I know that diacritics are often retained in loanwords in formal writing (cf. naïveté), but I haven't seen this done with direct adaptation of Latin words; i.e., per se.

In Latin, per sē comes with a macron, indicating the longness of the vowel. This practice is uncommon (unused?) in English, but so are accents and diæresis marks, which are retained in the aforementioned naïveté.

Is there any attested usage or relevant guideline regarding the adaptation of macrons from Latin?

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    If you're quoting Classical Latin and expecting the reader to understand it, as in Ārma virumque canō, Trōiae quī prīmus ab ōrīs, Ītaliam fātō profugus Lāvīniaque vēnit, then you'd better include the long marks. Even on capital letters. If it's Medieval Latin, or if it's just an English phrase borrowed from Latin, don't bother. Medieval Latin didn't have long vowels and was stress-timed, and Modern English doesn't either, and doesn't pronounce Latin words like Latin speakers did. Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 17:48
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    Your question is based on an incorrect assumption: in Latin, per se does not ‘come with’ a macron. In Latin, macrons are not used at all. They are used when quoting Latin texts to modern readers, which is an entirely different thing (similar to how Russian words often have accents added in to aid learners). The people who actually used and spoken the language did not use macrons. In naïveté, the diacritics are actually used in the source original language, thus they can be kept. For Latin words, this is not the case. Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 20:36

2 Answers 2


In §11.94, Diacritics—specialized versus general contexts, the Chicago Manual of Style advises (emphasis mine):

Nearly all systems of transliteration require diacritics—including macrons, underdots, and overdots, to name just a few. Except in linguistic studies or other highly specialized works, a system using as few diacritics as are needed to aid pronunciation is easier on readers, publisher, and author.


For nonspecialized works, the transliterated forms without diacritics that are listed in any of the latest editions of the Merriam-Webster dictionaries are usually preferred by readers and authors alike.

In general, it's not necessary to italicize or apply macrons to foreign words that have been transliterated and absorbed into English.


They weren’t used even in Latin. They are used in books for those studying Latin to help them identify, for example, the ablative ending in the singular of the first declension, and they can also be helpful in scanning Latin verse. They serve no purpose when Latin words are used in English (and Latin words in English are mostly best avoided anyway).

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    Yes - just use those accepted as English nowadays. Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 17:45
  • @Edwin, ... among which there is "per se", though.
    – user19148
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 17:47
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    ....inter alia. Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 17:52

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