What does Quid Pro Quo mean?

2 min read

It may be called ancient Latin, but the former "lingua franca” — business language — of the world is still alive and well as part of our modern vernacular. But, be honest. How many of these common Latin phrases do you actually know the meaning of? Get ready to get “studium” (that’s schooled in Latin).

Quid Pro Quo

If you’re entering into a quid pro quo arrangement with someone, you’re saying you’ll do something for them, if they do something for you. In short? A trade-off. In Latin, it literally means something for something, and it was coined in the 16th century as a medical term to swap out one treatment for another.  

Bona Fide

This hopeful expression translates to “with good faith” in Latin. We use it today to describe anyone or anything that is legitimate or has strong credentials. In fact, the word has been reworked into a slangy noun – suggesting someone has bonafides means they come with strong recommendations or demonstrable wins under their belt.

Persona Non Grata

Whether you’re the ex-spouse, or a disgraced celebrity, if you’ve been labeled a "persona non grata," it simply means you’re not welcome. It’s actually one of the newer Latin terms we use, coming from what’s termed new Latin; it was first used around 1877.  

Carpe Diem

A longtime favorite for tattoos, this short and sweet phrase is considered analogous to “seize the day.” More broadly, it stems from a phrase coined by an ancient Latin poet — “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one.” It’s a nice sentiment, but decidedly less succinct for body art.

Status Quo

Most of us think of the status quo as the same old, same old. In Latin, the original phrase, “in statu quo,” translates into “the state in which.” It’s an even shorter take on a longer phrase that meant “in the state in which things were before the war.” In other words? Maybe the status quo isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Et Cetera

Often abbreviated to etc., you’re referring to odds and ends when you use this Latin phrase. It was first used in the Middle Ages and has remained one of the most pervasive and persistent uses of Latin in modern English.  

Ad Hoc

If you do things off the cuff, on a whim, or without a formal plan in place, you may suggest you’re doing them ad hoc. In Latin, it literally means “to this” or “with respect to this.” The meanings might seem a bit at odds, but used properly, you might say something like, “We’re having this ad hoc meeting on safety procedures before we have another accident.”

De Facto

In Latin, this phrase translates to “of fact.” We tend to use it a little differently in modern parlance – for suggesting the default, assumed, or clear, if not explicitly stated. To use it in a sentence, you may say, “Beyonce was the de facto leader of Destiny’s Child.”  

Vice Versa

This early 17th-century Latin expression means “in-turned position.” Modern English speakers use it to indicate things two things that are completely interchangeable, such as, “I can housesit for you this week, and vice versa the next week.”

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