I know the popular phrase

inter arma enim silent leges


in a time of war, the law falls silent.

I want to modify the phrase to say 'in a time of crisis, the law falls silent'. I've not studied Latin before, but using Google translate gives this:

in discrimine tempus, quod cadit lex tacet.

This seems suspect to me, as the translated sentence structure is way off the 'inter arma enim silent leges' form. In fact, Google translate gives 'in tempore belli, quod cadit lex tacet' for 'in a time of war, the law falls silent'.

My question is, how do I say 'in a time of crisis, the law falls silent' to have the same structure to 'inter arma enim silent leges'?


2 Answers 2


The key is to find a good translation for "crisis". There is the Greek loan crisis, but I would go for a more Latin option. The best choice depends on what kind of crisis is meant.

My suggestion is tumultus, which Lewis and Short translate as "uproar", "violent commotion", "sudden or impending war", "sedition", "rebellion", "anxiety", "disturbance", "agitation", "disorder", and other similar terms. If the crisis is at the level of national politics or security, this is a good word. If the crisis is more personal, then tumultus would have to be taken as a figure of speech or one would need a different word.

Literally, inter arma means "amidst weapons". The preposition inter ("between" and similar) sounds less appropriate for tumultus, and I would replace it with in, which here would mean "in time of". Therefore inter arma silent leges would become in tumultu silent leges.


Crisis seems to be an attested Latin word (e.g. here), derived from Greek. It's used in Wikipedia too.

However, a more popular word seems to be discrimen, as Google told you. This is attested in Classical Latin (e.g. here).

So, I would say either

inter crisis enim silent leges

(if we take it as indeclinable; otherwise, it might follow the Greek declension rules, being crisin) or

inter discrimen enim silent leges

Notice the original order of the phrase (from Cicero) was Silent enim leges inter arma. Order of words generally makes little difference in Latin, so you can stick to the more famous version.

  • 1
    The original literally means "among arms, the laws are silent." Your translation seems to me to mean "among crises, the laws are silent." I don't think that's really what OP is trying to say.
    – sgf
    Feb 21, 2019 at 19:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy