10 Commonly Used Terms From Ancient Rome

Posted on

Anyone with even a little curiosity about etymology is conscious that many English words are derived from Latin which is the language spoken in ancient Rome. Although English is considered to be Germanic and not a Romance or Romance language (the former being the languages that are rooted in Latin Vulgar, not ones that are best suited for telling sweet words to your loved one,) it borrows liberally from a variety of sources.

Perhaps borrowing is too light an expression, but more precisely, English follows other languages through dark streets, knocks them on the head, and rummages through their pockets for a loose vocabulary. This sluggish language of ours has no less than a handful of Latin-derived words.
The words below were chosen because of their intriguing story of origin, their surprising first usage, or the ways in which the meanings have changed in the course of time. Sometimes it is all three. While not comprehensive but these are some of the most notable phrases from the time of ancient Rome that are still in use today.

10. Decimate

Planet earth explode in space

The expression “decimate” as used today is usually a reference to a major loss or loss of a substantial but unknown amount, such as “the plague decimated the population of Europe.” The word, which was first utilized in the ancient Roman army context correctly refers to destruction and eradication but, in actual extremely specific in the number of people involved.

We are all aware that Dec is a reference to the numeral 10, thus words like decimal and decade. Decimation is a reference to a reduction of tenths and that’s exactly what it was intended to be punishment during the Roman legions. The military units that mutinied or were believed to be underperforming during the battle were slainOne in 10 soldiers was selected randomly and sentenced into the deadliest and most horrific way possible: beat to death with sticks by their fellow soldiers.

It was not the most effective method to follow, for sure, but it was a method to punish through its random nature it encouraged soldiers to perform their best in terms of their performance and loyalty but also to inspire the troops around them to be the same. It was generally effective, considering the impressive image of Roman military power in the time. It was likely also considered as a fair way to measure from the troops themselves. In any case, it was accepted nine out of 10 legionnaires.

9. Circus

The word is usually associated with animals performing and Acrobatic shows or large-scale family gatherings. However, while the modern circus we are familiar with it now was created in England in late the 17th century. However, the word itself is of far more ancient beginnings, dating back to the time of ancient Rome.

In lieu of a lengthy explanation of how to derive”circle”, suffice to state that the word comes from similar roots to “circle”, and, in turn, refers to something circular. Ancient Roman amphitheaters named circuses because of their shape. Circus arenas of today are also circular, with the head of the show generally referred to as Ringmaster. The similarities do not end there, however, since the Roman form was utilized to stage blood sports, like a gladiator and chariot races. Not the best spot for a fun family day and.

Certain modern-day circus practices are remnants from those times, for instance making use of trained animals. Many people criticize the circus industry for their treatment of its non-human performers and they are right as in the days of ancient Rome at the very least, the lions were allowed to devour a human or two to pay for their troubles. The most well-known Roman amphitheater was Circus Maximus, which operated for more than a thousand years. Since it roughly means “big round place”, one must imagine that the person who invented the name wasn’t paid for his creative genius.

8. Urine

It is believed that the English term “urine” which, of course, is a reference to the waste liquid created by kidneys is derived from Latin “urina”. Although the substance is generally dismissed as unimportant today, it was not always the scenario. In the past, Romans not only embraced the word, but also used the product to widespread usage, to the point that the Emperor Nero issued an “urine tax” on his citizens in the 1st century AD.

Certain of these applications were truly innovative. Naturally, human waste was frequently used for tanning leather all through history however, the Romans went one step further by making use of urine as a cleaner and cosmetic product. Because of the unique composition of its chemical components, urine was an excellent laundry detergent. It also, because the belief was that it could improve the appearance of teeth it was also employed as a mouthwash as well as in toothpaste. Perhaps they were in the right place because urine was frequently employed in dental hygiene products from the beginning of the 18th century.

Always the ingenious pioneers of the time, the Romans also employed urine as invisible ink to create secret messages between the official documents. The messages would only be visible when heated, which made them an ideal first espionage device, though it’s difficult to imagine a contemporary James Bond resorting to such methods. That’s the reason why the expression “read between the lines” is derived from. One could argue that all of this shows that the phrase “piss poor” is largely incorrect, historically speaking.

