You are here:

Latin/Latin Proverb


Dear Maria,
at first my question is if you know the source to the proverb "mors lupi, agnis vita."
Is there any special meaning?
I searched for a long time on my own, but I couldnt find anything.

secondly i tried my best to change the proverb on my own, but my last latin lessons were in school, that means a really long time ago :D
i wanted to say "death for the wolf means life for the swans" and thought it has to be:
mors lupi, cygnis vita.

Thank you so much for your help, youre doing a great job here!
sometimes i spen hours just reading other questions and try to learn something :)


Dear Alexa,

Actually there is no classical source for the proverb expressed as a chiasmus “Mors lupi, agnis vita” literally meaning “The death of the wolf [is] life to the lambs”, where the verb into the square brackets denotes that in Latin the verb EST (=is) is implied.

Such a rhetorical inversion based on two contrasting pairs, i.e. “ mors “ (death) as opposed to “vita” (life), and “lupi “ (of the wolf) as opposed to “agnis” (to the lambs), marked just as the Greek letter “chi” (X)[hence the term "chiasmus"], probably derives from a Phaedrus Fable entitled  “Lupus et agnus” (The wolf and the lamb) where a lamb is falsely accused and killed by a wolf.
(See )

In short, the proverb “Mors lupi, agnis vita” wants to point out that the death of the wolf, that usually hunts for sheep and lambs, means life for the lambs and sheep, that is to say that the end of a tyrannical injustice saves the innocent victims of such injustice.

As for the translation of  your adaptation of the above-mentioned proverb,  it is just “Mors lupi, cygnis vita”, as you say, but also “Mors lupi, cycnis vita”, since “swan” is in Latin either “cygnus” or “cycnus” (nominative case).

Please note that:

-MORS (subject in the nominative case,3rd.declension)= the death

-LUPI (gentive singular of LUPUS, 2nd declension) =of the wolf

-AGNIS (dative plural of AGNUS, 2nd declension) = to the lambs

-CYGNIS/CYCNIS (dative plural of CYGNUS/CYCNUS, 2nd. declension) = to the swans

-VITA (subject in the nominative case, 1st declension) = life

Hope this can be helpful to you.

Best regards,

Phaedrus, (born c. 15 BC, Thrace—died AD 50, Italy), Roman fabulist, the first writer to Latinize whole books of fables, producing free versions in iambic metre of Greek prose fables then circulating under the name of Aesop. A slave by birth, Phaedrus went to Italy early in life, became a freedman in the emperor Augustus’household, and received the usual education in Greek and Latin authors.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




I am an expert in Latin Language and Literature and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning this matter.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Ph.D. in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2017 All rights reserved.