Column: Battle of the Latin abbreviations


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt


You probably weren’t surprised to learn I was an English major for one semester in college. This week, I’m leveling up the nerd factor and divulging another academic secret of mine: I took three years of Latin in high school. And, for a dead language, Latin is everywhere. Ever heard of an astronaut? They didn’t have those back in the Roman Empire, but astronaut gets its name from combining the Latin word for star (astrum) with the word for sailor (nauta). Boom: star sailor.

We use Latin in our abbreviations all the time without really even knowing what they mean. Today, I’m going to focus on i.e. and e.g. and try to help you understand when each is appropriate to use.

The abbreviation i.e. stands for id est, which is Latin for “that is.” Use i.e. when you want to clarify or further define what you just stated. Think of i.e. as “in essence.” Here’s an example: Carmel’s City Council recently removed funding for the mayor’s $5 million carousel, i.e., one super-expensive horse tornado.

The abbreviation e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example” in Latin. It’s easy to remember “e” is for “example.” I like to think of e.g. as “egg sample,” which would be a strange item to try on sample day at Sam’s Club. Here’s an example for you: I love any kind of fall activity (e.g., jumping in leaf piles, watching football and consuming any pumpkin-flavored beverage).

Here are some other things to remember: Always add periods after each letter in i.e. and e.g. They are abbreviations, not their own words. Always add a comma after the abbreviations, even if your spell check interjects a squiggly red line beneath it.

Other Latin abbreviations that are part of our everyday lives include R.I.P., P.S., C.V., N.B., per cent. and vs. They are all ticked they didn’t get any attention in this article, i.e., not the prettiest ponies at the petting zoo.


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