Can anyone translate for me:

"If the minimum wasn't good enough, it wouldn't be the minimum"

I had a tutor help me ages ago and thought what she decided was the best translation seemed like it had gone through Google Translate. I would love to embroider this as my personal motto.

Here "minimum" means "the least amount of work that still gets the job done". It's a quote from Office Space.


3 Answers 3


Here's my second shot at your 'Minimum... The original doesn't turn into Latin Easily because of secondary meaning in Latin minimum - 'tiny', 'mean', 'sluttish'. And it doesn't work as 'only just enough;' that would be Vix satis. So here's my best attempt: it means "But do scarcely enough;" and the Romans would have hated it because they thought rhymes and chimes were uncouth.


Alternatively (but it might be a bit too elegant)


AT is 'nevertheless' or 'but, however,' implying all the usual clichés can be taken as said, but now it is about to offer better advice. SAT PERFAC means 'get it finished adequately.' Perfac does not mean 'be perfect' as you might think, but 'finish it;' so perfectum 'done,' 'completed.'

If that's too abrupt here's a ready-made practical version.

This motto "It's done as soon as its good enough," was carved into one of the Civil War Buildings by the King's Carpenter. (Not the first motto which means "Live, so that you may live.")

SAT CITO SI SAT BENE literally 'Soon Enough if Good Enough' is one of the mottoes he used from 17thC French Emblem Books; and these have been published by a team at Glasgow University. http://www.emblems.arts.gla.ac.uk/french/index.php


  • 1
    Thanks to all. I am here, but festive preparations are taking over my time. Apologies for not replying properly yet.
    – Sara Mason
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 17:35
  • 1
    Think I like the last one best, especially as it is a quote in it's own right. The more I think about it, the more I realise it needs to be succinct, otherwise I would have chosen the first one. My only concern, though- "it's done as soon as it's good enough" could mean "I won't stop until it's good enough", so the opposite?
    – Sara Mason
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 11:35

Here is a suggestion with a fairly literal translation:

Nisi sufficit minimum, minimum non est.
If the smallest is not enough, it is not the smallest.

The Latin word minimum is the superlative "smallest". The English word "minimum" is an appropriate translation in some contexts, but I chose differently to emphasize that the Latin and English minimum are not identical in meaning.

I chose to put the two instances of minimum next to each other for greater contrast. This is a matter of style and taste; you could just as well say minimum sufficit, for instance.

The suggestion I gave above is factual: it states how things are. If you want to make it counterfactual, you can use imperfect conjunctives:

Nisi sufficeret minimum, minimum non esset.
If the smallest were not enough, it would not be the smallest.

This formulation is more than a logical statement that one thing implies another. It carries a nuance that might fit your goal. I leave the choice to you. (Thanks to brianpck for suggesting the counterfactual in a comment!)


I'd be tempted by something like "satietas non insatis est", for "sufficiency is not insufficient". Insatis is a logical construction, though I can't find it attested - but I think it would be entirely understood. I can't easily find a single word for "insufficient", and even if there were one, the contrast between satietas and insatis is striking. You can indicate the necessity of the statement with per se, and/or emphasise it with nunquam, but I'm not confident about where you'd put them, and I think nunquam would be excessive. I'd probably take a stab at "satietas per se non insatis est".

However, that includes one word that makes sense but isn't attested as far as I can find, and some significant uncertainty about the appropriateness of word order.

  • 1
    The usual word for "not enough" is parum, but insatis is certainly understandable. There's also the attested word insatietas, but it's a noun.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 18:36
  • Good to know, thank you. Though I still like the symmetry of the neologism.
    – SamBC
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 20:53

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.