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"Feminae otiosae litteras multas scribunt."

Translation:The leisurely women write many letters.

August 28, 2019



I got Feminae otiosae litteras multas scribunt. and tiles without 'many', so I typed the translation given above, but was marked wrong and told the correct answer was: Leisurely women write a long letter.

Two problems: 1, long letter vs. many letters 2, Leisurely is an adverb not an adjective, as discussed on other threads.

Thank you so much. Issue reported as error in Latin and English sentences.


leisurely can be used as an adjective according to https://www.dictionary.com/browse/leisurely.

It sounds totally wrong to my native ears, and I would never say it as an adjective.


Well you can take a leisurely trip or a leisurely bath or spend a leisurely weekend reviewing your Latin — but only, perhaps, if you are a person of leisure. :)

  • 1367

That's right. People/objects can't be leisurely. It describes more abstract concepts: you can't touch any of the leisurely things in your examples.

This word seems to be used in a lot of the exercises and they all need to be changed. "Idle" perhaps?

I'm wondering if some of these exercises were devised by non-native English speakers, as I've also noticed "many" used in an unusual way. "They write many letters" sounds a bit off. We'd normally say "they write a lot of letters". We usually use "many" only in negative statements: "they don't write many letters".


I think it's best as "relaxed" here. "At ease". Maybe "idle".


If they can't, why the dictionaries tell us it's possible, giving some examples?

I wouldn't say it's wrong, but rare and unusual, (as whatever in Cambridge or Oxford dictionary can't be wrong) but I would really prefer "idle", as I think it's the more suitable definition, including an idea of laziness that is not (so) proeminent in "leisured/leisurely, or whatever.

[deactivated user]

    A person cannot be described as leisurely. Dictionaries give examples of abstract things such as trips or conversations. Otium is idle time, negotium is not-idle time (=business), and otiosus is best translated as idle.


    A person cannot be described as leisurely

    That's wrong. If Oxford dictionary describes a person as leisurely, it means that is possible.

    If dictionaries gives this example in a definition, and not an abstract thing like a conversion, it means, it's right.

    See Lexico (from Oxford), they use "leisurely woman".

    See my other comment for the page where the Oxford dic uses "leisurely woman", as a sentence they made themselves (=their definition), and not an extract from a conversation. Nobody put a gun on their head to make them use "leisurely + woman", it's their own words, not a quote.

    See also all the occurrences I've found in books for "leisurely" applied to people.

    While I understand that it could be old fashioned, or uncommon, or not the best way to translate it, or whatever, saying it's wrong in English is... wrong.


    I can't see where the OED has an example sentence that describes a person as leisurely. https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/leisurely


    I wonder if it isn't more common in the UK than it is in the US. The OED's first definition use as an adjective is for modifying a person. It quotes W.S. Landor in 1840 as "The leisurely and rich agriculturist," as an adjective describing a person. I'm more used to hearing the second definition, where it does not. I wonder if any UK native speakers can comment on if it's commonly used in this way.

    For the word "leisure" the OED provides an British and an American English pronunciation. However for the adjective "leisurely" it only has the British pronunciation.


    I'm not quite sure why anyone would think a dictionary is the last word in translation work.


    I would have no problem with saying, "She is a leisurely person." Sounds just fine, to my ears.


    That has more to do with how Latin is written, and what vocabulary that uses to express the same concept. They're going for a more literal translation here.


    I'm perfectly familiar with 'leisurely' as an adjective, I've don't recall ever encountering it as an adverb.


    Some unruLY words with a likeLY adverb-suffix happen to actually be unscalLY adjectives. Many comeLY words, may be unlikeLY adjectives.

    These silLY sounds seem wrong for native speakers' shapeLY ears, who may have strongly linked the -ly suffix to adverbs, while having naturalized the wriggLy rules of unruLY English treacLY irregularities.


    It sounds OK for my non native ears. Many -ly words are used as adjectives, such as beastly, ghostly, chilly, monthly, daily, deadly, lively, unlikely, only, lonely, smelly.. Some could also be adverbs, bust just imagine then modifying a noun and some of then are common


    First i would like to say that there is a difference between proper/literary speech and colloquial/everyday speech and dictionaries tend to lean toward the former.

    Second i would like to point out that language changes all the time, and it changes much faster in a colloquial context, think slang.

    These means that the dictionary may not necessarily be wrong, but it doesnt mean that it is used in everyday speach. In this case, there are better, more natural ways to translate this sentence where it wouldnt sound wrong to many native speakers.

