carpe diem

car·​pe di·​em | \ ˈkär-pe-ˈdē-ˌem How to pronounce carpe diem (audio) , -ˈdī-, -əm How to pronounce carpe diem (audio) \

Definition of carpe diem

: the enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future The multimillionaire said that he owed his success in life to his belief in carpe diem.

The Origin of Carpe Diem

This Latin phrase, which literally means "pluck the day," was used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that we should enjoy life while we can. His full injunction, "carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,” can be translated as “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one,” but carpe diem alone has come to be used as shorthand for this entire idea, which is more widely known as "seize the day."

The 1989 movie Dead Poets Society introduced late-20th-century audiences to the phrase, but the sentiment has been expressed in many literatures, perhaps most famously in 16th- and 17th-century English poetry. One of the best-known examples (and an example featured prominently in Dead Poets Society) is in the first stanza of Robert Herrick's 1648 "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time":

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

Tomorrow will be dying.

While the sentiment has long been expressed in English, the phrase carpe diem didn't begin appearing in print in English until the early 19th century. Two centuries later, the phrase is found on mugs and T-shirts and in the names of various enterprises and organizations.

Did you know?

Carpe diem, a phrase that comes from the Roman poet Horace, means literally "Pluck the day", though it's usually translated as "Seize the day". A free translation might be "Enjoy yourself while you have the chance". For some people, Carpe diem serves as the closest thing to a philosophy of life as they'll ever have.

Examples of carpe diem in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Detroit Red Wings have a carpe diem and carpe Devils approach to the final game of the season. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, 29 Apr. 2022 The antidote to most existential woes is indeed gratitude, along with a healthy dose of carpe diem, and that comes across loud and clear. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, 25 Apr. 2022 Now is the time to embrace a carpe diem philosophy at warp speed. Chris Carosa, Forbes, 30 Jan. 2022 Plus, the wiser part of me knows that all this carpe diem business is better suited for those with brighter health outlooks than my brothers and me. New York Times, 23 Sep. 2021 After all, what better way to carpe diem than dressed in head-to-toe Fendi? Zoe Ruffner, Harper's BAZAAR, 15 Sep. 2021 When Smith spoke to your entire team, his message had a carpe diem theme, reminding you to enjoy each step of the journey, to embrace opportunity, to stay present with an understanding that nothing in the future is promised. Dan Wiederer,, 19 Aug. 2021 There’s never a perfect time to do IVF or have a baby, not even when there isn’t an ongoing global pandemic, so carpe diem. Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2021 Saviano credits her own carpe diem spirit and fascination with storytelling to them. Piet Levy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 17 Mar. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'carpe diem.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of carpe diem

1817, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for carpe diem

Latin, literally, pluck the day

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The first known use of carpe diem was in 1817

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Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Carpe diem.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on carpe diem

Nglish: Translation of carpe diem for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about carpe diem


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