Tumbling Down the Vel

Uses of Vel and -ve

The Origin of Vel

“an old imperative of volō” (AG, 324e)

Summary of Use

Vel is usually a disjunction; it should be translated or

Vel often occurs in the pairing vel…vel; this may be translated either…or or simply or

Vel may also appear “as an intensive particle with no alternative force” (324g)

Basic Uses


  • He toured three or four towns: vel tres vel quattuor urbēs ambulāvit.

Intensive Particle

  • He gave the very least: dedit vel minimus.

Vel versus Aut

Formally, aut presents exclusive choice, vel present inclusive choice

  • Give me liberty, or give me death: dā mihi aut lībertātem aut mortem
  • She spoke like this of fortune or glory: tālis loquēbātur vel fortūnā vel glōriā

She may have spoken like that of fortune and glory, but she could not be given both liberty and death.

  • This distinction isn’t strictly followed, so give it minimal concern

The Suffix -ve

Vel may also appear as the suffix -ve, holding the same force as vel

  • He will come within in two or three hours: duabus tribusve horis veniet. 
The Essential AG: 324e

Famous Phrase: vel sim (or the like)

[i.e. vel similia, a disjunctive phrase corresponding to the conjunctive et cetera]