    • 1367

    "Littera" meant a letter of the alphabet. In the plural (e.g. "litteras") it could mean a single piece of handwriting, a (single) letter (the kind you send) or literature. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/littera#Latin The Romans could be extremely literal (no pun intended) sometimes.


    All the 3 meanings were kept in French for "lettres".

    And the "lettres" in plural is also the only one meaning literature in French (not the singular, only meaning an alphabet letter or a postmail).

    [deactivated user]

      As in English: the letter A or B, a letter sent to the editor, and a man of letters.


      Yes, but It's not the same "a man of letters", and using "letters" to mean literature. I don't think English uses it this way.

      "My teacher of letters" wouldn't work.
      And "I like letters" to say "I like literature" wouldn't work neither.

      By the way, I suspect "man of letters" to be a translation of "homme de lettres" (not sure, but it would make sense), as the "letters" is not used to mean literature in English, so when asked why "man of letter" does exist, people answer that it means that the person is able to read and write (ex: https://www.quora.com/What-does-man-of-letters-mean). It proves that this usage of "letters" in English, with this meaning, is uncommon, and not intuitive.


      MAN OF LETTERS: First attested to in 1645, ‘man of letters’ may come form the French ‘homme de lettres.’ Originally the term meant ‘a scholar, a man of learning,’ but today it is mostly applied to authors, critics, or literary scholars.

      Note that the person that I quote, fail once again, to understand that "letters" means literature. It's not logical in English, it's logical in Romance languages.

      " Letters"It's in the expression"man of letters", but nowhere else. If I open my English dictionary, I don't see letters = literature. In French, they are synonyms, exactly the way it is in Latin, and it's not a coincidence.

      If I make this comment, it's because the meaning of "letters" were directly inherited in some Romance language (and not in English), and it's interesting to note how Romance languages still use the words, we can see remains of the ancient uses in Latin. It also exist in other Romance language, like the Spanish " hombre de letras"

      [deactivated user]

        The person you quote explains what the term denotes, but he does not translate the term literally. I’m not sure this means he doesn’t know what “letters” means. I should also point out that English men of letters tended to be thoroughly versed in Latin, and they were very well aware of the meanings of “litterae”. I accept that the emoji generation on the Internet may be less familiar with the term, and that they might suspect that it refers to someone who used snail mail.


        Probably a best translation would be "The idle women write many letters"... I got a strange translation as "long letter" instead of many letters. Letter can be translated as epistula but also as littera. In this case seems better assume there are many letters, than many letters in a letter.


        Without using the word bank, my sight translation was "The idle women write many letters," which seemed to me the only way to match cases for the words in both Latin and English


        I would suggest "at leisure", rather than "leisurely" or "idle".


        i.e. "Women at leisure write many letters," although the tiles don't currently match that.


        Rather than "at leisure", I would say "of leisure". Idle works fine, as well.


        That's what I had written too, except I used DL's (incorrect) "leisurely." I'm glad to see someone who apparently knows the cases wrote my same solution. Hmmm... and now I see it's DL's solution too, at the top of this page... so their "...write a long letter" has been corrected.


        Leisurely is not incorrect. It may sound old, old fashioned, unnatural, whatever you want, but not incorrect. I really believe speak a better English than us.


        Pierce, stop this futile quest. You are wrong. And you don't know English better than the MANY native English speakers who've commented here.


        Yes to idle women as a translation. I've heard of having a "leisurely time/dinner/stroll/[insert action here]" but "leisurely person" sounds odd to me.


        Hmmm. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone talk about a "leisurely woman" (or a "leisurely man"). I tried my best with "The women of leisure..." but no luck.


        This appears in a number of sentences


        Appearing in Duolingo sentences does not make it correct. As others have pointed out, it's not used to describe people. The problem is, we understand what the course creators meant but the English language doesn't have a good equivalent. "Lazy" has a negative connotation. What would you choose, laid-back, unhurried, relaxed, dillydallying?



        ōtĭōsus in the this context means "at leisure" or "relaxing" perhaps. You could say

        "The women relaxing write many letters."

        It can mean 'unemployed'

        "The unemployed women write many letters."

        so perhaps they are writing job applications?


        I wonder if "the relaxed women" might work better than "the women relaxing"?


        Yes, but appearing in Oxford or Cambridge makes it correct, de facto.

        I guess it's an archaism, but still grammatically correct.

