I have failed to find a way to say "based on" in Latin. For a concrete example, I want to be able to write:

The movie is based on the book.

How would you go about phrasing this in Latin? Going by the Italian ("Il film è basato sul libro."), I am tempted to write:

Pellicula super librum basata est.

One can reasonably derive basatus from basis, but in particular the use of super strikes me as non-Latin. Taking more liberties, my current best guess is:

Pellicula de libro derivata est.

Are there good classical or later phrases for this purpose?

  • Pellicula de libro derivata sounds just right to me.
    – Tom Cotton
    Jan 30 '19 at 17:21

As my very first contribution to this forum, two expressions come to mind.

1) modus: pellicula modo libri facta

2) secundum: pellicula secundum librum (facta)

For modus I have not (yet) found solid support.

For secundum I found support in L&S: see II.B.1 of the entry for secundum, which translates secundum as "agreeably to, in accordance with, according to".

Note that also the Gospels are titled Secundum Matthaeum, Marcum, ...

  • Welcome to the site! I like both suggestions. There is a difference between "according to" and "based on". To me secundum sounds more like the former, but I would not be surprised to see it as the latter either. Concerning L&S, do you mean II.B.1 of the entry for secundum or something else?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jan 30 '19 at 16:39
  • Yes, that would be the one. But I never knew about L&S before I saw this forum, having been taught Latin in the Netherlands. Jan 30 '19 at 16:50
  • I wasn't familiar with L&S either before I joined. I learned my Latin in Finland using Finnish sources. I took the liberty to edit your answer a bit to include details for the support found in L&S – feel free to re-edit! And thanks again for the answer; I was previously unaware of this use of secundum.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jan 30 '19 at 16:54
  • I don't believe either of these quite fit, though they aren't too far off. The issue here is that "based on" refers primarily to the content of the piece. Modo refers to qualitative similarity rather than similarity of content. Secundum with an author does mean "based on" but is restricted to contexts that imply a choice between various versions. Jan 31 '19 at 11:43

There are two complications here. First, the idiom "based on" in English doesn't have a single meaning. It is used in a variety of situations with somewhat different meanings; in the sentence "Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors is based on Plautus' Menaechmi" the phrase "based on" is not doing the same work as it is in the sentence "we punish criminal offenders differently based on the results of their actions." So in order to answer your question accurately, we first need to identify exactly which sense of the idiom "based on" you are trying to find a matching idiom for in Latin.

I'm guessing, however, (based on the concrete example you provided) that you want to find something more like "Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors is based on Plautus." Now it is unlikely that the image contained in the English idiom (that is, of creating a "foundation" or "base" and then putting something new on top of it) is going to be the exact same image used in Latin to express a similar thought (and corpus searches confirm this). So in order to translate the phrase into idiomatic Latin, we will have to find passages in the Latin corpus that express the same general idea but that use different words and formulas.

To reiterate: If we want to do more than merely dress up an English, Italian, etc. image in Latin clothing (which, with respect, is what "basatus est" would yield), we have to figure out not how to translate the words but the idea itself into idiomatic Latin.

Prologues in Terence will be extremely helpful for finding an idiomatic way of expressing the idea that plot material or the entire plot of one work is drawn from another, since most of the plays are based on earlier Greek versions and the prologus often makes reference to this fact:

Heauton: "ex integra Graeca integram comoediam
hodie sum acturus H[e]auton timorumenon, 5 duplex quae ex argumento facta est simplici."

Andria: "Menander fecit Andriam et Perinthiam.
qui utramvis recte norit ambas noverit: 10 non ita dissimili sunt argumento, [s]et tamen
dissimili oratione sunt factae ac stilo.
quae convenere in Andriam ex Perinthia
fatetur transtulisse atque usum pro suis."

Adelphoe: "Synapothnescontes Diphili comoediast:
<³ea>³m Commorientis Plautu' fecit fabulam. in Graeca adulescens est qui lenoni eripit
meretricem in prima fabula: <³eu>³m Plautus locum
reliquit integrum, <³eu>³m hic locum sumpsit sibi 10 in Adelphos, verbum de verbo expressum extulit. "

Eunuchus: "qui bene vortendo et easdem scribendo male ex Graecis bonĭs Latinas fecit non bonas,"

So what we see from the above examples is that there might not be a single formulaic phrase in Latin that perfectly matches the specific sense you are looking for. Rather, there are several phrases which can be used to describe the more concrete (and more general) idea of taking something from one thing and using it to make something new. So the sentence "Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors is based on Plautus" might be variously rendered as "Shakespeare ex fabula Plautina Comediam fecit suam Errorum," or "Shakespeare argumentum ex fabula Plautina sumpsit sibi in Comediam Errorum," or perhaps "Shakespeare quae convenerunt in Comediam Errorum transtulit ex fabula Plautina atque usus est pro suis."

  • Welcome to the site! This is an interesting take on the question. Could you perhaps edit your answer to add what the passage suggests as a translation of "based on"?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 12 '19 at 14:35
  • As a tiro I'm not sure I understand what you are asking here-- is my "question" the comment that I left? Feb 12 '19 at 14:38
  • Oops, I was supposed to write "edit your answer", not "edit your question". I fixed the old comment. The original question was about translating "based on", and it would be nice if your answer contained a more explicit answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 12 '19 at 15:07

If we consider the idiom, I think it is reasonable to conclude that "a film based on a book" is really "a film that derives its subject matter and/or plot from a book." With that in mind, I suggest:

Haec pellicula ex libro [title] res arcessit/accersit

Horace: ex medio quia res accersit ... comoedia (because comedy summons/derives its subject matter from daily life)

Note: arcessit and accersit are variant forms of the same verb.

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