What does the Latin word "rex" mean?

And the answer: king.

Most people are familiar with the word from science, as in the Tyrannosaurus rex, or from literature, as in the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. The Latin word rex simply means a king or ruler.

Iācōbus Rēx Scōtōrum (James V, King of the Scots). Photo credit: public domain.

Rex is one of many Latin words that has since become familiar in the English language. Aside from the Tyrannosaurus rex and Oedipus Rex, the term is used to help describe other species that exist today (and no, we're not just talking about all those doggos named Rex). Most commonly, rex is a taxonomic suffix that is often tacked on to the names of larger animals such as the German Rex, a cat, and Balaeniceps Rex, the somewhat terrifying large bird known as a shoebill.

While many words in English have Latin roots, there are many others, like rex, that simply keep the Latin word as is. Pop quiz! How many Latin words or phrases can you name that we use day-to-day in English?

If you came up with more than five, bravo (see what we did there?). Approximately 80% of entries in any given English dictionary are borrowed from Latin, though many have evolved over time to reflect modern usage. Here are a few examples of purely, commonplace Latin phrases used in English:

  • Alibi – meaning "elsewhere"
  • Bona fide – meaning "good faith"
  • Bonus – meaning "good"
  • Caveat emptor – meaning "Buyer beware"
  • Et cetera – meaning "and so on"
  • And finally, of course: Carpe diem – Seize the day!

You might be feeling it all come together, but in case you want to learn more, check out this site.


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