        It's used to describe people, but not it's very uncommon, even if we can find it in literature A leisurely man

        • 1367

        Ah, but it doesn't appear in Oxford or Cambridge, does it? Their only examples are "leisurely pace" and "leisurely breakfast", neither of which are people. And your link just takes me to a Google search, and many of the results are either the names of products or created by non-native English speakers.

        The Oxford and Cambridge online entries are pretty brief. Perhaps they're trying to sell their more complete entries (Oxford certainly are). But there are plenty of other dictionaries online to check. And I've yet to find one that refers to a leisurely person.

        And, as a native English speaker, I don't recall ever hearing anyone use "leisurely" of people. So, all things considered, I don't think it's standard English usage.


        I found one recent article where "leisurely" is used to describe people. It's the second sentence in this article:


        In case you've reached your limit of NYTimes articles, I'll copy the sentence:

        "The camera briskly pans to a phalanx of leisurely ladies perched atop their chaises."

        So it is possible, but it's not very common. Still, I'm convinced now that the translation that Duo has for this sentence is valid English, even if it's not what I would say. By far the most frequent instances of "leisurely" were in phrases like "leisurely pace", or using it as an adverb, so it's understandable that it doesn't sound right to us.


        I've found tons of occurrences for "leisurely" used to apply to people.

        That is a chance that Duolingo make us improve our vocabulary!


        It's bad/incorrect English. Appearing in the NYtimes is no guarantee of correctness, though once it used to be the gold standard.

        Please don't depend on DL translations from Latin for correct English idioms.


        It appears in Lexico, which is a dictionary from Oxford.


        Yes, "women at leisure" or "of leisure" seems better to me as well.


        Somehow "women of leisure" feels like it is a euphemism for "meretrix".


        Agreed, I think "women of leisure" introduces a whole new connotation.


        Wow, I see you're already at level 14, congratulations!


        I tried "The women leisurely write many letters." but it was marked wrong.


        It's because "leisurely" is used an adjective here (yes, it sounds a rare usage, but not wrong, this word is a kind of exception, shaped like an adverb and can be adverb or adjective).

        The sentence means that the "leisurely" is part of the personality of the woman, not qualifying the action of writing like an adverb would.


        I'm not an English native speaker so i'm not surprised by this English irregularity of using the common adverb-suffix "ly" to form adjectives; some of which are also adverbs (as "weekly") while other are commonly not adverbs, but just adjectives (as "smelly"). I wrote this using -ly adjectives:

        "Some unruLY words with a likeLY adverb-suffix happen to actually be unscalLY adjectives. Many comeLY words, may be unlikeLY adjectives.

        These silLY sounds seem wrong for native speakers' shapeLY ears, who may have strongly linked the -ly suffix to adverbs, while having naturalized the wriggLy rules of unruLY English treacLY irregularities."


        Not a native myself, I don't know if it's not only an exception, I think it is.
        The adverb for smelly is smellily, so I think "smelly" is just smell+ y.(not ly).


        I did the same thing, but I know that I don't know my endings well. Do adverbs and adjectives have their own unique endings? And if I wanted to describe the way in which the women wrote the letters as "leisurely", what would be different from the original sentence?


        Litteras means letters?


        Literally, yes.

        It's like in French, "lettres" (when plural) can mean postmails, or it can also mean "literature".

        C'est mon professeur de lettres.


        Would "the leisurely woman writes much literature" been incorrect? I was thinking 'epistulas' would be letters and 'litteras' would be literature?


        "Litterae" can refer to either literature or letters; both are valid. However, Duo's sentence has "feminae otiosae" in the plural ("leisurely women"), and "much literature" sounds like a bit of an awkward phrasing (though is not strictly wrong). Better is "The leisurely women write a lot of literature."


        As others have noted here and on the other example using "otiosae," a better translation is probably "leisured" or "at leisure" - both terms not exactly in common use in today's society, but closer to the concept of otiosae: that is, having free time, not busy with other tasks.

        As an adjective, "leisurely" is generally applied to the activity, not the person - a leisurely walk, a leisurely meal, and so on. In the context of this sentence, it doesn't make all that much sense - the women, after all, are writing letters, not just lying back on the couch. It's possible that they are writing the letters quite slowly, taking breaks to pet their dogs or something, but in that case, "leisurely" should define the writing, not the women.


        Agreed, imho this is not an accurate translation as it's not correct English


        It must be correct English, as it can be found in many books. Try, in Google books.


        n the context of this sentence, it doesn't make all that much sense - the women, after all, are writing letters, not just lying back on the couch. It's possible that they are writing the letters quite slowly, taking breaks to pet their dogs or something, but in that case, "leisurely" should define the writing, not the women.

