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Abbreviations (and terms) from Latin: Sic, Op. Cit., and the rest of it

Auntie Barbara's Writing Guide

Latin is a dead language, but the western world still uses abbreviations it inherited from European medieval scholarship.

Until we come up with better abbreviations, and convince everyone to adopt them, you'll probably be running into these pretty constantly.

It's easiest simply to memorize them at one go, and be done with it! ("simply to memorize," not "to simply memorize.")


. etc. = "and so on" (from Latin et cetera, "and all the rest")

. e.g. = "for example" (from Latin exempli gratia)

. i.e. = "that is" (from id est)

. viz. = "namely" (from videlicet, "as you can see�")

. n.b. = "note this well" (from nota bene)

. cf. = "compare with" or "see also" (from confere)

. et al. = "and the others" (from et alia, used to refer to multiple authors of a single work)

. sic = "thus," "in this way" (from sic, often used to be a bit snotty, put after a misspelling or some outrageous quote to assure the reader that indeed it was in the original, and not your fault! It is indeed pronounced "sick," or "seek.")

. ibid. = "in the immediately preceding book cited" (from ibidem, "the same," frequently used in footnotes to avoid repeating lengthy citations of publishers, etc.)

. op. cit. = "from the book already cited by this author" (also a footnote time-saver)

. a fortiori (pronounced "AH Fortee-OR-ee") = "then with even stronger reason"

. sui generis (pronounced "SOO-ee Juh-NEH-ris") = "unique," "of its own kind/genus"

. ad hoc = "for this particular purpose" (e.g. an "ad hoc committee") or "addressed to this particular thing" (e.g. a weak hypothesis is saved by having some unexpected "ad hoc" modifications stuck on to it only to account for its failure to be confirmed in a particular instance."Your acrophobia is caused by demon possession." "Then why haven't these demons ever communicated with me?" "Well, maybe they're shy!")

. bona fide = "in good faith"

. caveat = "be careful"


Congratulations! You are now one of the heirs of an ancient and unbroken tradition, which paradoxically gives you more resources for being innovative!


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