English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

There is a saying that when translated from my language is Through difficult to defeat. Is it correct to say it this way? I know that the correct saying is To stars through difficulties.

It is very important for me to know as I need to use it for a tattoo.

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by Jasper Loy, Matt E. Эллен, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, aedia λ, simchona Dec 21 '11 at 15:09

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

If you can mention the original saying in your language, it can help us help you. – Kris Dec 21 '11 at 11:09
I think you might be better off getting the tattoo done in your native language, rather than hoping we can get this saying right. I'm not sure what your saying is trying to convey. – Matt E. Эллен Dec 21 '11 at 11:09
Maybe you're thinking of the phrase "Per ardua ad astra"? This is Latin, not English. – Pitarou Dec 21 '11 at 11:11
Hi! This is bit difficult to explain in English, but the meaning is that you have had hard times and now you are over them. Language are in Finnish and saying ''Vaikeuksien kautta voittoon'' (=Through difficulties to defeat). I know that there is one song called the same. Origin of pharse is latin ''Per ardua ad astra''. I hope this help a bit explaining what I mean. – Matti Dec 21 '11 at 11:19
Note that mottos of this kind normally speak of aspirations, not achievements. So not "I have had hard times and am over them", but "hard times are ahead but I will get through them". – slim Dec 21 '11 at 11:43

"To the stars through difficulties" is an English translation of the Latin motto "Ad astra per aspera".

As you can see, the Latin phrase is rather nicely formed; short and alliterative. The English translation is not very poetic.

It is the motto of many institutions, including the US state of Kansas, NASA and many countries' air forces.

In it

  • "astra"; "the stars" signifies aspirations, glory, better things. Of course when used by NASA and air forces, is is slightly more literal.
  • "aspera"; "difficulty", "hardships", meaning problems we pass through on the way

Like many mottos, it is not really a full sentence in English. There is an implied extra part:

(I/we aim to get) to the stars through difficulties

"Through difficult to defeat" is not correct.

If you mean "(I aim to) tolerate hardships in order to eventually defeat (something)" then the following are acceptable English sentences:

  • Through difficulties to victory
  • Through difficulty to victory
  • Through hardships to victory
  • Through hardship to victory

However none of them are well known phrases.

Be careful with "defeat".

  • "Joshua led his army to defeat the Egyptians" - means Joshua won (defeat is a verb)
  • "Napoleon led his army to defeat" - means Napoleon lost (defeat is a noun)
share|improve this answer

The Finnish saying "vaikeuksien kautta voittoon" has been translated directly as:

  • "Vaikeuksien kautta voittoon."
    • Translation: "Through difficulties into victory."
    • Notes: A Finnish form for the Latin adage "Per aspera ad astra."

It has also been translated elsewhere into the well known English expression:

No pain, no gain

share|improve this answer

It's the motto of the British Royal Air Force which, in Latin, is Per Ardua ad Astra ('Through hardship to the stars'). It means that by overcoming difficulties we can achieve our aims.

share|improve this answer
However, defeat and stars do not seem to agree in any manner. OP mentions defeat in the original and stars in a probable English analogue. – Kris Dec 21 '11 at 11:16
I think Matti meant he has defeated his troubles, rather than he has experienced defeat. – Pitarou Dec 21 '11 at 11:54

wiktionary: vaikeuksien kautta voittoon


vaikeuksien kautta voittoon

  1. no pain, no gain.
share|improve this answer
Thanks for this! – Matti Dec 21 '11 at 12:51

A less concise English Language alternative might be, "If you're going through Hell, keep going." A similar phrase was made into a song.

share|improve this answer
Good idea, thanks! – Matti Dec 21 '11 at 12:51

There's also Nietzsche's famous line 'What does not kill me, makes me stronger' (from a man notoriously enfeebled by illness!)

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.