The meaning of ‘Terra es, terram ibis’ in English

operaSup doods?

Here is a bit of Latin for you on a Monday morning. I always assumed that

Terra es, terram ibis

itself a shortening for :

Terra es et in terram ibis

and translated as

“You are earth and to the earth you will return” or “Dust you are and dust you will be”

although literally meaning “you are earth and into (the) earth you will go”, came from the Vulgate (the Latin bible).

I looked online and discovered that it came from Genesis (3:19) (powerful stuff), or so the entire internet told me.

I don’t trust the internet, and I have a copy of the vulgate, so I checked.

Genesis 3:19 is actually written:

… quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Well, the sense is the same, but  ‘terra es et in terram ibis’ is most definitely a newer and more catchy version.

In case you are wondering:

pulvis: dust, powder

revertere: to revert.

By the way,

Terra es, terram ibis

is not only a shortening but grammatically incorrect (if such things bother your inner pedant).


is the accusative form of


It is in the accusative form, as it is governed by the preposition ‘in‘  which in Latin takes the accusative when it has the meaning ‘into’.

As the evenings draw in, I’m thinking about adding more to the Latin sections on SurfaceLanguages.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *