Latin Phrase: Over Many, One

by Alex
(NYC)

Dear Latin Teacher,

The US seal is e pluribus unum, which roughly translates into "Out of many, one".

My question is, keeping with the same style of phrasing, how do you say in Latin "Over many, one".

Thanks, Alex

Dear Alex,

To change this phrase to your new meaning requires a new preposition. The Latin preposition e or ex means "out from", and needs an ablative noun to complete its meaning.

The preposition super means "over" or "above" and requires a noun in the accusative.

That's the easy part. Now the difficulties.

In the original phrase, what is the gender of the word pluribus? And one does unum refer to?

My quick answer is that unum means "one thing", while pluribus is neuter and means "from many things".

If this is true, your new phrase is: super plura, unum, which means "over many things, one thing".

But I have a feeling you want to say "over many people" or "over many nations" or over something specific.

In that case, the word plura, which is neuter plural, would need to be masculine or feminine instead.

And so your new Latin phrase is: super plures, unum.

But then the unum is still neuter, and means "one thing". If you mean to say "one man", it would have to be changed to unus, and to una if you mean "one woman".

Very complicated for a three word Latin phrase. To sum up, your choices are:


  • super plura, unum - over many (things), one (thing)


  • super plures, unum - over many (people, nations, etc.), one (thing)


  • super plures, unus - over many (men, women), one (man)


  • super plures, una - over many (men, women), one (woman)


Well, hope this helps, and thanks for asking a Latin teacher!

Sincerely,

John

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