Translating the Latin Motto of the University of California: Fiat Lux
The official motto of the University of California may be familiar to many people. “Fiat Lux" is a phrase found in Genesis 1:3. The full Latin phrase as found in the Latin Vulgate Bible is “dixitque Deus fiat lux et facta est lux." Translated into English, the phrase means “…and God said let there be light and there was light."
Fiat Lux as the official motto of the University of California can be appropriately translated as “let there be light." The verb “fiat" is the third-person singular present active subjunctive form of the verb “fio" (fieri) which means “to be made" or “to come into existence." Fio is used as the passive voice form of the word “facio" which means “to make" or “to do."
The present subjunctive mood of fio is formed by taking the stem of the verb “fi–," adding the telltale letter –a–, and then adding the personal ending for the present tense. Recall that translation of the subjunctive mood from Latin to English often necessitates addition of the word “let" or “may." So “let there be," or “may he/she/it come into existence" are both appropriate translations.
Lux is a third-declension feminine noun which literally means light but can figuratively mean “hope" or “encouragement" as it does in English. Here, however, it literally mean “light" as in “daylight." As a noun in the nominative case, Lux is the subject of this motto. Since Fiat is used as the passive voice form of a Latin word meaning “to make" or “to do," a literal translation of Fist Lux can be “may light be (exist)" or “let there be light."