Expression of Denial

In Latin speech, negō > nōn dīcō. That is, the phrase ‘I deny’ is everywhere preferable to the phrase ‘I do not say’ or ‘I say that…not.’

  • I say these things are untrue: dīcō haec nōn esse vēranegō haec esse vēra.
  • The Stoics claim that nothing is good but what is right: Stōcī dīcunt quidquam nōn esse bonum nisi honestum sit. Stōicī negant quidquam esse bonum nisi quod honestum sit.

The Essential  AG: 328, 580b

Answering ‘No.’

There are several ways to respond ‘no’ in Latin.

1. The first is to repetition the verb of the question and add nōn, which expresses denial.

  • Do you sing?—I do not sing: canisne?—nōn canō.
  • Does your father jog?—No, he doesn’t: currit parēns?—nōn currit.

2. As with affirmations, there are a number of places where this would get awkward, so the Romans have a variety of negating adverbs to replace the repeated verb.

  • Is this a frog?—no it is not: estne rana?—nōn est. (awkward)
  • Is this a frog?—nope. estne rana?—nōn.

There a set number of these adverbs, and they sometimes couple to form more emphatic responses.

  • nōn, no, not so
  • minimē, not at all
  • nūllo modō, by no means

Unlike the affirmations, negation responses are fairly homogenous in sense. ‘Nōn‘ is simple the tame counterpart to anything else. Some of the combinations have more a vibrant semantic character:

  • minimē vērō, certainly not
  • nōn quidem, no way!
  • nōn hercle vēro, oh, heavens no!

Some examples:

  • Is she as gorgeous as they say?—hell no. estne ut fertur in formā?—nōn hercle vēro.
  • Did you already take out the trash?—nope. stramenta exduxistī?—nōn factum.
  • Is he really so selfish?—Not at all! estne vērō tantum egoisticus?—minimē vērō.

The Essential AG: 336b

If you readers out there know of any other standard Latin ‘no’s feel free to add them below.