The Latin pro bono is used to describe performance of (often professional or specialized) services for free or for reduced compensation. Is there a corresponding (hopefully Latin, perhaps pro-SOMETHING) phrase for performance of services for pay (i.e., normal/conventional compensation)?

I perused Wikipedia's list of Latin "P" phrases and didn't find anything satisfactory. Pro rata is perhaps plausible (in the sense of pay-as-you-go), but I don't think I have seen it used in this sense. I suppose the phrase I seek describes the "normal" case, so it doesn't often need a clarifying phrase (in contrast to the "abnormal" case described by pro bono).

I could certainly use a literal English phrase like "for money" or "for a fee" (e.g., as suggested here). However, that doesn't seem as elegant (as pro bono is somewhat more elegant and more specific than "for free"). I'm also interested in this as describing a situation: analogous to pro bono describing the arrangement of services being provided at reduced fee, this term explicitly identifies the arrangement as services being performed at the conventional rate.

Such a phrase could also be used in a somewhat jocular or droll way; for example, a student asking for help with an implicit pro bono sense:

Student A: Would you help me with my homework?
Student B: I would be willing to help pro [appropriate compensation]...

Perhaps that, itself, works in this usage... :)

  • 14
    @mplungjan Pro malo: "for an apple"
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 8, 2014 at 15:01
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    If you can't easily find such a word, what makes you think your readers/listeners/student-A would understand it? Just speak clear English. Oct 8, 2014 at 15:41
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    The reason why "pro bono" sounds better is that doesn't mean (strictly) "for free": it means "for good", for the good, for the public good, i.e. to be beneficial/charitable/virtuous.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 8, 2014 at 16:28
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    Do you actually want a Latin phrase? If so, I think you've come to the wrong site. Oct 8, 2014 at 17:32
  • 3
    "Pre U2"? #cultural-reference
    – Khanzor
    Oct 9, 2014 at 3:35

6 Answers 6


So, to be clear, you're looking for a way to say "for money" in Latin: using a "pro" construct that's not in the list of phrases that are commonly used in English.

Perhaps "pro denario" (singular) or "pro denariis" (plural) -- where 'denarius' is Roman currency -- or "pro argento" (meaning silver), or "pro pecunia" (money), or "pro salario" or "pro honorario".

If you want to say that you're doing it in exchange for something (usually money), you can say that you expect a "quid pro quo", which is a well-known Latin expression.

  • What happened to the lively commentary here? Many thanks; this answer accepted on the technicality that this identified the sense I was seeking in this case; in addition to quid pro quo from comments elsewhere. I wish I could also accept @SvenYargs excellent answer, which will undoubtedly be enshrined as the popular answer (and more correct in the absolute sense). Upvotes all around and thanks.
    – hoc_age
    Oct 10, 2014 at 13:10

As Black's Law Dictionary (1968) points out, pro bono is short for "pro bono publico":

PRO BONO PUBLICO. For the public good; for the welfare of the whole.

The underlying notion is that the task or decision is undertaken or made in order to serve the society or the nation as a whole. That being the case, you might argue that a counterpoint in the law is offered by the expression "pro interesse suo":

PRO INTERESSE SUO. According to his interest; to the extent of his interest. Thus a third party may be allowed to intervene in a suit pro interesse suo.

But this represents an opposition to pro bono publico only in the sense that self-interest and public interest are seen as being in conflict. Philosophically, people tend to a have a high standard for altruism, insisting that it not entail material advantage to the altruist if it is to qualify as altruistic. But in practical terms, even deeply self-interested parties may benefit from policies and actions that advance the public good—and conversely, selfish actions sometimes serve the general welfare.

The logical opposite of pro bono publico is contra bono publico—but this phrase yields very few matches in a Google Books search. One instance where it does appear is in "'Moral Obligation' and 'Secret Preferences' in Bankruptcy Composition," in American Bankruptcy Review (March 1937), quoting a New York appellate court's decision in Posner v. Rosenbaum (1934) [combined snippets]:

"The final defense of contra bono publico is, likewise, entitled to little credence .... because plaintiffs had not agreed to do anything which would retard the discharge of the bankrupt, but rather aided payment to the other creditors and hastened the discharge of the bankrupt."

Black's Law Dictionary does not have an entry for contra bono publico, though it does have one for contra bonos mores ("against good morals").

  • Why pro interesse? I do not believe that is correct syntactically? Oct 8, 2014 at 17:18
  • I can't explain why that wording was used—but that it was used is clear from a Google Books search. For example, from Reports of Sir Edward Coke (1656): "That Wiskard, who is a meer stranger to the Suit, and who comes in Pro interesse suo in the said Rectory, pleads matter meerly determinable at the Common Law, scil. Letters Patents, Feeffment, and Lease for years: ..."
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 8, 2014 at 17:36
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    @Cerberus et al; slightly OT PSA: I hope you all have upvoted the Latin-language site!
    – hoc_age
    Oct 8, 2014 at 21:28
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    @ChrisW: "Therefore it's not a noun with an ablative case"? I'm not sure what you mean, but you cannot use an infinitive after a preposition: you'd have to use a gerund, but there is no gerund of esse, so it is not possible. Further, pro in this case probably means in defence of, which you cannot use with your own interests; it would probably have to be a dative of purpose. Lastly, only the third person interest normally means "be of interest"; normally the verb means "be between, be among, be present at", and the sense "be of interest" requires special conditions. Oct 8, 2014 at 23:00
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    @ChrisW: Mmm not really, one can only intervene pro se "for oneself". But it is possible that suo agrees with some (elliptical) noun, and that the infinitive is independent of pro: then it can work, but it would mean something else. Oct 9, 2014 at 4:49

Pro pretium = for a fee/price.

Pro dictum pretium = for the stated fee/price.

Per pretium = by price/fee.


Common terms used to indicate that the assistance is not gratis are

  • paid services
  • for-fee services
  • fee-for-service

The last, fee-for-service, is also used to distinguish a piecemeal payment system from one that is based on a broader representation, such ass retainer services or commission services. Wikipedia has a discussion of that issue here.

  • 2
    What about "for pay"? I remember having heard that.
    – einpoklum
    Oct 8, 2014 at 20:02

Well, the opposite of "for the public good" would be "for profit", which would directly translate into Latin as pro prodest. However, this phrase is not in common English usage and therefore does not carry the same idiomatic weight as pro bono.

  • Wouldn't the opposite of "for the public good" be "for the public harm"?
    – nnnnnn
    Jul 10, 2021 at 22:54
  • Opposite in this context takes into account the colloquial meaning of "pro bono", which is "for free"
    – T Nguyen
    Jul 12, 2021 at 2:36

Can't help you with the Latin but in respect of your second point, describing in literal English the term that describes "the arrangement as services being performed at the conventional rate", this is often described as a "Time and Materials" arrangement.

  • The term "time and materials" is used in business, but it would never been used by a student speaking to another student about homework help as in the OP's example.
    – nnnnnn
    Jul 10, 2021 at 22:53

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