There is an ongoing discussion here on the intended meaning of the word "immediately", as found in the 1950's encyclical Humani generis, by Pope Pius XII. The declaration states:

human souls are immediately created by God.

The original Latin reads:

animas enim a Deo immediate creari

Being a word inherited from Latin (and given that official teaching of the Church is in Latin), I thought fit to look for the etymology of the word immediatus.

Now the origin of the phrase under scrutiny in the above question goes back at least to Aquinas's Summa Theologiae. There we read:

[Objection 1:] Videtur quod anima rationalis non sit producta a Deo immediate, sed mediantibus Angelis.

And in his reply to the objection, he concludes:

Et quia anima rationalis non potest produci per transmutationem alicuius materiae, ideo non potest produci nisi a Deo immediate.

It is evident from the discussion that Aquinas is referring to "immediate" as without mediation, rather than its other (perhaps more common) usage of "adjacent in time".

In effect, there are instances where the word immediatus is officially used as meaning "without mediation". Without going too further back, in his 1907's encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, Pope Pius X wrote:

Praeteritis aetatibus vulgaris fuit error quod auctoritas in Ecclesiam extrinsecus accesserit nimirum immediate a Deo; quare autocratica merito habebatur. Sed haec nunc temporis obsolevere. Quo modo Ecclesiae e conscientiarum collectivitate emanasse dicitur, eo pariter auctoritas ab ipsa Ecclesia vitaliter emanat.

The official English version reads:

In past times it was a common error that authority came to the Church from without, that is to say directly from God; and it was then rightly held to be autocratic. But his conception had now grown obsolete. For in the same way as the Church is a vital emanation of the collectivity of consciences, so too authority emanates vitally from the Church itself.

Similarly, when in the Latin version we read:

... quia nempe Ecclesia a Deo, sine medio, ut ordinis supernaturalis est auctor, instituta ferebatur.

the English has:

...because the Church was then regarded as having been instituted immediately by God as the author of the supernatural order.

So, there seems to be recent instances where the Church does use immediately as meaning "without mediation".


Now, it seems true however that immediatus does mean, in English and in Latin, "unmediated" and "adjacent in time". For instance, this is suggested in this book.

For some reason, the word immediatus is not part of L&S (at least given my search attempts here). I would like to know:

  1. The meanings of immediatus in Latin.
  2. The change in those meanings over time. (for example, is the "adjacent in time" meaning recent and perhaps inherited from English, or of the last centuries?)

Sounds a lot to ask for, but I hope this proves interesting anyway.

  • Side comment: in Aristotelian/Thomistic/Christian philosophy, a spiritual being (like the soul, in a sense) can only go from not being to being instantly: there is just no other option. Actually, as far as I remember, any substantial change can only be instantaneous, though in the case of material beings it can be preceded/followed by a succession of accidental changes
    – Rafael
    Feb 15, 2019 at 12:26
  • @Rafael Interesting!
    – luchonacho
    Feb 15, 2019 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


see relevant entries below.

Niermeyer's Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus:

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Hoven' Dictionary of Renaissance Latin from Prose Sources:

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On how it evolved in English - see the relevant entry in the OED, esp. "A.adj.1. Said of a person or thing in its relation to another: That has no intermediary or intervening member, medium, or agent; that is in actual contact or direct personal relation" and "2.a. Of a relation or action between two things: Acting or existing without any intervening medium or agency; involving actual contact or direct relation: opposed to mediate and remote" [the emphasis is mine - A.B.].

If there is "no person, thing, or space intervening, in place, order, or succession" (3a), it could also apply to those cases when it stands or comes "nearest or next; proximate, nearest, next; close, near."

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