There are several ways to say “thank you” in Latin, from grātiās tibi agō to the colloquial benignē. This post covers everything you need to know about expressing your thanks like an ancient Roman.
The standard way to say “thank you” in Latin is grātiās tibi agō. Literally, this means “I give thanks to you.”
Now here’s the thing. Tibi (to you) is a singular second person pronoun. This means that you can only use it when you are thanking one person.
If you want to thank two or more people, the proper pronoun is vōbīs (to you / y’all). So there are two common formulas:
Grātiās tibi agō = Thank you (to one person)
Grātiās vōbīs agō = Thank you (to two or more people)
Most of the time, one of the above forms is the right fit. But what about if you are saying thank you on behalf of multiple people?
Let’s imagine that you and your friend had car trouble on the side of the road, and a friendly mechanic stopped to help you. When the mechanic leaves, you say “thank you,” but what you really mean is “we (my friend and I) thank you.”
In this case, the Latin formula changes. We replace agō (I thank) with agimus (we thank).
Grātiās tibi agimus = We thank you (to one person)
Grātiās vōbīs agimus = We thank you (to two or more people)
So, when you are deciding what form of thank you is appropriate, consider the identity of both the recipient(s) and the giver(s) of thanks.
In quick speech, you can also get away with just saying grātiās “thanks.”
More About Grātiās tibi agō
In ancient Roman society, it was important to express gratitude, just like it is in many modern cultures today. Romans cared about reciprocity: if someone did something for you, you were expected to do – or at least be willing to do – something for them.
Saying “thank you” is a way of beginning to repay a debt. In the next sections, I will explain in a bit more depth how grātiās tibi agō works grammatically and describe how to use it in different contexts.
As I mentioned up above, grātiās tibi agō literally means “I give thanks to you.” Here is a full grammatical breakdown of the phrase:
- Grātiās is the accusative plural of the 1st declension noun grātia, which means “favor” or “gratitude.” It is the direct object of the verb agō.
- Tibi is the dative singular of the personal pronoun tū “you” (while vōbīs is the dative plural). It is the indirect object of the verb agō.
- Agō is the 1st person singular present indicative active of the 3rd conjugation verb agō, agere, ēgī, āctus “do, drive” (while agimus is the 1st person plural). It is the main verb.
“Thank You Very Much” in Latin
If you want to strengthen your statement, you can add an adjective to the phrase. Here are a few options.
Magnās grātiās tibi agō. = Thank you very much (literally: I give you great thanks)
Maximās / summās grātiās tibi agō. = Thank you very much (literally: I give you very great thanks)
Roman authors sometimes spice things up even more. Check out the following example from Cicero:
Nerō meus mīrificās apud mē tibi grātiās ēgit, prōrsus incrēdibilēs, ut nūllum honōrem sibi habērī potuisse dīceret quī ā tē praetermissus esset.
My friend Nero expressed gratitude to you in my presence to an amazing degree, an utterly incredible one, since he said that no honor could have been given to him that was overlooked by you.Cicero, Ad Familiares, 13.42
So, if you want, you can imitate Cicero and say: Mīrificās tibi grātiās agō! I am amazingly thankful to you!
Thanking Someone For Something
We’ve talked about how to say a simple thank you and how to embellish things a bit. But what about if you want to express your gratitude for something? Here are a few common ways you can do this in Latin.
One option is to use the preposition prō “for, in return for”, plus a noun (the thing you are grateful for) in the ablative case.
Grātiās tibi agō prō dōnō. = Thank you for the gift.
Prō tuō summō beneficiō grātiās agimus. = We thank you for your very great service.
The construction with prō works well if you are expressing gratitude for a concrete object. But if you wish to thank someone for performing an action, you should use a conjunction like quod “because”.
Grātiās tibi agō quod mihi cēnam parāvistī. = Thank you for making me dinner. (literally: because you made me dinner)
Grātiās eīs ēgimus quod vēritātem dīxēre. = We thanked them for telling the truth. (literally: because they told the truth)
Other options are quia (since), quārē (because), and cum (because / when). They are used in the same way as quod.
Here is an example from Cicero:
Huic ego testī grātiās agam, quod et in rē misericordem sā praebuerit et in testimōniō religiōsum.
I will give thanks to this witness, because he has shown himself to be both merciful in the matter and conscientious in his testimony.Cicero, Pro Caecina, 26
Other Ways of Saying Thank You in Latin
Grātiās tibi agō is the standard way of saying “thank you” in Latin. But there are other ways to express your gratitude, too.
Think about all of our options in English. I’m much obliged, I appreciate it, and I’m very grateful are just a few examples of variety.
This formula is very similar to grātiās tibi agō. Grātiam habeō literally means “I have / offer gratitude,” but you can translate it as “thank you” or “I’m grateful.”
Here are some examples from the ancient Romans themselves. The first two come from the Roman comedians Plautus and Terence.
Sosicles: Hercle quī tū mē admonuistī rēctē, et habeō grātiam.
Sosicles: By Hercules, you advised me correctly, and I’m grateful.Plautus, Menaechmi 1092
Thāis: bene fēcistī: grātiam habeō maxumam.
