I am attempting to translate a greek document and there is a concept that doesn't seem to translate to a given english word; one that I know at least.

It more or less says:

" Fiscus -a legal term- cannot be determined in terms of its own self; it can only be defined in terms of imperium, its direct opposite"...

This might be enough to convey the meaning of the sentence but I'm looking for something better. Is there a single word, or a better way to say "determined in terms of itself" (perhaps self-determined?) and "determined in terms of someting else" ?

  • 1
    Self-explanatory?. Self-defining? or alternatively dependent ?
    – WS2
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:57
  • 1
    I don't think you want the word "determined," do you? Why not use "defined" instead of "determined"?
    – DyingIsFun
    Jan 7, 2016 at 15:14
  • Does "Fiscus" refer to its latin meaning, i.e. the one of three branches of the public treasury under the Roman Empire that was most under imperial control or to a more recent sense related to taxation ?
    – Graffito
    Jan 7, 2016 at 17:12
  • 2
    The statement more or less makes no sense. Fiscus is the state treasury; imperium is state power. They're not opposites. Consider the Latin aphorism Ubi fiscus, ibi imperium, roughly "Where there's money, there's power."
    – deadrat
    Jan 7, 2016 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


I think you might go with something like:

  • Fiscus, a legal term, cannot be defined in positive terms; it can only be defined negatively in terms of imperium, its direct opposite.

You might say that the word cannot be defined positively, rather, it can only be defined negatively.

You might also say that it cannot be defined directly, rather, it can only be defined indirectly, using imperium.

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