Latin for e-mail

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Adding Latin greetings to your mail: a *brief* introduction for beginners.

In Nova Roma we use a lot of Latin in our posts, and this guide will help you with some of it.

Contents

Organization

A simple letter from Lee to Kim might look like this: Latin style moves things around a bit: A similar letter in Latin looks like this:
Dear Lee,

Blah blah blah.

Yours, Kim

Kim sends greetings to Lee,

Blah blah blah.

Take care!

Agricola Cordo sal.

Blah blah blah

Vale!


The big difference is that the sender's name goes on the top. We can also do it the nice familiar way with the sender's name on the bottom, but the way shown above is more "authentic".

Just like in English, there are several ways to say this that are more or less formal, so lets look at some now, starting with the simple, less formal, ways first.

Openings

The words that Latin uses usually have the meaning of "sends a greeting" or "be well!".


Hello!

Use a Latin verb that means "to be well".

  • If you are writing to exactly one person, use "Salve!" (the imperative singular).
  • If you are writing to more than one person, use "Salvete!" (the imperative plural).

(Grammar note: "Imperative" means the form of the verb that gives a command. You are making a command that your reader(s) be well! Very Roman of you.)


Hello Kim!

Main article: Vocative

When we call someone by name, we use a form of the name called the "vocative". Here are the basic rules for making a vocative:

  • If a name ends in "-ius", then the vocative ends in "-i". "Tullius" becomes "Tulli".
  • If a name ends in "-us", then the vocative ends in "-e". "Marcus" becomes "Marce".
  • All other names do not change at all. "Felix" stays "Felix", "Fabia" stays "Fabia" and so on.

There is a complete discussion of *which* name you should use in our article on using Roman names .

It is a good idea in general to use the cognomen (the last part of the name).

  • To say hello to Marcus Lucretius Agricola you would write "Salve, Agricola!".
  • To say hello to Aulus Apollonius Cordus you would write "Salve, Corde!".
  • To say hello to Gaius Equitius Cato you would write "Salve, Cato!".

Only if you are very close friends indeed with these people you could write:

  • "Salve, Marce!"
  • "Salve, Aule!"
  • "Salve, Gai!"

There is more detail about how to address people at the address given above.

Hello Everyone!

You need to use plurals. "Salvete omnes!"

(Grammar note: "Salvete!" is the plural of "Salve!" and "omnes" is the plural of "omnis", meaning "all" or "every".)

Kim sends greetings to Lee

The hard part here is "to Lee". In Latin, we do not use a word for "to". Instead, we change the end of the name in a way that tells us the same idea as "to".

(Grammar note: This form of the name, or any noun, is called the "dative case".) Here are some examples showing how to make the dative:

  • Marc-us -> Marc-o (most names that end in "-us" work like this)
  • Gai-a -> Gai-ae (most names that end in "-a" work like this)
  • Felix -> Felici (there are some names that don't fit those patterns. You will have to learn more about Latin than we can teach you right now. Or you can simply ask the Roman in question; s/he'll know.)
  • Marcus Lucretius Agricola -> M. Lucretio Agricolae
  • Aula Tullia Scholastica -> A. Tulliae Scholasticae
  • Gaius Equitius Cato -> C. Equitio Catoni

(Grammar note: "Cato" is another of those "learn more" names.)

(Latin usage note: Normally, Latin praenomina "first names" were abbreviated. Gaius is always abbreviated "C." and Gnaeus is always abbreviated "Cn.")

"Sends greetings" is a simple phrase "salutem dicit" but we nearly always write it "s. d." or "sal." See Example 2 for a sample.

On a mailing list you might say hello to everyone, as we show in Example 3.

(Grammar note: "omnibus" means "to everyone". )

(Grammar note: In this example, "valete" is plural because "Omnibus" is plural. Agricola sent greetings to "all" and so said goodbye in the plural.)

Kim sends greetings to Lee and Everyone

If you reply to a message by one person, but you want to greet everyone else who is reading, you could write it like Example 4.

(Grammar note: In this example, the "-que" on the end of "omnibusque" means "and".)

