I want to write a motto for self-control: Don't be a slave!

Google Translate translated that to: "Ne fiat servus".

I do not know whether that is correct, or whether I should write "servis" insead.

So, What would be a better translation?


First of all, Google Translate is horrible with Latin and should not be trusted at all. It fails here, too. I would translate "Ne fiat servus" as "May he not become a slave". It is a reasonable wish for a third party, but not what you wanted to express.

There is a simple way to say "don't X" in Latin: just say noli X, where X is an infinitive form of a verb. The verb "to be" is esse, so "don't be" would be noli esse. Then we need to add the slave, and it should be in the singular nominative form servus. (Servis would be plural dative of ablative.) This construction is attested in classical Latin; see this question for details.

This leads to: Noli esse servus.

  • 1
    Somehow I would expect something more compact than noli esse, but I can't think what. Noli servare would not mean the same thing.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 7 '19 at 0:03
  • 1
    @ColinFine Noli servare is a good option! Can you give that as a separate answer? I am always happy to see a number of answers proposing different approaches.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 7 '19 at 7:28
  • 1
    @JoonasIlmavirta Thank you so much for this detailed answer, yes, even though I do not know Latin, I sensed that something is wrong with Google translate... Best +1 !
    – SmootQ
    Mar 7 '19 at 10:13
  • @JoonasIlmavirta: the reason I did not give noli servare as a separate answer is that I'm not sure it fits. In English "do not serve" and "do not be a servant" (never mind "a slave") are rather different, and I don't know whether that difference carries over into Latin or not.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 7 '19 at 16:08

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