It is easy to translate "black sheep" literally: ovis nigra. I suspect that this phrase does not have the same meaning as in English (and Finnish), judging by its absence in literature — assuming my searches were correct. Is there a Latin phrase that means a disreputable member in a group, preferably classical?

2 Answers 2


Maybe dedecus familiae, the shame of or to the family (e.g. Cicero pro Cluentio).

C. D. Yonge translates Cicero's original dedecus familiae as "disgrace of his family", which is what a black sheep means.


superbis iuvenibus the 'proud young men' (dative pl) are described as

siccis herbis 'withered crops.' (1310 - 20 de Lisle Psalter:)

However, this is closer to "He's such a disappointment," than "The black sheep of the family." Alternatively,

impius, (3) undutiful (Ainsworth & Mead)

Filius impius in patrem (Tacitus)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.