In academic circles, a résumé is often seen as too brief a description of a person’s accomplishments, especially for academicians engaged in scientific research. A curriculum vitae is much longer than a résumé, containing minute and sometimes inconsequential facts about a person’s experience. Where the curriculum vitae suffers in tediousness, it excels in accuracy.
An appropriate literal translation of curriculum vitae is “course of life." Latin students will notice immediately that the word “curriculum" is a neuter noun in the nominative case. “Vitae" is the genitive form of the feminine word “vita" literally meaning “life." As a noun in the genitive case, “vitae" is appropriately translated as “of life." Another translation of the phrase can also be “life’s course" since the genitive case conveys possession.
As with many aspects of English, speakers of the language seem obsessed with shortening, abbreviating, and condensing as much as possible. Often, “curriculum vitae" is abbreviated to “cv" and sometimes simply “vita." However, in its nominative form, “vita" simply means “life." It is as if to say, “Yes, we are interested in hiring you. Send us a copy of your life." Although common, “vita" is not an appropriate abbreviation for curriculum vitae. Even “vitae" can only be translated as “of life" or “life’s" as a noun in the genitive case. When using “curriculum vitae" in speech and writing, stick with the complete phrase to avoid an academic faux pas.