Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: QUAERO

I'm back after a long hiatus while finishing up the big Aesop's fables book, Mille Fabulae et Una: 1001 Aesop's Fables in Latin. It's available for FREE download in PDF format; go to to get your copy and please spread the word. The more students and teachers who download the book, the happier I will be!

Today's word is the verb QUAERO. This is a very important and productive word in Latin. There are many compounds of the verb, which often appear with -quiro in the stem: inquiro, for example, and requiro. There is also an iterative form: quaerito (notice how the stem vowel remains the same in this form). The perfect stem and perfect participle have an s: quaesivi and qaesitum. You can see both the -r- and the -s- stems in English words derived from the Latin; for example, we have both "require" and "requisite" in English.

The Latin verb can take a direct object in the accusative case: te quaerebam, "I was looking for you."

The word can also mean to seek in the sense of asking for something, desiring it, and in that construction you will find an ut clause, or an infinitive clause, for example: mutare sedes quaerebant.

When you are asking or inquiring about something from someone, you can use the preposition ab. For example, here is Cicero: quaesivit a medicis, quemadmodum se haberet. You can also use the preposition de or ex, e.g. quaero de te.

The idea that something is quaesitus can be in the good sense, something that is special, exquisite, something that is sought after. Tacitus speaks of quaeitissimi honores, for example. The same word can also have a negative connotation, of something that is outlandish or far-fetched. You have to use context to establish whether it is being used in a positive or negative sense.

Here are some Latin proverbs and sayings that use this word:

Quaere verum.

Quaerendo invenietis.

Qui quaerit, invenit.

Quaerite et invenietis.

Quaere adulescens, utere senex.

Dum quaeris hora fugit.

Stulto nullus quaerendi finis.

Ansam quaeris.

Pax quaeritur bello.

Panem quaeramus aratro.

Hominem quaero.

Aurum in stercore quaero.

Lupi alas quaeris.

Asini vellera quaeris.

Aquam a pumice quaeris.

In mari aquam quaeris.

In medio mari quaerit undas.

Acum in meta faeni quaerit.

Caput Nili quaerit.

Nili fontes quaerit.

Lepus carnem quaerit.

Leonis vestigia quaeris.

Ursi praesentis vestigia quaeris.

Rosam praeteritam ne quaeras.

Quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere.

Dum licet fugere, ne quaere litem.

Rem, non spem, quaerit amicus.

Amoto quaeramus seria ludo.

Veritas non quaerit angulos.

Nec quaerere nec spernere honorem.

Consilium a sapiente quaerendum est.

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