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Words nearby carpe diem
What does carpe diem mean?
Carpe diem is a Latin phrase meaning “seize the day.” The saying is used to encourage someone to make the most of the present rather than dwelling on the future.
Where does carpe diem come from?
Carpe diem comes from the first-century BCE Odes of the Roman poet Horace. In Book 1 Poem 11, Horace writes “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,” variously translated as “seize the day, and have little trust in the next one.”
Though commonly taken as “seize,” the Latin carpe originally means “to gather or pluck” and diem “day,” making carpe diem suggest “enjoy the present while it is ripe.” On its own, carpe diem is recorded in English in 1817 in the letters of another famed poet, Lord Byron.
Thanks to the impact of Horace on Western literature and the place of his poetry in Western education, coupled with the profound sense of his sentiment, carpe diem became a widely quoted expression. It inspired a whole genre of poetry of its own, carpe diem poems, especially popular in England in the 17th century as meditations on the transience of life and calls to embrace its goodness and beauty while you can.
Fast forward through countless carpe diem quotes to the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. In the movie, a teacher (Robin Williams) inspires his purpose-hungry students by teaching them the phrase and its life-loving imperative, “because we are food for worms, lads.”
How is carpe diem used in real life?
In everyday speech and writing, people use carpe diem as a motto or mantra for living life to the fullest. Of course, the flip side is that people may also use carpe diem to justify not taking responsibility.
Outside poetry and film, carpe diem is also popular as a lyric or title for songs, ranging from Metallica’s 1997 “Carpe Diem Baby” to the closing number, “Carpe Diem,” in a 2011 episode of the cartoon Phineas and Ferb.
The modern phrase YOLO (You Only Live Once) is considered a new version of carpe diem.
Carpe diem is such a widely recognized phrase that people often riff on it (e.g., carpe beerum—mock Latin for “seize the beer”), or make silly puns on it (e.g., carpet diem—”seize the carpet”).
More examples of carpe diem:
“BYOB house parties (and sappy, inconsequential flirtations at said parties). Dance-offs at open-air bars. Egregious swipe-rights in the name of carpe diem. And wine. So much wine.”
—Sidney Madden, National Public Radio, June, 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
British Dictionary definitions for carpe diem
Word Origin for carpe diem
Cultural definitions for carpe diem
Latin for “Seize the day”: take full advantage of present opportunities. This sentiment is found not only in classical literature but in much of English literature as well (see “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” and “Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, Lady, were no crime.”)
Idioms and Phrases with carpe diem
Enjoy the present and don't worry about the future, as in It's a beautiful day, so forget tomorrow's test—carpe diem! Latin for “seize the day,” an aphorism found in the Roman writer Horace's Odes, this phrase has been used in English since the early 1800s.