 16:01
  • @cnread Regardless of how you want to intepret the passage, the bottom line is that it makes clear the basics of how Cicero discussed temporal order, including the type of order which the OP is asking about. Oct 20, 2022 at 16:17

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