November 11, 2006

Tempus it et tamquam mobilis aura volat

In English: Time goes and like a moving breeze it flies.

This is another proverb about the transitoriness of things, in this case, how time itself is transitory, on the move, like the breeze. In English we use the phrase "time flies" to indicate how swiftly time moves by, as in the phrase "time flies when you're having fun." What this proverb emphasizes is instead that time is always on the move, tempus it, "time goes." Time simply cannot stand still; tempus volat, "time flies," just as the breeze does as it blows.

The Latin word aura means "breeze," but it was also extended to mean heat, sound, smell or other phenomena that were perceptible to the senses, being invisibly conveyed by the movement of the air. Thus the aura solis, the "sun's breeze" or the "sun's aura," was something hot. When people talk about an "aura" in English, they usually have in mind this kind of invisible emanation that radiates out from a person, as heat radiates from the sun.

For Latin students, there are three Latin word roots that look suspiciously like "aura" and which are easy to mix up. Be careful not to confuse these words!

aura: "breeze," the word used in today's proverb (this Latin word is actually borrowed from Greek)

aurum: "gold," as in the chemical symbol for gold Au

auris: "ear," as in the English word "aural," something you hear with your ear

So, here is an aural recitation of today's proverb about the "aura" of time!

2237. Tempus it et tamquam mobilis aura volat.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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Jill said...

I've always heard "tempus fugit" is time flies. Why the difference?


Laura Gibbs said...

hi Jill, "tempus fugit" is even more intense than "time flies" - "fugit" is literally "flees, runs away" (like in the word "fugitive") - so "tempus fugit" means that time is running away and not matter how fast we chase it, we cannot catch it!

"volat" is "flies" in the way that birds fly and insects fly. you'll see that word in the Italian airport if you ever fly to Italy - "volare" is the Italian word "to fly" and an airplane flight is a "volo"



Anonymous said...


Is there a literal translation for 'Time flies when you're having fun'?



Laura Gibbs said...

You could say "Ludibundis tempus volat," which would be "for the people who are having fun, time flies" :-)