My girlfriend asked me to translate the phrase "I live for my family" for her. As I found out, it is much more difficult than I thought, so I am asking you for help.

I don't really believe online translators and based on my amateurish research I constructed the translation as "Vivo per meus familiae (cognatio?)".

Do you know what should be the proper translation for this phrase?

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    Do you intend to mean 1) your family is the reason of your life, or 2) you live to feed/provide them/give then a better future, or 3) you are a slave of your family? When it comes to prepositions, translations tend to become tricky...
    – Rafael
    May 29, 2016 at 18:58
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    Throughout the Aeneid the hero is called 'pius Aeneas,' which means just that: 'loyal to his family.' But at school we were only taught to die for our country, so I'd have to start from 'Pro patria mori.' Pro with the ablative.
    – Hugh
    May 29, 2016 at 18:59
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    On-line translators are rubbish, especially for Latin.
    – fdb
    May 30, 2016 at 10:20
  • Thank you for responses! Rafael, the second option suits best for what she wants it to be meant. May 30, 2016 at 15:39

3 Answers 3


I'd suggest something like Familiam ad sustinendam vivo. Literally translated, this means something like "I live for the sustaining of my family." Latin word order is pretty free, so putting familiam ("family") first emphasizes the importance of that word in the sentence.

This construction (familiam ad sustinendam) is an example of the gerundive, which is a way to turn verbs into adjectives.

You could also say Familiam ut sustineam vivo, which would be using the subjunctive rather than the gerundive. This is an equally correct way of saying it, but using the gerundive adds a flavor of something that must be done that's absent from the subjunctive.

Another way to say it, as @Rafael suggests in the comments, is Pro mea familia vivo, though to my ear Pro familia vivo sounds more idiomatic, the mea ("my") being the sort of thing that Romans tended to assume.

It occurs to me that if what she's looking for is more a motto than a way to make a statement, she might also consider something like Familia mea est vita, which means "My family is my life." (There I'd include the mea because otherwise it would be "family is life," which seems to be a broader statement about the human importance of family rather than the personal importance of one specific family.)

  • I'd add the more literal alternative, Pro mea familia vivo, in case they want to preserve the original flavor
    – Rafael
    May 30, 2016 at 23:36

Maybe I'm being too simplistic, but I think I'd just use the dative, "Familiae meae vivo". Take a look at this usage by Terence and Saint Jerome:

Terence, from "The Eunuch", Lines 480-481 which are in Act 3, Scene 2: "Atque haec qui misit non sibi soli postulat te vivere et sua causa excludi ceteros" (And he who sent these things is not asking you to live only for himself and others to be excluded for his sake). Hat tip to Lewis and Short.

Jerome, from the Vulgate, Romans 14:8: "Domino vivimus" (We live for the Lord).

But obviously, the correct answer will depend on exactly what you mean by "I live for".


One of the shorter, and maybe easier way to remember this would be "Vivo mea familia" i think.

In this sentence mea familia is an ablative which expresses an advantage.

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    To me Vivo mea familia sounds more like "I live with the help of or because of my family", the ablative being instrumental or causal. Using dative to indicate purpose sounds ok to me, but I'm not familiar with the use of ablative you propose. (Or I'm overlooking something simple.) Can you explain this ablative better, perhaps with other examples or by comparing it to other uses? (Welcome to the site!)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 9, 2016 at 15:17

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