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Latin was once the universal academic language in Europe. From the eighteenth century authors started using their mother tongue to write books, papers or proceedings. However, many Latin abbreviations continued to be used due to their precise simplicity and also Latin's status as a learned language.
Most common abbreviations and usages
The most common Latin words, abbreviations, and initialisms still in use are:
- cf. (confer) means "bring together" and hence "compare" (confer is the imperative of the Latin verb conferre).
- Example: "These results were similar to those obtained using different techniques (cf. Wilson, 1999 and Ansmann, 1992)."
- C.V. or CV (curriculum vitae), meaning "course of life". A document containing a summary or listing of relevant job experience and education. The exact usage of the term varies between British English and American English.
- cwt. (centum weight), "Hundredweight":  N.B. this uses a mixture of Latin and English abbreviation.
- DG, D.G. or DEI GRA (Dei gratia), "by the grace of God". A part of the monarch's title, it is found on all British coins.
- et al. (et alii) means "and others", or "and co-workers". It can also stand for et alia, "and other things", or et alibi, "and other places".
- Example: "These results agree with the ones published by Pelon et al. (2002)."
- etc. (et cetera) (archaic abbreviations include &c. and &/c.) means "and the others", "and other things", "and the rest".
- Example: "I need to go to the store and buy some pie, milk, cheese, etc."
- Example: "The shipping company instituted a surcharge on any items weighing over a ton, e.g., a car or truck."
- ff. is a reduplication of foliis meaning "from pages" and is used in citations to mean "and on succeeding pages." Example: "See Werner Jaeger, Paideia III, p. 13 ff."
- fl. or flor. (floruit) means the period of time during which a person, school, movement or even species was active or flourishing (literally, "he/she/it flourished").
- F D or FID DEF (fidei defensor), "defender of the faith." A part of the monarch's title, it is found on all British coins.
- ibid. (ibidem) means "in the same place (book, etc.)", and is used in citations. It should not be confused with the following abbreviation. It is better pronounced ibídem, with stress on the second -i- (as it was in Latin).
- id. (idem) means "the same (man)". It is used to avoid repeating the name of a male author (in citations, footnotes, bibliographies, etc.) Note that if we are quoting a female author, we should use the corresponding feminine form, i.e. ead. (eadem), "the same (woman)" (eadem is pronounced with stress on the first e-).
- Example: "Ernest Hemingway- author (i.a. 'The Sun Also Rises')"
- Example: "For reasons not fully understood there is only a minor PSI contribution to the variable fluorescence emission of chloroplasts (Dau, 1994), i.e. the PSI fluorescence appears to be independent from the state of its reaction centre (Butler, 1978)."
- J.D. (Juris Doctor), literally means "teacher of law/rights"
- M.A. (Magister Artium), "Master of Arts" is a postgraduate academic master degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is typically studied for in Fine Art, Humanities, Social Science or Theology and can be either fully-taught, research-based, or a combination of the two.
- N.B. (nota bene) means "note well". Some people use "Note" for the same purpose. Usually written with majuscule (French upper case / 'capital') letters.
- Example: "N.B.: All the measurements have an accuracy of 5% as they were calibrated according to the procedure described by Jackson (1989)."
- nem. con. (nemine contradicente) means "with no one speaking against". This does NOT mean "unanimously", but simply that nobody voted against - in other words, there may have been abstentions.
- op. cit. (opere citato) means in the same article, book etc. as was mentioned before. It is most often used in citations in a similar way to 'ibid', though 'ibid' would usually be followed by a page number.
- p.a. (per annum) means "through a year", and is used in the sense of "yearly".
- per cent. (per centum), "for each one hundred" / [commonly "percent"]: 
- p.m. (Post Meridiem), "after midday". N.B. 12 p.m. is incorrect. Write 'NOON'. 
- P.S. (post scriptum) means "after what has been written"; it is used to indicate additions to a text after the signature.
- Q.D. (quaque die), "every day", used on medications to indicate when to take.
- q.v. (quod videre) literally "which to see" -- used as an imperative. Used after a term or phrase that should be looked up elsewhere in the current document or book. For more than one term or phrase, the plural is quae videre (qq.v.).
