Carpe Diem – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to motivate people into seizing the day? You could always use the phrase, “Carpe Diem.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The meaning of “Carpe Diem” is “seize the day.” It’s a popular phrase, brought back into everyday use through the movie “Dead Poets Society,” featuring the late Robin Williams. In the film, Robin teaches a class of private college students. He uses the phrase in his teachings to convince the boys to make the most of their youth while it lasts.

By “seizing the day,” you are taking command of your time and actions, moving you closer to achieving your goals. The expression is common among self-help gurus and personal development literature, where it attempts to motivate people into leading productive lives.

Example Usage

“We everyone, I’m off to work. Kid’s have a good day at school and remember to Carpe Diem!”

Carpe Diem, everybody! It’s first light, and it’s time to get up to catch the fish.”

Carpe Diem! It’s a brand new day, and I’m ready to take on the world.”

“My son told me that he didn’t feel like going to school that day. So, we stayed home, and I made him watch “Dead Poets Society.” After the “Carpe Diem” scene, he told me he felt guilty about not going to school.”

“Every day is a chance at a new opportunity and a new way to improve your life. Carpe Diem, gentlemen, and make your dreams come true.”


The origin of “Carpe Diem” comes from Horace’s injunction.

“carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.”

The phrase appears in his Odes, published in 23 BCE. The closest translation of the phrase to English is “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one.”

As a result, the saying changed over time to the shorter version of “seize the day.” The first appearance of “Carpe Diem” in print comes from the Robert Frost poem, “Carpe Diem,” published in 1938.

Robert uses a figure called Age to encourage children to be “Be happy, happy, happy / And seize the day of pleasure.” The original meaning was that life comes and goes too fast, and we should all make the most of the time we have.

The phrase became popular in the late 1900s as self-improvement gurus started to use it to motivate crowds and inspire action.

Phrases Similar to Carpe Diem

  • Proactive.
  • Find a way.
  • Look for the solution.
  • Make the most of what time you have.

Phrases Opposite to Carpe Diem

  • Nihilism.
  • Apathy.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Carpe Diem.
  • Seize the day.

Ways People May Say Carpe Diem Incorrectly

Using the phrase without any gusto behind it usually doesn’t carry its positive message, making it sound more like a platitude than a motivator. Carpe diem means “seize the day” when translated from Latin to English. So, using it for any other reason would be incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Carpe Diem

You can use the expression “Carpe Diem” when you’re trying to tell someone to muster up the energy they have to face the day. You can also use it when you’re out the door and on the way to work as a way to tell the family you’re off to face a brand new day with a good attitude in mind.

Carpe Diem usually means to make the most of the day and the time you have. So, using it as a motivating statement to someone else or yourself implies you value your time and theirs and the contribution you get to make to society and your purpose while using it.

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