College Latin Mottos
Many universities have Latin mottos and offer to the administration, faculty, and students of the college an official translation of the motto into English. However, sometimes these official translations do not perfectly match a literal translation directly from Latin to English.
For many years, Latin served as the official language of scholarship throughout Europe, so it is no wonder that so many universities use Latin as the language of their mottos. Through disuse and declining interest in the language, the Latin in these mottos is often mistranslated or simply assumed to mean something it does not. Read on to learn of the literal translations of the Latin mottos of the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri and see if these translations coincide with the official ones.
A Translation and Analysis of the Latin Motto of the University of Kansas
The University of Kansas offers the following official translation to its Latin motto “Videbo visionem hanc magnam quare non comburatur rubus”: I will see this great sight, how the bush does not burn.
Let’s take a look at this Latin motto and see how close it comes to the official translation. “Videbo” is the first-person singular future tense active voice indicative form of the second-conjugation verb “video” which means “I see.” In its present form, “videbo” can be translated as “I will see.”
“Visionem” is the accusative singular form of the feminine third-declension noun “visio” which means “seeing,” “view,” or “appearance.” As a noun in the accusative case, it is acting as the direct object of the mottos verb “videbo.” “Magnam,” meaning “great,” is the accusative singular form of the adjective “magnus” in its feminine form and is being used to modify the noun “visionem.” “Hanc” is the accusative singular feminine form of the demonstrative “hic” and means “this.” It is used to further modify the noun “visionem.” Notice that both “magnam” and “hanc” agree with the noun they modify “visionem” in case, number, and gender.
“Rubus” is the nominative singular form of the masculine noun “rubus” and means “bramble-bush” or “blackberry.” In its nominative form, “rubus” is serving as the subject of the verb “comburatur,” the third-person singular present tense passive voice indicative form of the second-conjugation verb “comburo” which means “to burn up” or, figuratively, “to ruin.”
“Quare” is an indeclinable adverb meaning “wherefore” and “non” is equivalent to “not” in English.
Taken all together, a literal translation of the University of Kansas’ Latin motto is “I will see this great view, wherefore the bramble-bush is not being burned.” The official translation offered by the university is very close although its translation of “comburatur” as “is burning” does not quite capture the verb in its passive voice of which an accurate translation should be “is being burned.” Still, the sentiment is still present in the official translation.
The official translation of “quare” as “how” is similar to “wherefore” and “view” and “sight” mean about the same thing. Overall, the official translation of the Latin motto is quite accurate.
A Translation and Analysis of the Latin Motto of the University of Missouri
The University of Missouri offers the following official translation of its motto “Salus Populi”: The Welfare of the People.
Let’s dissect it and how close a literal translation comes to the official one. “Salus” is the nominative singular form of the third-declension feminine noun “salus” and means “health,” “soundness,” or “welfare.”
Populi is the genitive form of the masculine noun “populous” which means “people” or “nation.” Recall that the genitive case is the case of possession.
Taken together, the Latin motto “Salus Populi” can be translated as “The Welfare of the People,” the exact official translation offered by the University of Missouri. As a humorous but also illustrative side note for Latin students, “populi” could also be the genitive singular form of the feminine noun “populus” which means “poplar tree.” We can assume, however, that “The Welfare of the Poplar Tree” is not what the university intended as its motto.
The two universities discussed above have chosen very accurate official translations of their Latin mottos. This is not always the case with other universities. The University of Kansas’ use of an active voice rather than the technically accurate passive voice translation of “comburatur” is an example. The University of Missouri’s simple Latin motto leaves little room for mistakes as evidenced by the accurate official translation offered by the college. Still, analysis of Latin mottos is an excellent tool for studying and experiencing Latin first hand.