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Latin Phrase: Always the Same

by Jen

Dear Teacher,


I'm curious to know which phrase is a true Cicero quote: "Semper Eadem" or "Semper Idem"? The first I read in a book about Queen Elizabeth I, which was said to translate to "Always the same." However, every website I find with a translation, gives me the second quote.

So, which is correct? Or are they both correct? And if so, what is the difference?

Thank you, Jen


Dear Jen,

Both Latin phrases are correct and both are found in the works of Cicero. Without the context of a larger sentence, however, both phrases are ambiguous.

The ambiguity comes from the fact that idem can mean the same thing (singular neuter) or the same man (singular masculine).

Then the word eadem can mean the same things (plural neuter) or the same woman (singular feminine).

Which brings us to the version used by Queen Elizabeth I, semper eadem. Here it means "always the same (woman)".

Alternatively, semper idem could mean "always the same (man)" or "always the same (thing)".

Here are some Latin quotes from Cicero:

Voluntas mea, Brute, de summa re publica semper eadem fuit.

"My desire, Brutus, concerning the republic has been always the same." Cicero, in a letter to Brutus

non tum hoc, tum illud ... sed semper idem

"Not at one time this, at another time that ... but always the same thing." Cicero, De Amicitia


Hope this helps, and thanks for asking a Latin teacher!

Sincerely,

John

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A Thank You
by: Jen

Dear John,

Ah, Thank you very much for clearing up that confusion for me.

Jen

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