March 03, 2007

Tempus est vitae magister

In English: Time is the teacher of life.

I've been doing a series of proverbs over the past few days about the various magistri and magistrae of life, so I thought this would be a good proverb to include. You can also find a variant form of this saying, Tempus est optimus magister vitae, "Time is life's best teacher."

This time we are dealing with a neuter noun tempus, so it gets to be a magister, masculine, teacher of life. In a comment to a previous post at this blog, someone had asked me what gender choice is made between a male role and a female role when dealing with a neuter noun. As you can see from this saying, the neuter nouns get to play a masculine role, which makes sense. The noun and adjective declensions make it very clear that there is a strong relationship between masculine and neuter nouns, while feminine nouns are in a world of their own.

It's also worth saying something about the Latin word magister here. This is the word which actually gives us the English word "master" (and "mister," too!) via Middle French "maistre," which gives us the modern French "maître" as in "maître di." In Italian, it gives us "maestro."

As you can see from the Latin word, it seems to be from magis meaning "greater." So the magister is the "big guy" or "the greater guy." There's a parallel form with minister, from the root meaning "lesser." In other words, the magister is the big guy, and the minister is the little guy.

So here is today's proverb about time, the "big guy," read out loud:

264. Tempus est vitae magister.

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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