Common Latin terms for US history review

From the Constitution and law:

pro tempore- “for the time being;” when the vice president is not present, the majority leader of the Senate or some other designated person shall serve as president pro tempore of the Senate.

habeas corpus– “you have the body;” a right to be released after arrest. A person cannot generally be held for more than 24-48 hours without being formally charged before a judge. Someone who believes that they are being held illegally can get a lawyer to petition a judge for a writ of habeas corpus, which forces authorities to present the prisoner before the judge. A writ of habeas corpus can also be used to appeal convictions. This privilege of habeas corpus has been suspended at various times in US history, such as during the Civil War and the War on Terror.

ex post facto– “from a thing done afterward” or “after the fact;” if a law is passed, it cannot be applied retroactively–a person cannot be charged for actions taken before those actions were illegal.

posse comitatus– “force of the country;” a sheriff’s right to force citizens into a group to help enforce laws. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was passed in the wake of Reconstruction and forbade the use of the federal military to maintain order on US soil (this does not apply to the National Guard since they are actually under the command of the governor of the state in which the unit residdes).

E Pluribus Unum– “From many, one;” the motto of the United States of America, meaning from many people has been created one nationality.

Novus Ordo Seclorum– “A New Order for the Ages;” motto of the Great Seal of the United States. It means “A New World Order.” Look on the back of your dollar bills.

prima facie– “at first sight;” evidence that is suggestive but not conclusive– at first sight it seems relevant.

pro bono– “for the good;” someone who volunteers their services for free.

quorum– “of whom;” the minimum number of members (of Congress, in our discussion) that must be present to conduct business.

stare decisis– “let the decision stand;” the habit of following legal precedent.

Ex parte– “on the part of” taking only one side of an argument.

amicus curiae– “friend of the court;” a third party who is allowed to submit a legal opinion before the Supreme Court even though they are not a party to the original suit.

sub poena– “under punishment”- an order for someone to appear before a court.

affidavit– “he asserted;” a sworn statement used in court.

In re– “in the case of;” a court case in which there may not be opposing parties.

in loco parentis– “in the place of a parent;” teachers and schools are assumed legally to have assumed some parental responsibility and authority.

nolo contendere– “I do not wish to contend;” used when one enters a plea of “no contest” to charges. It means that you do not plead either guilty or not guilty, but you admit the evidence is against you.

veto– “I forbid;” a power given to the chief executive of a country or a state to stop the passage of a law.

vice– “in place of;” an assistant who serves in the place of their superior, as in vice president or vice admiral.

in absentia– “in the absence of;” a trial that is held without the accused present is being held in absentia.

Other terms:

Magna Carta– “Great Charter;” a set of documents that is generally viewed as limiting royal power in England and establishing the basis for the “rights of Englishmen” such as trial by jury.

ante bellum– “before the war.” Often used to refer to the time period of 1848-1860 in US history.

status quo– “remains the same” or “as it is;” leave everything as it is.

status quo ante bellum– “remains the same as before the war;” used in peace treaties such as the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812. It means that neither side will benefit from the war, for instance in gaining territory.

vox populi– “the voice of the people,” or “the people have spoken;” an acclamation by the majority.

ergo– “therefore.” See below.

ipso facto– “by that very fact;” another way to say “therefore” or ergo.

omnibus– “everywhere;” an omnibus bill is one that seems to have all kids of stuff just crammed into it.

pro forma– “as a matter of form;” going through the motions, following procedure unquestioningly.

e.g. (exempli gratia)- “for the sake of example;” a fancy way of saying “for example. See i.e.

i.e. (id est)– “that is;” another way to say “for example.”

et al. (et alia)- “and others.”

A.D. (Anno domini)– “the year of our Lord;” used in dates which occurred after the point at which it is believed that Jesus was born. In attempting to avoid use of religious standards in measuring dates, many today prefer to use CE (for “of the common era”) in place of AD after dates.

circa– “around (the time of);” the approximate date.

extant– “still in existence;” a law which is still on the books.

quid pro quo– “this for that;” you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours; do this for me and I’ll do this for you.

de facto– “in fact;” something that happens through tradition or habit. When discussing segregation, we talked about de facto segregation as that which happens through happenstance or habit rather than that which is legally mandated.

de jure (or de iure)- “based in law;” something legally mandated or established. We used this term in conjunction with the term “segregation.” De jure segregation is legally mandated segregation such as under Jim Crow laws.

alibi– “elsewhere;” an excuse used to deflect blame or suspicion.

ad infinitem– “to infinity;” a fancy way to say “and so on” it is related to…

et cetera– “and so on;” see above. It is abbreviated etc., NOT “ect.”- it’s a pet peeve of mine…

casus belli– “the cause of war;” um, the cause of a war.

ad hoc– “to this” or “for this;” something improvised or created only for a specific situation.

alias– “otherwise;” a pseudonym or false name.

pseudonym– “false name;” see alias.

per annum– “annually;” something that happens each year.

per capita– “for the head;” for each person.

per diem– “for the day;” usually a payment paid by the day, usually for travel expenses.

non sequitur– “it does not follow;” an illogical conclusion.

pater familias– “father of the family;” the head of an extended family, who had supreme power even in the matter of life and death of the members of this family, like in the movie The Godfather.

persona non grata– “person not grata;” a person not wanted or welcome, someone you don’t want to see.

Pater Patriae– “the Father of the Country;” Founding Father, like George Washington.

sic– “this;” also used to note that a misspelled word is in the original copy being quoted.

Terra Nova– “new land;” or “New World;” the labels on maps for North and South America after the voyages of Columbus, et al.

verbatim– “word for word;” literally.

veritas– “truth.”

via– “way;” by way of. Also Latin for a road.

For fun…

non compos mentis– “not in control of the mind;” crazy. How you feel after you finish the AP exam.

Sic Semper Tyrannis– “thus always to tyrants;” the motto of the state of Virginia, and what John Wilkes Booth supposedly shouted after he shot Abraham Lincoln in the head.

Semper Fidelis– “always faithful;” the motto of the United States Marine Corps, sometimes shortened to “Semper Fi!”

magnum opus– “great work;” someone’s masterpiece.

Mea Culpa– “my fault;” or, as you might say, “My bad.”

caveat emptor– “let the buyer beware;” don’t buy something unless you have inspected it. It generally means “think before acting.”

Sic Transit Gloria– “How fleeting is glory!” Enjoy your fame while it lasts, Britney.

cum laude– “with praise.”

veni vidi vici– “I came , I saw, I conquered;” Caesar is reported to have said this implying that his victories were easily accomplished.

terra firma– “solid ground;” on dry land after a long voyage.

Et tu, Brute?– “You also, Brutus?” the vernacular would be “Dude, I thought you were my friend, but you just stabbed me in the back!” Literally.

Cum grano salus– “with a grain of salt.” Be skeptical of this claim.

rigor mortis– “stiffness of death;” this increases based on the length of time after death and the temperature of the surrounding area.

sui generis– “of its own kind;” in a class of its own– unique.

sum quod sum– “I am what I am;” what Popeye the Sailor Man always sang about himself.

Cogito ergo sum– “I think, therefore I am;” Descartes declared this.

Sunt pueri pueri– “Children are children;” kids will be kids.

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