Make Your Editor Cry: (LATIN) A Herd of Latin Unicorns

Make Your Editor Cry:  (LATIN) A Herd of Latin Unicorns

While you may occasionally encounter the following Latin abbreviations, they are becoming increasingly rare—kind of like unicorns. Personally, I would not recommend using them. Use plain English instead. However, it’s nice to know what they mean in case you ever see one of these  mythical creatures in the wild.

loc. cit. & op. cit.

The abbreviations “loc. cit.” and “op. cit.” are old forms used in bibliographic citations similar to ibid. and id. The abbreviation loc. cit. stands for “loco citato,” which translates as “in the place cited,” whereas “op. cit.” stands for “opere citato” which translates as “in the work cited.”

Generally, “loc. cit.” is used to refer to the same work and page number(s) as the previous citation, while “op. cit.” refers only to the same work and may or may not be followed by page numbers. In all modern style manuals, “ibid.” (ibidem) is preferred over either “loc. cit.” or “op. cit.”

inf. & sup.

The abbreviations “inf.” and “sup.” stand for the words “infra” and “supra,” which translate as “below” and “above” respectively. They are used to indicate that information will be more fully explained or cited elsewhere. If the information has already appeared in an earlier note, “sup.” is used. If the information will appear in a later note, like where a more complete citation or explanation is perhaps more appropriate in context, then “inf.” is used.

In general, you can replace both of these abbreviations with plain English terms like “see below” or “see above” without any change in meaning.

viz. & sc.

The abbreviation “viz.” is a contraction for the Latin word “videlicet” which translates literally as “it is permitted to see,” but a more useful translation is “namely” or “that is to say.” It is used to clarify something by elaborating on it, giving a detailed description of it, or providing a complete list.

In this sense, “viz.” is similar to “i.e., (id est)” although “viz.” tends to emphasize the precision and exactness of what follows, and is thus a stronger version of “i.e.” It is generally acceptable to use “i.e.” instead of “viz.”

The abbreviation “sc.” is a contraction for the Latin word “scilicet” which translates literally as “it is permitted to know,” but a more useful translation is “namely” or “as if to say.” It is often used to provide a clarification, remove an ambiguity, or supply an omitted word. Like “viz.,” “sc.” is a more specific version of “i.e.” and stresses the clarity of what follows. As with “viz.,” it is generally acceptable to use “i.e.” instead.

q.v.

The abbreviation “q.v.” stands for the Latin phrase “quod vide,” which translates literally as “which see,” although in practice it means something more like “for which see elsewhere.” It is used in notes after a word or phrase to indicate that more information can be found about the topic somewhere else in the current work. Because “q.v.” is generally used in reference books or similar works, page numbers are not included after it. The reader is expected to know how to locate this information without further assistance. Since there is always the possibility that the reader won’t be able to find the information cited by “q.v.,” it’s better to use a simple English phrase such as “for more on this topic, see pages 86-101” or “a detailed definition appears on page 16.” Such phrases are immediately comprehensible to the reader who, let’s face it, may not even have a clue what “q.v.” means, and thus remove any ambiguity about where additional information is located.

s.v.

The abbreviation “s.v.” stands for the Latin phrase “sub verbo,” which translates to “under the word.” It is used when citing a specific entry in a dictionary, encyclopedia, or section of scripture. The word or phrase following the abbreviation should correspond exactly to the heading in the source so that the reader can find the precise entry being indicated. Since “s.v.” is no longer recognizable to most modern readers, it is better to use a simple English phrase such as “see the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary; look under s.v.” or something similar.

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