Latin for “tweet” and “Twitter” – WDTPRS POLL

Fewer questions in this twittering world burn at hot as the proper Latin terminology for Twitter.

In a couple places, for example on the entry about the Z-Cam and Radio Sabina,  I have suggested that Latin for “tweet” as in the use of Twitter should be pipata, “tweets” from pipio “to twitter, chirp”.

I now read this from rogueclassicism (which I look at everyday) from this about the all important question of how to tweet on Twitter, Latinly.

I am not entirely convinced.

This past weekend, I was pondering whether anyone had bothered yet to render the word “Twitter” into Latin, [Yes.  I did.] and threw the question out — naturally — to my Twitter followers.  What I didn’t want was simply a transcription in Latin of something that sounded like ‘twitter’ … I was looking for a word which some Classical Roman might have used had social media of our sort existed back in the day. The word had to be Classically-attested, and ideally wasn’t a hapax or something culled from a disputed line in an apparatus.

I, and several others, immediately thought of Catullus’s sparrow hopping about in Lesbia’s lap (Carmina III, incipit, via the Latin Library):

LVGETE, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum uenustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae,
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.
nam mellitus erat suamque norat
ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,
nec sese a gremio illius mouebat,
sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc
ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.


No matter what one thinks the passer actually refers to (e.g. see this short analysis of Carmina II), pipiare (‘chirping’ or ‘peeping’ in the avian sense) does seem to be related to the whole concept of Twitter and ‘tweeting’, obviously.

Accordingly, I chanced upon a nice page which conjugated pipiare in all its forms which offered a sort of ‘menu of potential terminology’ and initially was in a gerundive state of mind, and threw out the suggestion of Pipianda (things chirped) for Twitter, and pipiandum (a thing chirped) for a tweet. Other forms were suggested, most notably pipulum for Tweet, by Dave Oosterhuis (@VerbaLatina). Bill Thayer (@LacusCurtius) suggested ‘pipiatum‘ to save a character (we do tweet in a 140 character world, of course), which was also nice because it brought back the ‘t’ sound.

That ‘t’ sound seems to have latched onto my brain, and after some confusion (on my part) with the suggestion of tuitear (from @latinimberbe, who was giving me the Spanish word, but I didn’t catch on), I was waiting to see if any ‘t’ words came to be suggested.

Coincidentally, Daniel Russell (@NotusNasoNovit) brought up that he used titiatum‘ to refer to Twitter because it did preserve the ‘t’. [Hmmm…] I had seen that word, but I could not discern whether it was Classical or Medieval. According to Daniel, in the OLD the word occurs in Suetonius — but not in the Lives of the Caesars, but in some obscure work called the Prata (fr. 161) which seems to be a catalog of animal noises. In the August Reifferscheid, Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl edition which is online, we see the simple phrase: [But I thought the idea was to find something that was more than … obscure.]

passer titiare

That seemed to fit the bill nicely. Late consideration was also given to Aurelien Berra, who mentioned using fritinnio, fringultio, and frigutio in a Twitter-related discussion last summer.

A check of this word yielded (with help) the following from the Latin Dictionary at Perseus:


While the word is listed as ‘twitter’ or ‘chirp’, from the birds described as using it — blackbirds and jackdaws [Jerome’s description of Ambrose, btw.] — and the transferral of it to refer to stammering and stuttering, it doesn’t quite have the same elegance as pipiatum or titiatum. In the end, for me anyway, it was a bit of a coin toss and it boiled down to how good it looked as a logo:


Aesthetically, the latter looks almost like the original (so is a translation of an image as well) and also has the nice feature of not having descenders, which seems to be something folks avoid in logos for some reason.

And so I humbly suggest (and/or confirm or agree): Twitter in Latin should be Titiatio and a tweet Titiatum


OKAY… this needs a WDTPRS poll.  I am not saying I, personally, will perforce go by the results.  But I want the data and arguments for the choice, which I hope you will give in the combox, below.

The Latin for "tweet" and "Twitter" should be based on:

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. De Tribulis says:

    Pipient vel titient alii, si eis placet! Ego tamen minurriam, sicut usque ad hoc minurrivi, quotiens minurritiones in rete mittere cupiam. :)

  2. Alex S. says:

    Verbam “titio” praeoptavi propter sonitus similitudinem.

  3. oakdiocesegirl says:

    Naa..ah, Fr. Z Looks like your readers agree w/me. Your choice is too sexually suggestive. Too much like tits or titillation. I do not tweet, b/c I am not a twit. Nor that other 4-ltr wrd w/a different vowel. Pip, pip, hooray!

  4. albinus1 says:

    I don’t see the need for preserving the “t” just because that’s what the English has. After all, nos discipuli Reginaldi Terentiique (i.e., of Foster and Tunberg) have long been referring to the World Wide Web, www, as TTT (i.e. Tela Totius Terrae), without feeling a need to conform to the English (thought we do preserve the alliteration of the English).

    I agree with looking for a non-obscure, non-recondite source, and the Catullus poem clinches it.

  5. Marius2k4 says:


    When referring to internet messenger agents (AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, MSN Messneger, etc…), what would be a good latinate neologism? I’ve been using “epistularium” personally, but I’m trying to get a decent consensus, as I’m planning on teaching my newborn son Latin in a quasi-native manner, and neo-latin will certainly have to be a part of that, in order to describe the modern world. Thanks!

  6. liebemama says:

    “Es ist das Hoechste der Gefuehle” went through my head as I read “pipio, pipiare, Pipiatio and Pipatum”. Anyway, I did hear music.

  7. skull kid says:

    Definitely pip et al. Mainly for the reasons oakdiocesegirl gave, but also because it looks and sounds nicer.

  8. Iconophilios says:

    Pipiatio, pipiatum, pipio, &c, are better, just for the superior sonicky qualities. They sound better than titiatio, &c.

  9. ghp95134 says:

    I agree with oakdiocesegirl …. alas, I confess the 6th grader in me woke up as soon as I saw tititio. Let’s stick with the “pipsqueaks.”

    Pip-pip & Cheerio,

  10. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    The Pipiones have it. WTG!

  11. Jesson says:

    I’ve used Strepitus in the translation of the Litany for the Conversion of Internet Thugs I’ve made and set into tone. I’ll be waiting for the official results, and then change the text.

  12. Daniel Arseneault says:

    At ego quidem nescio quid utilitatis istud Twitter adferat ad nos qui plebei sumus. Ne unum quidem hominem vel adulescentem novi qui Twitter umquam usus fuerit. Forsan placebit rogationem alteram ferre: Numquid Twitter usurparis necne?

  13. Cathy says:

    I voted for pip-. My Latin’s not very good. Would it be ok to pronounce it “peep” for short?

  14. Robert_H says:

    I like the descenders in pipiatio. They lend a visual balance to the ascenders and tittles.

  15. Scitoviasdomini says:

    I also find the logo for “pipiatio” more appealing because of the repeated rounded shapes of the p’s, a, and o. Much more visually appealing, I think, than titiatio. And of course, Catullus attests! (The rounded shapes being, of course, more appropriate for Lesbia and the stems of the t’s for himself. But I digress.)

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