        It's possible that this adjective qualifies her nature, her personality, and not her action.

        If I say "My lazy son is cooking a meal", it doesn't mean that "lazy" has a link with the action he does.

        Leisurely can be applied to human beings, so it must qualify the personality, as an adjective, not the action.

        See the Oxford dictionary (called Lexico, but it's from Oxford):


        " a leisurely woman".

        Occurrences in books:





        Why "litteras" and not "epistulas"?


        Littera can mean a letter (the one a postman shoves through your letterbox), but, first of all, a letter of the alphabet (as a, b, c, d...)... It can also refer to someone's handwriting, or a book, an edict, a financial instrument, and some other thing.

        As for a letter (understood as the one you write and send by mail inside envelope), both "littera" and "epistula" are ok and should be accepted if the leisurely women write those kind of letters, and not, for instance, the ones in the alphabet.

        However littera is native Latin while epistula was a borrowed from the Ancient Greek ἐπιστολή. “Epistola” has a narrower meaning in the borrowing language, it means either a letter (as in “St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans”) or an official decree. So it would not be OK if the leisurely women write letters of the alphabet, and not the ones you send by mail or write to Santa Claus...

        Nowadays, a letter is mainly a private or personal letter, addressed to some particular person or group, while en epistle is an open letter intended for a massive audience. But this difference, if relevant, is very subtle and off-topic.


        OK, that's fine. It's just that in the first lessons, we are told that "epistulas" is the word for 'letters', and that "litteras" means 'literature'. It's a bit confusing when the definitions change.

        I would also have translated "otiosus/-a" as 'idle' : I see that this translation has now been accepted.

        [deactivated user]

          epistula = letter in the sense of an epistle; littera = a letter (A, B, C, etc.); litterae = letters (A, B, C, etc.), and hence a letter = epistula; litterae also = literature (“a man of letters” = literatus)


          Can multas mean both many and long?


          no, it means 'many' (multus) but agreeing with a feminine plural object (here litterās)


          Long is longus https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/longus#Latin


          The English translation is not correct.


          Why? Dictionaries says that you can use "leisurely" as an adjective to describe people.


          Honestly, no, they do not.

          If you can find ONE, please link it here. I have not found one.

          [deactivated user]

            The OED sv “Leisurely”. The few examples are “leisurely Reader” (1614); “leisurely minds” (Coleridge, Lay Sermon 1816); “the leisurely and rich agriculturalist” (1846). This still does not contradict the contention of all of us native speakers of English that “leisurely” is not now used to describe the agent, and indeed, it has rarely been used in this way. What passes for English on the Internet should not be used as evidence unless it is overwhelming, or is a citation of something much older. Otherwise, we shall have to accept any and every error of usage as proper usage.


            Since “litteras” may also mean “literature”, why can't “litteras multas” mean “much literature”?


            Maybe it could but it doesn't make a lot sense: they would need to be fēminae negōtiōsae perhaps, if they're writing a lot of books?


            Can otiosae be translated as lazy? It's definitely referred to the women not to the writing.


            So in Italian it would be something like "le donne oziose scrivono molte lettere" - (the lazy/idle women write many letters). I think it works perfectly, but I'm no language expert.

            • 1040

            Given so many people's objection to 'leisurely women', can someone explain why 'The women leisurely write many letters' is incorrect?


            In your example, leisurely would describe the action. It would be an adverb, in other words, so ótiósé rather than ótiósae. This course doesn't cover adverbs tho, so don’t be surprised that you haven’t learnt this form.

            So the sentence would be:

            Féminae litterás multás ótiósé scríbunt.

            In the original sentence,

            Féminae ótiósae litterás multás scríbunt.

            ótiósae can only refer to women as it is the only other word with a nominative, feminine, plural ending "ae".

            Many of the lessons here help you distinguish nominative (subject) case from accusative (object) case. There are review notes in the lessons to help with this as well IIRC.

            (long vowels here marked with accents)


            So, the words "littera" and "epistola/epistula" can be used interchangeably?

            • 1367

            Not quite. Littera actually means a letter of the alphabet. But its plural litterae was often used metaphorically to mean an epistle.

            The sentence above contains litteras multas - "many letters of the alphabet" or "a long epistle". In fact, when this course began, the translation for this sentence was given as "The leisurely women write long letters." This was later, inexplicably, changed to the current "The leisurely women write many letters." Which is a worse translation in my opinion. It only makes sense if the women are writing many letters of the alphabet. And that's something we'd rarely have cause to say in English, and not the interpretation I think most people in this forum are giving it.


