A Translation of Ceteris Paribus from Latin to English
Commonly translated as “all things being equal," legal and scientific communities use ceteris paribus to indicate a theoretical or hypothetical situation. In science, researchers may wish to control certain variables to isolate the relationship between two variables under study. These researchers may use to term ceteris paribus to indicate that a relationship is true barring any unforeseen or uncontrollable variables. The same can be said of the legal profession when a lawmaker may ask, “ceteris paribus, can we expect that a citizen of this country is aware of that law."
Ceteris is the ablative plural form of the word “ceterus" which literally means “the other" or “the rest." It may help to note that ceterus is the source of the phrase et cetera (often abbreviated etc.) which means “and the others." The fact that ceteris is in its ablative plural form becomes significant when we explore the form of the word paribus.
Paribus is the ablative plural form of the word “par" which can be literally translated as “equal. However, par should not be confused with the similar word “pars" (genitive “partis") which means “part" or “piece." Par is related to the English word used in the game of golf to indicate that one has sunk one’s ball in the recommended number of strokes. Doing so means one is “on par" with the course. “Par," therefore, means “equal" or “proper." For a literal translation, “[with] the others equal" is a reasonable approximation.
Taken together with both words of the phrase in the ablative case, ceteris paribus is an excellent example of the ablative absolute. In Latin, the ablative absolute is a phrase “loosened" or “separated" from a sentence and is often removed from a sentence’s main clause by commas. Normally, the ablative absolute indicates some situation or circumstance that describes or clarifies the action in the remainder of the sentence. Take for example:
Ceteris paribus, a man will choose love over death.
Notice that the phrase “ceteris paribus" clarifies a man’s decision to choose love over death. The Latin phrase indicates that if other variables are held constant, love is preferable to death.