As far as I understand, the phrase "per se" comes from Latin. Yet, it has become to accepted in English and is used so commonly, that I was wondering if the phrase is still considered of foreign origin and requires italicization or it is already considered everyday English and should not be in italics.

  • 1
    Like "etc." and "et al.", there is no need to italicise "per se".
    – Mick
    Dec 23, 2016 at 12:44
  • @Mick Unless he wants to, of course. Nothing wrong with italicisation!
    – WS2
    Dec 23, 2016 at 13:59

1 Answer 1


The phrase "per se" does not have to be italicized.

A general rule of thumb is that if the foreign word is in an English dictionary, you do not need to italicize it.

Use italics for foreign words that have not been integrated into the English language. Words like alumni do not need to be italicized, but words like semper fi do need to be italicized. The difference is that alumni is understood by English speaking people as graduates of a particular university, whereas semper fi requires translation to be understood.

This rule, like several others, is open to interpretation. A general rule of thumb is that if the foreign word is in an English dictionary, you do not need to italicize it.

[Source: Wikihow.com: How to Use Italics, Section 6]

  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. I've just edited your answer and please see how it is edited and try to follow this format when you answer a question next time. Good luck.
    – user140086
    Dec 23, 2016 at 13:28
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    Steve, Rathony; that would be reasonable if not for the fact that Chambers Dictionary was bought by a bunch of Scrabble cheats, with specific intent of pretending that various wholly foreign words had been integrated into the English language. Anyone who doesn't believe that is welcome to explain the appearance of, for instance, purely Arabic words using 'q' without 'u', or of purely Chinese units of measure… Jan 6, 2017 at 0:07
  • I do not play Scrabble professionally, but you piqued my interest and upon a google search I came across the Wikipedia article Official Scrabble Players Dictionary @Reb Chaim HaQoton, I would like to stress again that the italicization rule is open to interpretation. Another way to put this is, is the audience you're writing to aware of Latin phrases incorporated in the English language? If yes, no need to italicize. If no, italicize. This is up to your discretion.
    – Steve Park
    Jan 6, 2017 at 5:50

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