Friday, March 25, 2011

Verbum Hodiernum: FINIS

Today's word is FINIS (third declension, genitive finis), which of course gives us the English word "finish," making it easy to remember! Although the word is generally masculine in classical Latin, don't be upset if you find it as a feminine noun, especially in earlier and then again in later Latin. The Latin word covers a whole range of meaning, embracing the English words "boundary" and "limit," including the notion of a "finish line." In the plural, the Latin fines can mean the borders of a country and, by metonymical extension, it can mean the country itself. Note also that, just as in English, there is a metaphorical extension where finis can mean not just an end in space, but an end in time, a purpose or goal for which you are striving.

The various meanings of English "fine" also come from Latin finis, although they do not reflect classical usage. The English sense of "fine" as a "penalty" comes from the medieval Latin use of finis to refer to a tax or penalty, based on the idea that paying a penalty brings the matter to an end. This is also the origin of English words like "finance," "financial," etc. The sense of English "fine" as "excellent, high quality" is from the metaphorical extension of finis into a vertical geography, in the sense of "uppermost limit, superior, best."

There are many other English words that ultimately derive from Latin finis, such as "finite" ("infinite," "infinity") and "final" ("finality"). There are also words from compound forms of the Latin root: "affinity, " "definite" (and the oft misspelled "definitely"), and "confine."

You will also sometimes fine the Latin phrases in fine and ad finem used in written English.

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:

Amori finem tempus, non animus facit.

Omnium finis mors est.

Veri amoris nullus est finis.

Certum pete finem.

Sicut vita, finis ita.

Scribendi nullus finis.

Si finis bonus est, totum bonum est.

Cui licitus est finis, etiam licent media.

Qualis vita, finis ita.

Nescit homo finem suum.

Faciendi plures libros nullus est finis.

Mori enim naturae finis est, non poena.

Lauda finem.

Totum laudatur, si finis laude beatur.

In omnibus rebus, respice finem.

Quidquid agas, semper respice finem.

Utilem pete finem.

Mali principii malus finis.

Non statim cum principio apparet finis.

Finem vitae specta.

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