Monday, February 7, 2011

Verbum Hodiernum: AGO

Today's word is the verb AGO (agere, egi, actus). This is a very common Latin verb with a whole range of idiomatic meanings, something like the way the English verb "do" has all kinds of idiomatic meanings. The basic meaning of the Latin verb is "lead" or "drive" in English, but you need to be aware of some of the basic idioms, too.

With the reflexive pronoun, agere can mean "to go," i.e. Quo te agis? "Where are you going?" It can even have this basic meaning of "to go" even without the reflexive pronoun, Huc age! "Get over here!"

The verb can also mean "to stir up, set in action, extend" so if a plant flores agit, that means it is blossoming. In the human world, the meaning can extend to any kind of action or activity, so the question Quid agis? means "What are you doing?" Nihil ago, "I'm not doing anything." Note also that the verb can be used in the passive tense with this general sense of "doing," e.g. Non agitur de me, "It has nothing to do with me." From this idea of activity, the verb comes to mean to pass or spend time: domi aestatem agere, "to spend the summer at home."

Just as this word is very common in Latin, so too there are many English words which derive from it. From the present stem we get "agent," "agency," From the perfect stem, we get words like "act" and "actor." In its compound forms, the Latin -ag- becomes -ig- as you can see in English words like "navigation," "litigation" and "fumigation." The Latin participle agenda is even an English word in its own right, meaning "the things to be done."

Here are some examples of today's word in Latin sayings and proverbs; for more information, see the page at the Scala Sapientiae, which contains notes on some of the proverbs cited below, as well as additional proverbs:

Tuas res tibi habeto, tuas res tibi agito.

Age quod agis.

Aliter cum aliis agendum.

Actum ne agas.

Agamus quod agendum.

Aliter enim cum alio agendum.

Nullus agenti dies longus est.

Age, si quid agis.

Acta, non verba.

Agere sequitur credere.

Plus valet actum quam scriptum.

Agunt opus suum fata.

Cura, quidquid agis, te bene nosse magis!

Nihil agendo, homines male agere discunt.

Fatis agimur; cedite fatis.

Nobiliter vivens et agens, haec nobilis est gens.

Audendum est: age.

Cernuntur in agendo virtutes.

Nil agenti dies longus est.

Age officium tuum.

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