The Meaning of Carpe Diem: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the meaning of carpe diem? This Latin phrase may be confusing, but this article can teach you all about using it correctly.

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What Does Carpe Diem Mean?

The literal translation of carpe diem is “seize the day.” This Latin phrase, though it comes from a long-dead language, is still used in modern English as its original Latin. The phrase carpe diem is pronounced “ˈkɑːpɪ ˈdiːɛm.” This phrase is often used in the present time as an interjection. Different people might use the Latin carpe diem as a justification to go after a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with little thought or for other different things.

While carpe diem started out as a phrase from Horace that encouraged people to appreciate their life experiences, it has since been co-opted as a phrase related to a mentality of industrialism and a person’s pursuit of their own happiness rather than the greater good. 

In our instant-gratification-obsessed consumer culture, the act of seizing the day refers to sleep deprivation, precarious economic lifestyles, and other abstract things and commodities that supposedly make self-reliant individuals better than others. This modern world of aggressive action is the antithesis of what Horace meant by carpe diem.

What Are Synonyms of Carpe Diem?

Many phrases have similar meanings to carpe diem. Look at the list of synonyms below:  

  •  act while an opportunity exists
  •  capitalize on an advantage
  •  do not procrastinate
  •  don’t procrastinate
  •  enjoy the moment
  •  enjoy the present
  •  exploit an opportunity
  •  gather rosebuds
  •  grab the chance
  •  grab the day
  •  have an opportunity to do something
  •  have your fun
  •  improve the occasion
  •  live for the day
  •  live for today
  •  make good use of an opportunity
  •  make hay
  •  make hay while the sun shines
  •  make the most of an opportunity
  •  make the most of one’s opportunities
  •  make the most of the present moment
  •  not be behindhand
  •  pluck the day
  •  seize the day
  •  seize the present
  •  seize the present day
  •  take no thought of the morrow

What Are Example Sentences Containing Carpe Diem?

Person 1: Come on, let’s ditch journalism class and go to the party! Carpe diem, right? All the teacher will give you is a smack on the wrist. Do you want to get to your 81st birthday and realize you’ve done nothing?

Person 2: Don’t use proverbs and metaphors against me, Collins. That’s practically the existential crime of the century.

Person 1: You never want to do anything. Come on, take the bull by the horns! You never know what could happen. Take in the pleasures of the moment! Carpe diem!

Person 2: Just because I don’t want to snort your drug of choice doesn’t mean I don’t want to do anything. I just have little trust in the quality of those drugs. Plus, whenever you use that motto things go wrong.

What Are Translations of Carpe Diem?

Carpe diem is originally a Latin phrase. This translates to seize the day. However, we often use this term in its original Latin when we use it in English. In other languages, however, native speakers might use their own translations for seize the day. This list of translations for the phrase carpe diem from  Word Sense provides translations for carpe diem from around the world. 

  • Mandarin: 及時行樂‎, 及时行乐‎ (jíshíxínglè), 把握今朝 (bǎ wò jīnzhāo), (literary) 花開堪折直須折‎, 花开堪折直须折‎ (huā kāi kān zhé zhí xū zhé)
  • Polish: chwytaj dzień‎
  • French: cueille le jour‎, carpe diem‎
  • Portuguese: carpe diem‎
  • Russian: лови́ моме́нт‎
  • Swedish: fånga dagen‎
  • Italian: cogli l’attimo‎, vivere alla giornata‎
  • Danish: fang dagen‎
  • Turkish: günü yakala‎, anı yaşa‎, günü yaşa‎, gündegün‎
  • Norwegian: grip dagen‎
  • Finnish: tartu hetkeen‎
  • Indonesian: raih hari ini‎
  • Hebrew: קרפה דיים‎
  • Dutch: pluk de dag‎
  • Slovene: užij dan‎
  • German: Nutze den Tag‎

How Has Carpe Diem Been Used in Writing and Speeches?

The term carpe diem was first used by the Roman poet Horace in 23 BCE. In his work Odes, Horace uses the phrase “Sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” which literally translates to, “While we’re talking, envious time is fleeing: pluck the day, put no trust in the future.” 

It has continued to be used in ancient Greek literature and lyric poetry. This was used by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (founder of the philosophy of Epicureanism) as well as poets in the 16th century and 17th century, such as Robert Herrick, one of the Cavalier poets. He stated, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old time is still a-flying,” he states, “And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying,” in his poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” in Hesperides in 1648.

Additionally, the Metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell made use of this idea as well. “Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime,” he writes, “But time is short, the poem continues, so Now let us sport us while we may; And now, like amorous birds of prey, Rather at once our time devour Than languish in his slow-chapped power,” in his 1681 poem “To His Coy Mistress.”

Robert Frost most famously used the phrase in the titular “Carpe Diem,” a poem from 1938. Here, he encourages children to “Be happy, happy, happy / And seize the day of pleasure.” Lord Byron used the term in the early 19th century.

Nowadays, this term can be seen in marketing, as the name of a business, and more. It has even spurred its own modern-day phrase YOLO, which stands for “you only live once.” Philosophers like Roman Krznaric have also explored this phrase. He is the author of Carpe Diem Regained.

The term carpe diem is a Latin term that means seize the day. This was first used by philosopher and poet Horace.


  1. carpe diem | Origin, Meaning, Uses, Examples, & Facts | Britannica 
  2. carpe diem: meaning, origin, translation | WordSense Dictionary 
  3. The meaning and origin of the expression: Carpe diem | Phrases UK
  4. How “Carpe Diem” Got Lost in Translation | JSTOR Daily 
  5. 64 Words and Phrases for Carpe Diem | Power Thesaurus