Sic Semper Tyrannis – Meaning, Origin and Usage

The expression ‘sic semper tyrannis’ is one that is found in ancient inscriptions, sometimes mentioned in history books and occasionally exclaimed at assassinations. What does the term ‘sic semper tyrannis’ mean? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this Latin term.

Meaning

The term ‘sic semper tyrannis’ is a common expression that is derived directly from Latin.

‘Sic semper tyrannis’ is a sentence that literally translates into English as the phrase, “Thus always to tyrants.”

The phrase ‘sic semper tyrannis’ is a lot like saying “good riddance” and implies that those who live their lives as tyrants will come to their end as a result of their unfair rules and reign.

The expression is one that is common in law and philosophy although there are also other common uses of the term.

The term is often used as an expression of liberty or freedom, and has sometimes been quoted in fictional movies, series and books.

An alternate, joking meaning is sometimes used in law enforcement that says the term stands for “get your foot off my neck”.

‘Sic semper tyrannis’ is reported to have been the sentence is reported to refer to tyrant assassinations that go back further than that of Julius Caesar. The same sentence was supposedly said by Lincoln’s assassin, as he believed he was bringing an end to “tyranny” with the act.

As a symbol of liberty and freedom the term appears on the US 149th Squadron seal, as well as the state seal for the state of Virginia.

Example Usage

“I think that Robert Mugabe has finally died. Sic semper tyrannis!”

“Does anybody remember Tom from MySpace, or is that finally something that most kids these days have to Google to find out about? Sic semper tyrannis.”

“Someone might finally buy Twitter, but what’s going to happen when Zuckerberg doesn’t get what he wants? Sic semper tyrannis.”

“I’m finally moving out of the family house so that I can get my own place and live somewhere with my own rules. My parents suck. Sic semper tyrannis.”

Origin

The term ‘sic semper tyrannis’ is believed to have originated in ancient Rome, with the assassination of several rulers that include the eventual stabbing of Julius Caesar: after its use became known, the term was translated into English by George Wythe after the founding of the United States and was later adapted into more popular use.

After its use by Wythe, the term became popular as one that is said upon the death of a tyrant – and the term has been referenced by several assassins as well as in fictional stories that make reference to it.

In the 2000s to 2010s, the term would receive increased mentions thanks to the introduction of social media and the fact that general access to knowledge has become more widespread.

The term has also become a trending social media tag, when people seriously (or ironically) refer to the end of a person’s reign or popularity.

Phrases Similar to Sic Semper Tyrannis

  • Death to the tyrant
  • Good riddance

Phrases Opposite to Sic Semper Tyrannis

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Sic semper tyrannis

Ways People May Say Sic Semper Tyrannis Incorrectly

There are several different ways in which the term ‘sic semper tyrannis’ can be used in the wrong way.

If someone does not understand the translation of the term (or its revolutionary context), then the term can miss the mark with its audience or others can simply not understand what is being said.

The term is rarely said in its English form, and the Latin term is preferred.

There is no acceptable abbreviation for the term, although it can sometimes be expressed as a hashtag for social media purposes.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Sic Semper Tyrannis

The term ‘sic semper tyrannis’ is almost most often used as a revolutionary exclamation, but it can also be used in a joking or sarcastic sense to point out that the “reign” of something or someone has come to an end.

It is common to capitalize only the first letter, but sometimes the first letter of each word is also expressed as a capital letter where the term is being used as a saying (or slogan) instead of being said by a person.

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