- Re (in re) means "in the matter of", or "concerning". Often used to prefix the subject of replies to memoranda and latterly, emails. Nominative case singular 'res' is the Latin equivalent of 'thing'; singular 're' is the ablative case required by 'in'. Some people believe it is short for 'regarding'.
- REG (regina), "queen". A part of the monarch's title, it is found on all British coins minted during the reign of a monarch who is a queen. Rex, "king" (not an abbreviation) is used when the reigning monarch is a king.
- R.I.P. (requiescat in pace), "may he/she rest in peace": a short prayer for a dead person. It can also mean requiescant (plural) in pace, i.e. "may they" etc.
- ( sic ) "thus". [ 'nuculear' (sic) ] Written in parentheses following a misspelled word to indicate that the error is the original writer's mistake — and that the copy proofer saw the error, but rightly did not correct it.
- viz. (videlicet) means "namely, to wit, precisely, that is to say". In contradistinction to i.e. and for example, viz. is used to indicate a detailed description of something stated before, and when it precedes a list of group members, it implies (near) completeness. Example: "The noble gases, viz. helium, neon, argon, xenon, krypton and radon, show a non-expected behaviour when exposed to this new element."
The speaker in this case used ‘to wit’ or ‘namely’ in his speech to tell the audience that the classical noble gases are exactly named by the seven words following. Had the speaker chosen to name only two or three members of the group, he would have framed the list with ‘e.g.’
- vs or v. (versus) means "against" (sometimes is not abbreviated).
- Example: "From Figure 1 that shows force (in newtons) vs. mass (in kilograms) we can derive the acceleration of the body." Or, "The next football game will be the knights vs. the sea eagles."
Less common abbreviations and usages
Many words and abbreviations have been in general use, but are not often used nowadays:
- in litt. (in litteris) : Latin for "in a letter [or other documented correspondence]"; often followed by a date.
- a.U.c. (ab Urbe condita or Anno Urbis conditae) : Latin for "from the foundation of the City": it refers to the founding of Rome, which occurred in 753 BC according to Livy's count. Used as a reference point in ancient Rome for establishing dates, before being supplanted by other systems. Also anno Urbis conditae (a.U.c.) ("in the year that the City [Rome] was founded"). For example, the year 2007 AD is the year 2760 ab Urbe condita (753 + 2007 = 2760); though, rigorously speaking, the year a.U.c. begins on April 21, the birthday of Rome (i.e. the day that Romulus was traditionally believed to have founded the Eternal City).
- et seq. (et sequens), et seqq or et sequa. (et sequentes, or et sequentia) : "and the following" (use et seqq or et sequa. if "the following" is plural). Not unlike the full colon [ : } which means "the following" i.e. that which follows is a listing of that which precedes the ' : '. ( Incorrectly used, "the following:" )
- loq. (loquitur), "S/he speaks": 
- O.D. (oculus dexter) : "the right eye". Used in vision correction prescriptions.
- O.S. (oculus sinister) : "the left eye". Used in vision correction prescriptions.
- r. (rexit) : 'ruled'. Used for the time period of a monarch or other ruler's reign (e.g.: Mehmet III [r. 1595 – 1603])
- Q.E.C. (quod erat construendum) : "which was to be constructed" (after constructing something, normally to show its existence).
- sc. (scilicet) means literally "one may know". Sometimes abbreviated scil. It is equivalent to the English phrase "to wit" and has virtually the same meaning as "videlicet" (literally, "one may see"), which is usually abbreviated as "viz." These expressions are not to be confused with "i.e." (id est), equivalent to "that is". Their meanings are similar, but there is a distinction which should be observed: "sc." and "viz." introduce a clarification; "i.e." introduces an equivalence.
- S.T.T.L. (sit tibi terra levis) means "May the earth rest lightly on you" and was used in similar manner to R.I.P.
- s.v. (sub verbo) : "Under the word or heading", as in a dictionary
- S.V.B.E.E.V. (si vales bene est ego valeo): "if you are well, it is good. I am well."
- V.C. (vi coactus) : "on constrains". Used when forced to sign ("or else...").
Published - December 2008
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