Foreign Words and Phrases for Cultural Literacy

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a capella

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112 Terms

1

a capella

Italian phrase meaning "without instrumental accompaniment"

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2

ad hoc

Latin word meaning "for this purpose"; for the present matter or situation; temporary

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3

ad infinitum

Latin phrase meaning "forever/endlessly"

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4

ad nauseam

Latin phrase meaning "to a sickening degree."

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5

aficionado

Spanish word meaning "enthusiast; fan"

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6

alfresco

Italian - in the open air

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7

alma mater

Latin word meaning "fostering mother"; old school

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8

alpha

Greek meaning "first"

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9

alter ego

Latin phrase meaning "another side of oneself"

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10

antebellum

Latin - before the war, especially before the Civil War

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11

a posteriori

Latin - "from what comes after" inductive

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12

a priori

Latin - "from what comes before" deductive

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13

au contraire

French - on the contrary

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14

au courant

French - up to date; contemperary

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15

avant-garde

French - "vanguard"; forward; advanced

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16

beau geste

French - noble gesture

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17

blitzkreig

German - a swift, sudden effort, usually in war

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18

bete noire

French - black beast ; pet peeve

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19

bona fide

Latin phrase for "in good faith" or "genuine."; sincere

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20

bon appetit

French - good appetite; enjoy your meal

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21

bon mot

French - clever turn of phrase

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22

bon vivant

French phrase for "one who lives well." It refers to a person who lives luxuriously and has refined taste

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23

campesino

Spanish - peasant farmer

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24

carpe diem

Latin phrase for "seize the day." live for today

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25

carte blanche

In French it refers to a blank sheet of paper. It is now used to refer to complete freedom or power to act at one's own discretion.

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26

cause célèbre

In French, a widely known notorious case or issue that often inspires others to act; scandal "celebrated case"

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27

caveat emptor

Latin phrase meaning "let the buyer beware." It advises discretion when buying something; no warranty

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28

c'est la vie

French for "that's life." The phrase has a similar meaning in English usage with a sense of release or inevitability.

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29

chef d'oeuvre

French - masterpiece

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30

chutzpah

From Yiddish meaning "shameless audacity." daring

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31

circa

Latin - approximately; about

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32

cognito, ergo sum

Latin - "I think, therefore I am"

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33

coup de grace

French - a decisive finishing blow, act, or event to end suffering

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34

coup d'etat

French phrase for "a stroke of state." a sudden, decisive exercise of force in politics; government overthrow

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35

creme de la creme

French phrase - cream of the cream ; the best

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36

cum laude

Latin - with praise; with honor

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37

declasse

French - fallen in social standing

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38

de facto

Latin for "from the fact," this phrase refers to something which is true in practice, but not in the proper or legal situation.

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39

de jure

Latin phrase for "according to the law." legally; it is the opposite of de facto, something true in theory.

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40

detente

French - easing of strained relations

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41

dramatic personae

Latin - "persons of the drama"; cast of characters

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42

en masse

French - in a large group

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43

e pluribus unum

Latin - one out of many

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44

errata

Latin - a list of errors

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45

ersatz

German - imitation

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46

espirit do corps

French - common spirit with a group

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47

eureka

Greek - I have found it; expression of discovery of triumph

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48

ex cathedra

Latin "from the chair"; with high authority

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49

exemplum

Latin - example; model; ancedote

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50

ex officio

Latin - by virtue of, or because of, one's position or office

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51

ex post facto

Latin term meaning "a thing done afterwards." retroactive; after the fact

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52

fait accompli

French phrase for "an accomplished fact."

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53

faux pas

French phrase for a "false step," social blunder.

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54

fiat

Latin - "let it be done"; a command or decree

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55

glasnost

In Russian, it literally means "publicity." openness

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56

habeas corpus

Latin for "you shall have the body." a summon to court

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57

haute coutoure

French - high fashion

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58

haute cuisuine

French - elaborate cooking

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59

hoi polloi

Greek phrase for "the many." common people or the masses.

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60

hubris

Greek - exaggerated pride; arrogance

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61

in extremis

Latin - in extreme circumstances

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62

in loco parentis

Latin phrase for "in place of a parent." guardian

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63

in medias res

Latin phrase for "in the middle of things."

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64

in memoriam

Latin - in memory of; as a memorial to

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65

ipso facto

Latin phrase meaning "by the fact itself." by the nature of the thing; automatically

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66

jeie de vivre

French phrase for "joy of living"; good spirits; exberance

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67

kamikaze

Japan - divine wind; suicide pilot

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68

klutz

Yiddish - clumsy person

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69

kudos

Greek - "glory, renown"; accolade; fame; honor; congrats

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70

kvetch

Yiddish - complain; carp; gripe

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71

laissez-faire

French phrase meaning "let people do what they want" noninterference

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72

lingua franca

Italian - "Frankish language"; common language

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73

magna cum laude

Latin - with great honor

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74

magnum opus

Latin - a masterpiece

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75

mea culpa

Latin phrase for "my fault" It is used when someone admits a mistake; expressing personal fault or guilt

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76

modus operandi

Latin phrase for "mode of working"; a working method or arrangement; procedure

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77

noblesse oblige

French - honorable behavior that's considered to be the obligation of people of noble birth or rank

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78

nom de plume

French phrase meaning "name of the pen." ; pen name

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79

nonpareil

French - having no equal

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80

non sequitur

Latin - "does not follow"; fallacy; a reponse that does not follow logically from a previous statement

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81

nouveau riche

French - the newly rich

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82

par excellence

French - superior; above all

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83

per capita

Latin term for "by heads"; for each one

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84

per diem

Latin - "by the day"

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85

per se

Latin - "by of, or in itself, oneself, or themselves"; of its own accord

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86

persona non grata

Latin - an unacceptable person

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87

piece de resistance

French - main dish of a meal; main thing or event

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88

prima facie

Latin - on first appearance; at first glance; self-evident; sufficient to establish a fact

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89

pro forma

Latin - "for form"; carried out as a formality; for the record

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90

pro rata

Latin - proportinately

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91

quid pro quo

Latin phrase meaning "something for something." trade

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92

raison d'etre

French - reason for being

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93

reductio ad absurdum

Latin - "reduction to absurdity"; disproving an argument by showing its absurd direction

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94

savoir faire

French phrase meaning "knowing what to do." the ability to say and do the right thing at all times.

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95

schlemiel

Yiddish - unlucky person; loser

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96

schmaltz

Yiddish - excessive sentimentality

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97

schtick

Yiddish - gimmick; a performer's idiosyncracy

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98

sine qua non

Latin - "without which not"; like not other; something essential

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99

status quo

Latin - "the condition in which"; present condition; the state of affairs up to now

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100

summa cum laude

Latin - the highest honor

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