30 Latin Phrases That Are Still Used All the Time

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Compos mentis (COM-pohs MEN-tiss)

“Of sound mind.” Sane, or able to think clearly. The opposite is “non compos mentis,” as in “I tried to reason with him, but he was non compos mentis at the time.”

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Cui bono (kwee BO-no)

“Benefit to whom?” The principle that whoever has the most to gain from something is probably the one who instigated it. Example: Why did the senator vote for that law? Ask yourself cui bono?

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De facto (day FAK-toe)

“From fact.” In reality, or in existing whether or not it is logical or legal. Example: Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, de facto segregation continued in much of the country.

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Deus ex machina (DAY-us ex MACK-ee-nah)

“God out of a machine.” Describes a solution (or the agent of a solution) to a difficult problem that seems to come out of nowhere or requires a suspension of disbelief. Example: In Stephen King’s novel “The Stand,” a deus ex machina — in this case, the literal hand of God — comes down and detonates a nuclear weapon, destroying most of the villains.

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In flagrante delicto (in flah-GRAUNT-ay de-LICK-toe)

“In the burning crime.” Another way of saying “caught in the act” or “caught red-handed” — sometimes, but not always, describing the discovery of someone having (usually illicit) sex. A less racy example: She caught the thief in flagrante delicto, going through purses in the locker room.

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