7. Triumph

At the opposite end of the spectrum of decimating and triumph, we find triumph, an expression that is employed in both verbal as well as noun forms to mean a triumph or a success. In the past, in Rome the word “triumph” was the term used to describe the celebrations and parades of victory given to the victorious General after his return back to Rome.

A victory was awarded by the senate. the victory must meet some criteria for being eligible which included the minimum requirement was five thousand casualties from the course of battle that was decisive to end a war. Victories were lavish celebrations to honor only one individual that slaves were required to remind the general who had won of his own mortality during the celebrations, lest he thought he was a god. If a victory fell short of the standards for a victory might be given the lower honor of an ovation, an expression that is still utilized in the present.

The greatest commanders have were awarded multiple times; Pompey was awarded three times during his lifetime. However not to be beaten by his former rival, Julius Caesar in 46 BC gave himself four consecutive victories. In fact, the fourth one was for Caesar’s victory against the Pompey led faction during the civil conflict. Caesar’s victory, however, was only temporary, and Caesar was killed just 18 months later, fearing that he would become too powerful, causing this immortal slave to have the uncontrollable desire to say “told you so.”

6. Rubicon

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, term “Rubicon” as being a boundary line, crossing of which will commit one irrevocably. It is now common to use the term to describe the moment that was significant to you and there is no turning back. This is known as an “Rubicon” moment. The phrase was popularly employed to describe the actions of South African leader P.W Both in his 1985 Rubicon speech, even though he did not illustrate the concept through crossing the metaphorical Rubicon but rather by avoiding from it.

The first Rubicon moment happened in the year 49 BC in 49 BC. Julius Caesar led the 13th legion along the small River Rubicon located in Northern Italy in an act which enacted civil war. As the provincial governor for in the Cisalpine Gaul Region, Caesar was forbidden from taking his troops into republic. When he was summoned by Rome to answer charges of infringing on his command by his political adversaries, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, which is the official borderline for Northern Italy, under arms and sparked the 3 year civil war that ensued.

This event was also the source of us the famous phrase “The die has been cast” which is a reference to the crossing of a point no return. There is a widespread belief that Caesar himself spoke this phrase when crossing the Rubicon however as this isn’t proven in any way this could just be something that historians has attributed to Caesar to make a dramatic impact. We’ll probably never be able to know for sure.

5. Kaiser

In keeping with continuing with the Caesar theme, the Caesar is acknowledged for many of the things that are still in use to this day, such as the method of birthing by c-section and the Julian calendar, and even the seventh month of the year which is named in honor of his memory. Also, he “discovered” Britain, although the native people he met who were already there doubted the claim. However it was, it was the British Empire would continue to “discover” many new lands of its own, also challenging local populations, until the whole thing gets even. One could even argue that Britain has learned from the best man – the very first Mr. “I came, I saw, I conquered” himself.

Julius Of course, Julius was not the only Roman leader to be referred to as Caesar however, he was not the final one. His descendants would continue to continue the legacy of the family and so the first Germanic people simply called the entire group of Roman Emperors by the title of Caesar. The term itself was later to mean “emperor” and, over time, the top Monarchs from Germany and Austria were referred to as the modified form of the word Kaiser.

The last Kaiser who was officially recognized of the Kaiser family was Wilhelm II. King of Prussia who famously ruled Germany during WWI and was eventually forced to step down from his throne in 1918, following the end of the war. The word, along with its Russian equivalent “Czar”, may have gone out of usage if not for the infamous South African based soccer team Kaiser Chiefs and the UK group with the same name, which were the inspiration for.

For all the things Caesar offered us What did we do to repay him? We named a particular chicken salad after him obviously. It’s a funny thing.

4. Plebian

We typically think of this word as an everyday insult, but especially when it is shortened to “pleb”. It’s a term that refers to something simple or basic. It could be loved but not very sophisticated. This is a great description of reality television or, more precisely. In 2012, British Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell was forced to quit amid controversy over the “Plebgate” scandal he ignited after he used the word to slam a group of police officers in a very colourful manner, which I’ll refrain from repeating here.

The term originated in the time of ancient Rome and was not meant to be a derogatory term but as a point of reference to the masses of Roman citizens who weren’t belonging to the senatorial, patrician or equestrian class. It was the socially conscious British who made it an insult in the 17th century after which it became a expression of the lower classes or, in the case of some the people who were not well-off. The negative connotations associated with the word persist until the present like the late Mr. Mitchell discovered to his disadvantage.