Kim sends many greetings to Lee

"Salutem plurimam dicit", means "says many greetings". You can write it out, but "S.P.D." is a common acronym. Example: "Agricola Cordo S.P.D."


I really hope you're well

"Si vales, bene est, ego valeo" literally means "If you are sound, that is well; I'm sound". The usual way is to write the abbreviation "S.V.B.E.E.V." You can write this in addition to saying hello: “Agricola Cordo S.P.D. S.V.B.E.E.V.


Closings

Goodbye!

If you start with "Salve!" or "Salvete!" you can end with "Vale!" or "Valete!". The meaning is still "be well!" Can you see which is singular and which is plural?

Example 1 is a friendly, informal letter from M. Lucretius Agricola to A. Apollonius Cordus.

  • To say "be very well" you could use "Bene vale!".
  • To say "be most well" you could use "Optime vale!".

(Grammar note: "bene" and "optime" are adverbs.)

A more elegant and formal way to say goodbye is to use the expression "Cura, ut valeas!" which means "Take care that you be well." In plural it will become "Curate, ut valeatis!".

May the Gods keep you safe

This is a nice way to end a formal letter, instead of the simple "vale!" or "valete!" "Di te incolumem custodiant!" is singular and "Di vos incolumes custodiant!" is plural. It means "may the Gods guard your safety".


Examples

Example 1
Simple Hello and Goodbye.
Example 2
Hello and Goodbye, Roman style.
Example 3
Hello to Everyone.
Example 4
Hello to one person and everyone.
Salve Corde!

Blah blah blah

Vale! Agricola

Agricola Cordo sal.

Blah blah blah.

Optime vale!

Agricola omnibus sal.

Blah blah blah.

Optime valete!

Agricola Cordo omnibusque sal.

Blah blah blah.

Optime valete!

More Examples

An example The same example with everything spelled out.
Agricola Cordo S.P.D.

S.V.B.E.E.V.

I see that a new legio was just created. I'm not sure how many legiones we have now... do you know?

Di te incolumem custodiant!


Agricola Cordo salutem plurimam dicit.

Si vales, bene est, ego valeo.

I see that a new legio was just created. I'm not sure how many legiones we have now... do you know?

Di te incolumem custodiant!


An example with everything spelled out and in the plural.
M. Lucretius Agricola omnibus salutem plurimam dicit.

Si valetis, bene est, ego valeo.

I hope all New Romans will learn about Academia Thules and Sodalitas Latinitatis, two excellent places to learn more Latin. You can learn more about them on the Nova Roma website at www.novaroma.org/nr/Main_Page .

Di vos incolumes custodiant!


Difficult names

Finally, here are a few of those troublesome names with difficult datives:

  • Astur -> Asturi
  • Audens -> Audenti
  • Cato -> Catoni
  • Caesar -> Caesari
  • Cicero -> Ciceroni
  • Felix -> Felici

Latin words

There are many Latin words you're likely to see, and this can't be a complete Latin glossary, but these words are frequently used in our communities. Keeping a dictionary by the computer is a good idea. See Reading list for lingua Latina for suggestions on Latin dictionaries. See Online resources for Latin for online dictionaries. Study our articles about Latin grammar, declensions and Latin language, visit our short Latin phrasebook.

  • "Gens" means "clan" (plural "gentes").
  • "Legio" means "legion" (plural "legiones") (as in "Roman Legion"; soldiers).
  • "Civis" means "citizen" (plural "cives")
  • "Lex" means "law" (plural "leges")
  • "Edictum" means "edict" (plural "edicta")

The names of magistracies are usually in Latin. Sometimes the singular form seems familiar but the plural is not what would be expected in English. To learn more about Latin plurals, read this article.

You could use these forms when writing to the office holders.

Nominative singular Dative singular Nominative plural Dative plural
Consul Consuli Consules Consulibus
Censor Censori Censores Censoribus
Quaestor Quaestori Quaestores Quaestoribus
Praetor Praetori Praetores Praetoribus

Example: Marcus Tullius Cicero would start a letter to the censores thus: M. Tullius Cicero censoribus S.P.D.

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