Latin Expressions Starting with a Preposition (Part 1)


Latin, a language known for its influence on many modern languages, has made a significant impact on English vocabulary.

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In Latin, prepositions are small words placed before other words to show direction, location, time, or to introduce an object. Some of these prepositions include a / ab, ad, and ante.

The Latin preposition a is used before words beginning with a consonant, and ab is used before words starting with a vowel; both translate to 'by, from' in English.

The preposition ad translates to 'towards, to, for, at,' indicating direction or purpose.

And ante means 'before,' signifying time or order.

These prepositions, despite their brevity, carry significant meanings and have given birth to a vast range of English words that we use daily. Follow along as we journey into the roots of our language, exploring how these small Latin prepositions have shaped the English vocabulary we know today.

a fortiori

with greater reason or more convincing force; used to express a conclusion for which there is stronger evidence than for a previously accepted one:

If it's difficult to ride a bike on a flat road, then, a fortiori, it will be even more difficult to ride a bike uphill.
A fortiori is a Latin phrase that means "from the stronger (argument)". We use this term when we want to say that if one thing is true, then another thing is even more likely to be true. For example, if it's hard to teach English grammar to people who already speak English, then it would be even harder to teach English grammar to people who don't speak English. This second idea is considered stronger or more obvious.

a posteriori

relating to what can be known by observation rather than through an understanding of how certain things work.

If it started raining and you see the street is wet, you know a posteriori (i.e., after the fact) that the rain made the street wet.
A posteriori is a Latin phrase meaning "from what comes after." It's a term used in logic and usually talks about a way of thinking where we start from a result and then try to find out what led to that result. However, this kind of thinking can sometimes lead to wrong ideas. For example, a rooster often crows just before the sun rises. But that doesn't mean the rooster's crowing makes the sun rise.
The comedian Norm MacDonald's a posteriori reasoning.

a priori

relating to what can be known by observation rather than through an understanding of how certain things work

The budget for our trip was set a priori, meaning we decided on the amount of money we would spend before we even started our journey.
A priori is a Latin phrase that means "from what was before" (compare with a posteriori). A priori usually refers to a way of thinking or arguing that starts with a general idea and then moves to specific examples, or from causes to effects. While a posteriori knowledge is information that we get only from our own experiences or things we have seen, a priori knowledge is information we understand through logical thinking based on truths that are clear and undeniable - e.g., the statement "Every mother has had a child" is an a priori statement because it comes from basic logical thinking, not from information about a specific situation; it's not like saying, "This woman is the mother of five children," which would be something the person saying it learned from experience.

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