Thais: You did well: thank you very much.Terence, Eunuchus 1091
And finally, here is an example from one of Cicero’s letters:
Quā rē habeō grātiam Trebātiō, familiārī nostrō, quī mihi dedit causam hārum litterārum.
For which reason I am grateful to Trebatius, our friend, who gave me a reason for this letter.Cicero, Ad Familiares 11.27.8
Multum tē amō
Multum tē amō literally means “I love / like you a lot,” but when used in the right context, it can convey gratitude. Good translations are “thank you” or “I’m much obliged to you.”
Other variants are tē amō “I love / like you” and meritō tē amō “I love / like you deservedly.”
You can use either the preposition dē or in plus the ablative to convey what you are thankful for. And, as we saw above with grātiās tibi agō, you can use quod.
Here are some examples of these phrases used in ancient Roman authors. The first example comes from the comedy Eunuchus by Terence.
Phaedria: scīlicet faciundumst quod vīs. Thāis: meritō tĕ amō, bene facis.
Phaedria: Of course we must do what you wish. Thais: I’m much obliged to you, you do well.Terence, Eunuchus, 185-186
The next two examples are from Cicero’s letters. The first is to his friend Atticus, and the second is to Publius Silius Nerva.
multum tē amō quod respondistī M. Octāviō tē nōn putāre.
I’m much obliged to you because you responded to Marcus Octavius that you did not think so.Cicero, Ad Atticum 5.21.5
Et in Atīlī negōtiō tē amāvī (cum enim sērō vēnissem, tamen honestum equitem Rōmānum beneficiō tuō conservāvī).
I was much obliged to you in the business of Atilius (for although I had arrived late, nevertheless because of your service I saved an honorable Roman equestrian).Cicero, Ad Familiares 13.62
In colloquial Latin, you can say benignē dīcis “you speak kindly” or the shortened form benignē “kindly”. This expression can be used in two different ways.
First, benignē (dīcis) allows you to thank someone and accept what they offer, in which case you can translate it as “thanks.”
Second, benignē (dīcis) can indicate that you are thanking someone, but refusing what they offer. In this context, it has the meaning of “no thank you” or “you’re too kind.”
Here is an example of benignē used to accept an invitation:
Astaphium: peregrē quoniam advenīs, cēna dētur. Dinarchus: Bene dīcis benignēque vocās, Astaphium.
Astaphium: Since you return from abroad, a dinner must be given. Dinarchus: You speak well and you invite me kindly, Astaphium.Terence, Trucidatus Act 1 Scene 2 127-128
And here is an example of someone expressing polite refusal:
‘Vescere, sōdes.’ ‘Iam satis est.’ ‘At tū, quantum vīs, tolle.’ ‘Benignē.’
‘Eat, if you please.’ ‘I’m already full.’ ‘But take however much you want.’ ‘You’re too kind.’Horace, Epistle 1.7.15-16
How To Say You’re Welcome in Latin
Now you know multiple ways to say thank you in Latin – but how do you respond? This is actually a complicated question.
In my dialect of English (American English), we always respond with “you’re welcome” or “no problem” or an equivalent when someone says thank you. Otherwise it feels very rude.
But the necessity of responding to “thank you” varies by culture. In ancient Rome, there was no one phrase or formula for “you’re welcome”. In fact, according to one study of Roman comedy, in 80% of cases there was no response at all to the act of thanking.
Basically, in ancient Rome you did not have to automatically reply with a “you’re welcome” equivalent. The rules of polite conversation were a bit different.
So what does this mean for us? In modern spoken Latin circles, I hear two main versions of “you’re welcome.”
- Libenter = “willingly”; the idea is that you “willingly” did whatever the person is thanking you for
- Gaudeō = “I am happy”; in other words, you were glad to do whatever the person is thanking you for
There is no evidence that the ancient Romans used these words in this way, but both constructions work logically in Latin. In modern cultures where “you’re welcome” is common, libenter and gaudeō are good ways to remain polite while staying true to the spirit of Latin.
I mentioned up above that Romans didn’t respond to thank you 80% of the time. What about the other 20%? Well, there wasn’t a specific automatic formula, but we can find some commonality in the replies.
People said things like “you deserve it”, “it was no problem”, or “it was the proper thing to do.” Sometimes they would argue that they shouldn’t be thanked at all or say that the other person had done greater favors for them in the past.
Summary of Words for “Thank you” in Latin
I hope that you now feel more confident about expressing your thanks in Latin. This post has covered a lot of different variations, so I will conclude with a quick list of the most common phrases.
Remember that for many of these, you need to make adjustments based on the specific context. (E.g. changing tibi to vōbīs if you are thanking more than one person.)
- Grātiās tibi agō = Thank you
- Grātiās maximās tibi agō = Thank you very much
- Grātiās = Thanks
- Grātiam habeō / habeō grātiam = Thank you / I’m grateful
- (Multum / meritō) tē amō = I’m much obliged to you
- Benignē (dīcis) = thanks / no thanks (informal)
- Libenter = You’re welcome
- Gaudeō = You’re welcome
And there you go. Now go forth and thank people in Latin!
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