Quo Vadis – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Asking someone where there are headed is a pretty common thing to do. Be it a friend, loved one, or even just a random person. If you are interested in adding a bit of flair to the question, “Quo vadis” is a great way to do it.

This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The phrase “quo vadis” is a Latin phrase that translates to “where are you going?” It is also often seen as “where are you marching?” or “whither goest thou?”. As implied, you may ask someone this out of curiosity of their destination or their whereabouts.

As will be explained later in the “origin” section of this post, “Quo Vadis” has religious roots, and is most commonly used by those that subscribe to the Christian religion. Being asked where you are going in terms of religion rather changes the meaning from a corporal place, to the divine. In other words, are you going to heaven or to hell. More information can be found in the video (here).

Example Usage

“Quo vadis, Amber? Oh, can you get me more soda from the store, then?”

“Quo vadis, Tom? Boston? I’ve never been.”

“Yeah, I need to go to town later to pick up some things- oh, quo vadis, Amy?”

“Quo vadis? The mall? Give me a second to put my shoes on, I’m coming.”

“Quo vadis, Rachel? Oh, can you drop me off at the hair salon on your way out, then?”

Origin

The phrase “quo vadis” has religious ties. It refers to a Christian tradition involving Saint Peter. In the Acts of Peter, Peter is running away from being crucified in Rome during the persecution of Christians and is able to greet Jesus after he has arisen on the road Appian Way outside of the city. Peter asks, “quo vadis?” to which Jesus replies that he is going to the city to be crucified upside down. This helps Peter gain courage to go back into the city.

The phrase is also seen multiple times, supposedly exactly 7 times. It was found in the Vulgate translation of the Bible. In one section, Jesus was asked the same question by Peter. In Rome, the Church of Domine Quo Vadis is said to have been built where the alleged meeting between the disciple Peter and Jesus occurred. The phrase has also been seen in various other pieces of literature and media. Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote a novel titled Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero. The popular television series MASH has an episode titled “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”

Phrases Similar to Quo Vadis

  • Where are you off to?
  • Where are you heading to?
  • What is your destination?

Phrases Opposite to Quo Vadis

  • I don’t care where you’re going.
  • I don’t want to know.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • “Quo vadis” translates from Latin to mean “where are you going?”

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Quo Vadis

“Quo vadis” is a way of asking someone “where are you going?”. Using the phrase to mean anything else would be incorrect. Some ways that “quo vadis” is used incorrectly are:

  • What is that in your hands, Lizzy? Quo vadis?
  • I have to be in to work early tomorrow. What about you, Nathan? Quo vadis? What time do you come in?
  • I have to take chemistry this semester. Quo vadis, Arthur? Are you taking it too?
  • I’m not sure what to make for dinner tonight. Quo vadis, Amanda? What do you want to eat?
  • My birthday is next week. Quo vadis, Wyatt? When is yours?

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Quo Vadis

  • Quo vadis, Jack? To get your hair cut? I’ll come, I’d like to get a manicure.
  • Quo vadis, Johnny? Oh, you’re going to class. Have fun, I’ll see you later.
  • Quo vadis, Heather? You’re going out to get lunch? Just let me grab my wallet, I’ll come.
  • Quo vadis, Mandy? To Target? Can you get me more face wash?

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