Latin abbreviations and phrases

By Marina Pantcheva

Until the end of the 18th century, all scholarly books and articles were written in Latin. Although this has changed, Latin expressions and abbreviations are still very common in scientific texts.

Below you will find the most frequent Latin abbreviations and phrases, listed with their meaning, examples, and some tips about their usage.

ad hoc for this purpose or occasion

  • Albert Einstein added the cosmological constant to his Theory of Relativity as an ad hoc hypothesis. (He added this constant to save the theory from being falsified—without it he could not explain some facts about the universe.)
cf. compare with
There is no comma after cf.

  • It is not true that Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow; cf. Pullum (1991).
ca. about
Used with dates.

  • This picture dates from ca. 1850.
e.g. for example.
Place e.g. before the provided example, not after. Use a comma after e.g. The punctuation mark before e.g. can be a comma, a full stop, or a semicolon (depending on the sentence structure). Do not use etc. at the end of a phrase beginning with e.g.

  • Norway has many historic sites, e.g., the Kvalvik Fort, the Selje Monastery, and the Urnes Stave Church. 
ead. the same (used for a female person; for a male person, see id.) Restrict the use of ead. to endnotes and footnotes.
Ead. is used to quote a female author who has been cited in the preceding note.  It takes place of the authoress’s name and can refer to several works of the authoress.If used in the main text, ead. refers to the last female author cited.
et al. This abbreviation stand for et alii (and other people), ot et alia (and other things).
Used to complete the list of three or more authors of published work. Note that the verb is in plural form.

  • Felker et al. have developed a new approach to document design.
etc. and so onUsed to complete a list. In formal writing, etc. is used only for things and is limited to footnotes. In lists containing humans, use et al. (see above). Never end a list introduced by e.g., such as, or for example with etc. Etc. is preceded by comma.

  • All domesticated animals – dogs, cats, birds, etc. – can cause allergies.
ibid. in the same book, in the same source. Restrict the use of ibid. to endnotes and footnotes.
Ibid. refers to a single work cited in the preceding note. It is usually followed by a page number. It takes the place of the author’s name, the title of the work, and as much of the following information that is identical. Never use the author’s name and the title of the work together with ibid.

  • [1] M. Cutts, Oxford Guide to Plain English (Oxford University Press, 2004), p.45

[2] Ibid., p.103-110

If used in the main text, ibid. refers to the last work cited.

id. the same (used for a male person; for a female person, see ead.)Restrict the use of id. to endnotes and footnotes.
Id. is used to quote a male author who has been cited in the preceding note.  It takes place of the author’s name and can refer to several works of the author. It should not be used as ibid. to refer to the complete preceding citation.If used in the main text, id. refers to the last male author cited.
i.a. among other things
Used to specify one particularly important item which is part of a wider reference. It is usually enclosed in commas.

  • At the last meeting, the committee decided, i.a., that no scholarships will be awarded.
i.e. that is
Used to clarify or to repeat an idea in another way. Use a comma after i.e. The punctuation mark before i.e. can be a comma, a full stop, or a semicolon (depending on the sentence structure). It is wrong to use i.e. to introduce an example.

  • The elections will take place in September; i.e., in two months.
mutatis mutandi changing those things that need to be changed
Used in comparisons to mean with necessary modifications or acknowledging the differences between the two.

  • My problems are, mutatis mutandis, very much like yours.
op. cit. in the same work as was mentioned before
It takes the place of the title of the work only and appears together with the author’s name.

  • Smith, op. cit., p.34

Make sure that there is just one work of the author that has been cited previously.

viz. namely
Used to introduce a detailed description of a list of previously mentioned items. It is different from i.e. because it does not supply a clarification or interpretation.

  • This year’s MGP finalists, viz. Spain, Moldova, Germany, and Sweden, showed great talent and professionalism.
vs. versus, against
Used between two choices or to contrast two things. Often used in headlines and titles.

  • Efficiency vs. quality: The hard choice of software developers.


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