Define: Quo Vadimus
October 30, 2010 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Any Latin scholars out there? I'm getting a tattoo and just want to make sure it means what I think it means... Quo vadimus

Spelled correctly? Definition? (Where are we going?)

Anonymous because family members read mefi and they don't know I'm getting another tattoo :)
posted by anonymous to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
Depending on the sense you're looking for, you may want to look at 'quo imus' - more here.
posted by jquinby at 8:56 AM on October 30, 2010

I'm not sure if you know, but the original "Quo vadis?" originates from the Vulgate Bible and is associated with Medieval Catholic Latin. Wikipedia discusses this briefly.

I just wanted to make that clear because it seems like a lot of people associate Latin with the Roman era and forget that it was the lingua franca of the Catholic Church for nearly 2000 years. If you're an atheist trying to look cool with your Latin tattoo you're going to be in for a surprise. Though perhaps you're a Christian.
posted by hiteleven at 9:12 AM on October 30, 2010

"where are we going?"

The "mus" ending of the verb indicates "we".
posted by DWRoelands at 9:24 AM on October 30, 2010

Yeah, I'd say it means 'where are we going' (or potentially 'where we are going').

Although be aware that the verb can have a sense of rushing or hurrying. My dictionary (Lewis & Short) gives its first meaning as "to go, walk; esp. to go hastily or rapidly, to rush". So it could also mean 'where are we rushing' etc. You may or may not like that.
posted by badmoonrising at 11:00 AM on October 30, 2010

According to Aaron Sorkin, in the last episode of Sports Night, it does mean "where are we going". I know that's not definitive - I'm really pointing it out because if that's not the association you were looking for with your tattoo, you should be aware that it's one that a few people might make.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 11:03 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Huh. I thought it meant "what we carry with us", i.e. a bible
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 11:20 AM on October 30, 2010

Not "carry", no.

As a fun fact, throughout the famous French Asterix comics, "quo vadis" is the standard phrase used by patrolling Roman soldiers, when they stop someone suspicious on the road or at a checkpoint. "And where do you think you are going?" Very useful in family-talk, we've found.

[Quo vadimus likely prompts the answer "down the drain," a little depending on what it is we carry with us.]
posted by Namlit at 11:49 AM on October 30, 2010

mbwbam: You're thinking of a "vade mecum," 'go with me', often used of the Bible.

quo vadimus is just fine for "where are we going," but is not the most common way to say that in Classical (i.e., Roman) Latin. Although vadere existed in Classical Latin, it was apparently more common in Vulgar Latin, and that's why its descendants are found in the Romance languages. To my ear, it has such a resonance of the Biblical 'quo vadis' that I would not use it without wanting to intentionally allude to that phrase.

quo imus, as mentioned above, would not have that same resonance, but perhaps that allusion is exactly what you were looking for. At any rate, quo vadimus is grammatically correct and perfectly comprehensible.
posted by lysimache at 12:27 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

"quo imus" is perfectly good Latin - it occurs in that phrase in Plautus at Captivi 479:

'salvete' inquam. 'quo imus una' ínquam 'ad prandium?' atque illi tacent.
"Hello," I say. "Where are we all going for lunch?" I say. And they don't say anything.

"quo vadimus," on the other hand, doesn't occur in ancient literature.
posted by dd42 at 5:08 PM on October 30, 2010

« Older What would YOU do?   |   Surely this is a long time for a cold Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.