            How do you differentiate 'many letters' from 'long letters'?


            litterās longās scrībō is I write long letters; multās litterās longās scrībō would be I write many long letters. IIRC adjectives of number and size tend to go before the subject (not compulsory) so fēminae ōtiōsae multās litterās scrībunt might be better.


            There appears to be an error here in the preferred response ... why not “many letters” instead of “a long letter”


            "Many letters" was the suggested correction for me, I don't think "a long letter"would be right here. Wouldn't be "litera longa"?

            [deactivated user]

              otium = idleness; negotium = not-idleness (=business); otiosus = idle; as for leisure, this derives from the Latin verb “licet” (“it is allowed”), and a person of leisure originally was someone with permission. You have permission to do something, so you have the leisure to do it, and that thing is leisurely.


              Leisure comes from French loisir (old French form: leisir).
              It means first "to be allowed", yes, as it's still the case in modern French "avoir le loisir de faire = to be allowed in the meaning of to be able to do.

              And as a second meaning, it means :free time, ; idleness, inactivity
              (with a meaning of hobbies, and fun activities in modern French).

              The meaning in Latin is sometimes far, you have to consider the meaning in Old French, because this word comes from Old French, and not directly from Latin. That means that the meaning could have degenerate between the Latin root and the English word: there's a go-between language. The English words don't care about what is the Latin root originally (sometimes some words have been re-latinized), but everything is inherited from its mother word: old French. It means that if Old French got alternative meanings, by accident, because of the history, because of the confusion with another French word, or whatever, or changed totally the meaning (it happens), the English word inherits from this altered meaning, not from the original Latin meaning (exception: re-latinized words)
              It's really not possible that the meaning get altered in old French, or one of the meaning was lost, and the English word kept it, directly from Latin.


              [deactivated user]

                What if the original old French meaning of “loisir” is the meaning that entered English at the time, and the other meanings in French developed later? The word “leisure” also developed its own meanings in English. You do not have to be idle in your leisure time. The point about leisure is that is freedom from compulsory activity, not activity in general.


                I check and for «otiosae» in french we have the adj «oisives» (f.pl) and its not like lazy i would say it's more like the state of a student during summertime, with no preoccupations or anything important to do, your mind is just empty


                'Leisurely' is both an adjective and an adverb so 'leisurely women' for 'famine otiosae' is correct. Source: Chambers English Dictionary.


                Given that otiosa / otiosae can also be translated as inactive or idle, "idle women" would be better English.


                why is '' the women leisurely write many letters'' wrong??

                • 1367

                Because you're using "leisurely" as an adverb here. It describes how the writing is being done. But "otiosae" is an adjective - it describes the women, not the writing.


                I believe it should be "The women leisurely write many letters". Since leisurely is an adverb, it should be attached to a verb not a noun.


                "Leisurely" can also be an adjective, and in this case, it is.


                Perfect audio, for once.


                I thought 'litteras' means literatures and letter, 'epistula'.

                Why is there achange?


                The adjective "leisured" would be a better fit than the adverb "leisurely."


                There are numerous translations for otiosus, one is simply "idler".


                No, this isn't how a native speaker would translate it because leisurely is an adverb describing how the women write letters, not describing how the women are. We would say: "The women leisurely write many letters." Or "The women write many letters leisurely."


                "Leisurely" can be either an adjective or an adverb. Since "otiosae" is an adjective, the English translation uses "leisurely" as an adjective; Duo's translation is correct.


                Yes, leisurely can be a prenominal attributive adjective, but can it be used to describe a person who does things in a leisurely manner?


                Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't use it that way. I checked a few dictionaries, and their definitions at least plausibly allow "leisurely" describing a person, so I don't really think the sentence is wrong, but perhaps just a bit unusual.


                I go according to my own feelings and "She is a leisurely woman" works fine for me, although it might be uncommon.


                Thank you both (Cop and Tass) for sharing your intuitions. So, a leisurely woman should be possible, though uncommon or unusual. Cool :) Found some naturally occurring examples of the expression.


                Leisurely is an adverb, not an adjective.


                Leisurely can be either an adjective or an adverb. An example of an adjectival use is: The women walked down the road at a leisurely pace. I have personally never seen leisurely used as an adjective to describe a person, as is used here in this course. Were I to apply it to a person I would use a synonym such as "unhurried" or "idle". As in, "The unhurried women walked along at a leisurely pace."

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