The plebeians from ancient Rome could have been ordinary people as individuals, but they formed a formidable class of people who made up the core of the economy, and posed an enormous danger to the elite class. Being aware of this as he did, the Emperor Augustus tried to keep them entertained and entertained by providing entertainment and food and thus coined the term “bread and circuses”. This way of pleasing the masses is used to this day and for good reason. It’s worked, after all.

3. Salary

It’s one of the top employee’s words, right along with weekends, Fridays, and a the word “raise. Receiving a monthly pay check in the form of a pay check is not just a necessity to live, but also is a sign of the worthiness one has in the workplace. The better you do at work and the better you do, the more you are paid. In theory at least, but not always in reality. The term “salary”, however, was originally used to describe a popular food item that we take for granted today.

The word “salary” originates from the old Roman tradition of paying soldiers not in gold, but rather in salt. This was both practical and desired due to its limited availability and high value. Salt’s value grew far beyond Rome but numerous civilizations utilized the highly sought-after mineral for trade and compensation. This is why an expert remains regarded as worthy of his salt.

The world has changed dramatically as salt has become so ubiquitous and normal that restaurants and food establishments give the salt away at no cost – an event which would likely shook the Roman soldier in the past 2000 years. Salt is a common ingredient that medical professionals advise against when eating a balanced diet and I for I am sure, would be a bit unimpressed should my boss choose to reward me with an entire bag of salt at the conclusion in the course of the month. But, the word is an option, even if it’s not the norm in itself.

2. Fascist

Although one might argue there was Benito Mussolini who put the “dick in dictator” the term itself, which translates to supreme ruler was derived from his legendary predecessors from antiquated Rome and also the word fascism, which refers to the political system that dictators are so attracted. Naturally, these two terms originated from the same location and at the same time because fascism means the concept of a “forcibly monolithic, regimented nation” under a dictatorship which is why they’re paired as well as food and circuses.

In Roman times the fasces was made up of rods that were tied around an axe and carried by magisterial servants also known as Lictors to symbolize the law of order. When carried in Rome the ax was taken off to signify that the right of citizens to appeal against a magistrate’s decisions. A different approach was taken for generals and dictators celebrating their triumph. The symbol came to symbolize absolute power which is thought to be the source of the word fascism originates.

So Mussolini was not exactly inventing the wheel by his brutal style of leadership however he was aware that – as an apparent reference to his past roots, his fascist-inspired party was founded in 1919 and was a symbol of the traditional Roman Fasces, after the fasces that they were named. In all likelihood, it would be somewhat unclimatic to discover that the term simply refers to “bundle” in English, that sounds much less frightening than fascist. Its brutal roots lie in Mussolini’s extreme left-wing beliefs.

1. Testify

Since the Romans created our legal system as well as order, it’s not surprising that legalese of the present is brimming with Latin terminology. The act of presenting evidence or taking oaths is not an exception, however its historical context is more fascinating than many. The custom of today when taking an oath is with a text of a religious nature typically the Bible. However, this was not an option in the past in Rome and, even though they had a myriad of gods available but they decided to swear by something that was perhaps less familiar.

There is a popular belief that the word comes from the Roman practice to swear an oath over the testicles. This isn’t completely proven, but several opinions on the contrary are out there. One of these arguments cites an argument that says the word”testis” originates directly from Latin “testis” which means witness. One argument that is counter to this is that the region in the anatomy of a male that is in question was named so since it was a witness to the virility of a person. In fact, the practice of swearing in the testicles as bizarre and snarky as that sounds is located within the Old Testament.

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever be able to say for sure, either way. The issue does raise some interesting questions, including should we not be doing this? It’s true that being tried to perjury for lying under oath doesn’t compare to the chance of losing the family jewels. We don’t know what transpired to Romans who made up their own evidence, likely because no one in their good conscience would think of doing something like this following the oath of faith. See? It’s not a thing if it’s not efficient. In reality, this idea will not work in the present. In addition to being cruel and excluding women, it’s also clearly sexist and that’s not something we should allow. However, it’s fun imagine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *