• 3-minute read
  • 19th March 2018

Ibid., Op Cit., Et Al. (Latin Terms in Referencing)

If you want to sound smart and/or pretentious, dropping the odd Latin phrase into conversation is a good way to go. Most of the time, though, Latin isn’t how we communicate these days.

Unless you're an ancient Roman, of course.
Unless you’re an ancient Roman, of course.

The one exception, of course, is in academic writing. This is partly because academics like to use Latin words to sound smart (see above). But it’s also because there are a lot of Latin terms used in referencing. Here, then, is our guide to some common Latin terms used when citing sources.

Et Al. (And Others)

We’ve discussed how to use ‘et al.’ before on this blog, but here’s a quick reminder: ‘et al.’ means ‘and others’ and is generally used when a source has too many authors to list in one place.

For example, if a study has six authors, listing all of them in an in-text citation would be impractical:

This was proven in a study last year (Smith, Jones, Wilson, Mulgrew, Gilligan and Kibler, 2017).

As such, many referencing systems recommend simply giving the first name followed by ‘et al.’:

This was proven in a study last year (Smith et al., 2017).

The full list of authors would then be given in the reference list at the end of the document. Remember, though, that different referencing systems have different rules for when to use ‘et al.’

Ibid. (In the Same Place)

The other common Latin abbreviation used in academic referencing is ‘ibid.’ This is short for ibidem and means ‘in the same place’. It is therefore used for repeat citations, especially in footnotes:

1. Smith, Dead Languages for Dummies (London: PME, 2008), p. 23.
2. Ibid., p. 45.

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The second citation above, for example, refers to page 45 of the same source as the previous citation.

Op. Cit. and Loc. Cit. (In the Place/Work Cited)

‘Op. cit.’ is short for opere citato, meaning ‘in the work cited’. ‘Loc. cit.’, meanwhile, is short for loco citato, meaning ‘in the place cited’. They are both used for repeat citations, but in different ways.

‘Loc. cit.’ is used when referring to exactly the same page in the same text as the previous citation by the same author (for non-consecutive citations, it comes after the author’s name). But ‘op. cit.’ is used when referring to a different part of the same text later in your document:

1. Jones, La La Latin: Ancient Music (New York: Penguin, 1975), p. 124.
2. Loc. cit.
3. Wilson, How to Alienate People with Words (Oxford: OUP, 2002), p. 5.
4. Jones, loc. cit.
5. Op. cit., p. 201.

In the example above, the first, second and fourth citations all refer to p. 124 of the Jones text. We then use ‘op. cit.’ for the final citation to refer to a different page in the same text.

Passim (Here and There)

Finally, the word ‘passim’ comes from the Latin term passus, which means ‘scattered’. In academic writing, we therefore use it to show that an idea is mentioned in various places throughout a text:

Using Latin phrases makes you look clever (see Mulgrew, 2004, passim).

However, this should only be used when you can’t cite just one part of a source.

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