In a comments to a recent question on various ways to kill in Latin, the OP suggested this idea: Every answer should contain one and only one Latin word translating the English verb "to kill" and explain what it means in detail and how it differs from other options. This kind of question could possibly be a very useful resource, and the proposed implementation makes it easy to vote on individual translations, bringing the best ones to the top.

One issue is that the question would become quite broad and (due to the question statement itself) impossible to answer in one answer, no matter how good. On other SE sites some big list questions have become very useful and popular, and they have also attracted a fair number of views. I would like to see those here as well.

We do not have an antecedent for questions like this, so I don't know how well it will work. I am willing to give it a try, since I see potential in it. Should we allow such questions?

2 Answers 2


I have no objection to such questions, but I'm also fairly inexperienced with SE so I don't know how much my vote counts.

For what it's worth, though, I've often wondered about the nuances distinguishing some of the Latin verbs for "kill," and I'd welcome a resource that addressed that question. It's not clear to me that it would have to be one entry per answer, though. If I can offer insight into three of them, why split that into three answers—especially if somebody else might have a different perspective on a word I discussed?

  • The point is that voting would bring the words with best explanations to the top. The most important entity to vote for is an answer, not an answerer. If you give an excellent explanation of necare and a horrible one of occidere, what do the votes even mean? I don't know what to do with several people explaining the same word, though. Perhaps they should just be allowed to coexist. I believe voting and editing others' answers would be more common than this.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 17:45
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Ah, I see. That makes sense. But it then also creates the possibility that an excellent explanation of siccare would be in "competition" with an excellent explanation of obtruncare. That said, I think there are bigger problems to worry about. Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 17:50

There's a difference between a "what is the best option" question and a "list" question. These three questions are not identical:

  1. What is the best translation for "kill" when referring to a personal friend being killed in a car accident? These three words seem like options, but I'm not sure which one best connotes sadness and loss.
  2. What are the key differences between these two Latin words, which both are translated "kill" in the dictionaries I've checked?
  3. What are all the differences between all the different Latin words that could be translated "kill"?

The first question could result in a variety of answers, with different defenses of various options. Then, depending on the strengths of each argument, the best answers get voted up. That's great. The key to success here is that the question contains details about how it is to be used, and demonstrates research effort.

The second question, though not providing a specific use case, asks for an overview of the differences between a few words. This is also perfectly reasonable.

The third question is broad, difficult to answer comprehensively, already addressed in large part in widely available dictionaries, and does not show research effort. If, to address the "difficult to answer comprehensively" part, we say that multiple answers, one word each, would be acceptable, the strengths of the voting mechanism would be lost:

  • Would a high score indicate a particularly effective explanation of a particular option?
  • Or would it indicate a particularly close synonym of "kill"?
  • Or would it indicate the most widely used option in Classical Latin?

So, in English, one person could write a brilliant defense of the word waste as a synonym for kill, quoting a variety of sources and examining the development of this slang, so that it becomes the top voted answer. On the other hand, a typical synonym like murder or slaughter might receive less thorough treatment, and not receive as many votes.

So, in summary, we should not be attempting to create large resources that would replace a good dictionary or other reference work. Our strength is in using our expertise to apply those existing references to real life scenarios, to explain the intricacies described in those references, and to summarize their key points.

Applying this to the question at hand, we can presume that the author is not asking about a particular usage of the word; this sounds like more general curiosity. Thus, this is either an example of (2) or (3) above.

As it reads now, to me it is closest to (3) and should be closed. But with some edits, perhaps specifying only the first words that were given by the OP, making it clear that an overview is desired, and perhaps demonstrating research effort, it could easily become an example of (2) and remain open.

  • I agree that the present question on main is too broad and should be closed. This meta post was not so much about that particular question, but more about the idea in general (your third option). I wanted to know if a question of type (3) would be welcome here and if yes, how to pose one.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 18:10
  • There are many good big list questions on SE sites. It is not exactly clear what votes mean, but they are useful nevertheless. Those are good resources that supplement more legitimate sources like good books. Here are some examples: visual math, summing a series, obvious theorems, false beliefs, open problems. I still don't fully see why we couldn't have them.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 18:12
  • @JoonasIlmavirta I think your examples are like the resource questions: it's best to treat them as special, broad "what is the best ___"-type questions. Ideally, best should be defined more specifically (simplest solution, most visually appealing, most helpful for English speakers who have never studied Latin, etc.). And the more specific the criteria are, the more similar they are to my (1). Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 18:55
  • Actually, many of those questions are looking for all or some examples that fit the description, not just the best. There are quite clear criteria as to what constitutes a valid answer, but no indication of how to evaluate them. Different users have voted based on their own values, and there is no clear, shared meaning of "best". They are similar to resource questions in spirit, but I wouldn't restrict big list questions to resources only. But I agree that such questions should be rare. I don't know how well my experience from mathematical SE sites can be generalized to our site, though.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 19:17
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Yes, some of those OPs ask for "all," but whether organically or via moderation, it has worked out that each answer only has one option in it (none attempt to provide a full list). That's what makes me think of them as recommendation rather than list questions, based on the principle that answers ought to at least substantially address the question. Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 19:43
  • I find it crucial for such questions that each answer only contains one item (or a couple of closely related ones), and ideally such questions should be posed with this requirement made explicit. That allows the best recommendations or examples to surface. You can indeed regard them as recommendation questions; I think I call them lists because of the big-list tag and because they require several answers to satisfy the OP.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 20:02
  • I should add that I wouldn't allow list-like questions haphazardly. I think it's safest to start with a select few resource questions as planned. After we see how they work out, we can think of some reasonable criteria (eg. nothing that outdates too quickly, not as a first question, clearly phrased...) for future questions that ask for lists of recommendations or something similar.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 20:07
  • I originally was going to ask this on the thread itself, but I think I should here instead. What's the difference between the "kill" thread and this one? latin.stackexchange.com/questions/760/…
    – cmw Mod
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 12:56

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