Translating the Latin Motto of the College of Mount Saint Vincent into English
The College of Mount Saint Vincent offers the following translation of its Latin motto “Bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam doce me": Teach me goodness and discipline and knowledge. Let’s dissect this official translation and see how closely it comes to a literal Latin to English translation.
“Bonitatem" is the accusative singular form of the third-declension noun “bonitas" which means “goodness" or “excellence" and is used especially to indicate moral goodness and righteousness.
“Disciplinam" is the accusative singular form of the first-declension noun “disciplina" which means “instruction," “teaching," or “training."
Finally, “scientiam" is the accusative singular form of the first-declension noun “scientia" which means “knowledge" or “skill."
These three words are used as the direct objects of some verb. That verb is “doce" which is the present singular active voice imperative form of the second conjugation verb “doceo" which means “explain" or “teach." Recall that there are three moods in Latin of which the imperative is used to give commands.
“Me" is simply the accusative singular form of the personal pronoun “ego" which means “I" (or “me" in the other cases). “Et" is a common conjunction in Latin which is nearly identical to English’s “and."
Taken together, “Bonitatem et disciplinam et scientiam doce me" can be literally translated as “Teach me goodness and training and knowledge" This is nearly an exact translation as offered as the official translation by the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
The translation of the word “disciplinam" as “discipline" is nearly the same in meaning as the definitions offered above. Clearly, the English word discipline is closely related to this Latin word. In later Latin periods, “disciplina" began to more closely mean “discipline" than its meaning in Classical Latin.
Latin students may have noticed the repetition of the word “et" in this motto Latin sentence. When there are two instances of of the word “et" in the same sentence, they can often be translated to mean “…both…and…" as in:
Caesar et bonus et iustus est.
Caesar is both good and just.
However, since there are three accusative direct objects associated with the verb “doce," it is more appropriate to translate each “et" as “and."