Translating the Latin Motto of Barton College – Habebunt Lumen Vitae
Barton College offers the following translation of its Latin motto: “They Shall Have the Light of Life." Let’s dissect this Latin phrase to see if this official translation is accurate.
Habebunt is the third-person plural future active indicative form of the second-conjugation verb “habeo." As a common Latin verb, every student of Latin knows that the correct translation of habeo is “to have" or “to hold."
“Lumen" is the accusative form of the neuter noun “lumen." Notice that as a neuter third-declension noun, “lumen" has the same form in the nominative and the accusative. Also, recall that the accusative case is the case of direct objects. Lumen means “light."
“Vitae" is the genitive form of the noun “vita." The genitive case is the case of possession or ownership. Note that in the first declension, words have the same form in the nominative and accusative singular but also share the same form in the nominative plural. This often gives students studying Latin for the first time trouble. “Vita" means “life."
Taken together in their respective forms, the words of the phrase “Habebunt Lumen Vitae" can accurately be translated into English as “They Will Have the Light of Life." Barton College’s use of “shall" is also appropriate although some scholars believe that “shall" is reserved for the first-person while “will" should be used for the second and third.