carpe diem


car·​pe di·​em ˈkär-pe-ˈdē-ˌem How to pronounce carpe diem (audio)
-əm How to pronounce carpe diem (audio)
: 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.

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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 Marie and the character are aligned in a demented, carpe diem sort of way. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 25 May 2023 Chalk it up to a case of carpe diem, says one local guy who should know. Doug George, Chicago Tribune, 7 Apr. 2023 Aside from Noodle's inane ability to give us permission to carpe diem the heck out of our day or flop like a sack of potatoes, the 13-year-old pug has brought together a community of millions and given us yet another thing to look forward to when life seems bleak. Rasha Ali, USA TODAY, 22 Oct. 2021 The pandemic overlaid the natural nonchalance of Floridians with a carpe diem mentality, says Glaser, who recently became known for flipping Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach estate. Lucy Alexander, Robb Report, 5 Mar. 2023 And now, with the addition of songs (music by Jeanine Tesori; lyrics by Lindsay-Abaire) that turn the carpe diem dial to maximum, the director Jessica Stone has turned up the hilarity dial as well, to keep all that emotion in balance. Jesse Green, New York Times, 10 Nov. 2022 In this situation, the phrase carpe diem (seize the day) comes to mind. Bob MacDonald, Forbes, 2 June 2022 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'carpe diem.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin, literally, pluck the day

First Known Use

1817, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of carpe diem was in 1817

Dictionary Entries Near carpe diem

Cite this Entry

“Carpe diem.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

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