I read the word 'pace' from a word-builder vocabulary book and says it comes from a Latin root and has the meaning of 'contrary to the opinion of', and an additional sentence example:

She had only three husbands, pace some Hollywood historians who claim she had as many as six.

However, I look up the whole dictionary for the items of 'pace', and found no such meaning.


What it means

The word pace is a Latin word, not an English word with a Latin root. For this reason, it’s usually written in italics when it occurs in an English sentence. It’s a form of pax, which is Latin for “peace”. Pace means “if so-and-so will permit” or “with deference to”, literally “with peace”.

In English, it’s a softener for very formal politeness: it means that the person you are about to name would probably disagree what what you are about say or do, but you mean no offense to that person. It’s especially appropriate when the named person has a high reputation; then it means that you don’t think that their probable error in regard to the topic at hand should detract from the respect usually given to them, which is well earned.


The example sentence from your book is not an especially good illustration of pace. It would be clearer to say “contrary to”, or even contra if you really wanted Latin for some reason. “Some Hollywood historians” is so vague, it doesn’t make much sense to say that the author means no offense to them. The point of the sentence is to contradict them, that’s all. The author probably wouldn’t say “Intending no offense to some Hollywood historians, …” or “Without tarnishing the high reputation of some Hollywood historians …” If you were going to say something like that, you would probably name the historians explicitly.

The OED gives a couple quotations where pace is very well chosen:

The color of fruit is a tacit invitation (pace the gardener) to the feast.

… Furthermore I do not believe, pace Peirce and Derrida, that it is signs all the way down, and that, pace Dennett, there is no distinctive human intentionality, and that, pace almost everyone, thinking is fundamentally linguistic. Isn’t it strange that I think so highly of [these two books by Lanham and Bolter] considering they asserted so many theses that I reject? … Nevertheless, I think these are two of the most important and culturally valuable books of the decade … [even though I disagree] on the philosophical bits. [Source]

In the first example, pace raises the possibility that finding the colors of fruit appetizing rather than beautiful for their own sake could offend the gardener—an interesting, somewhat humorous idea.

The second example comes from a review of two books, in which the reviewer explains that while he found the books illuminating with regard to their main topic (hypertext), he disagrees with their conclusions about philosophy. The point of saying pace in this passage is indicate where the reviewer’s philosophical opinions differ from those of respected authors who think in agreement with Lanham and Bolter, without getting into an argument about those topics or letting the disagreement interfere with appreciating the two books under review.


For practical purposes, this meaning of pace is still a Latin word, not an English word.

The English word "pace" is one syllable, and rhymes with the name of a playing card with just one pip.

The Latin word "pace" is two syllables. According to Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary, most English-speaking people do not know how to pronounce it. (At least that is my interpretation of having three different alleged pronunciations of a Latin word.)

  • 4
    And the Latin word "pace" is often italicized when you find it in English texts to distinguish it form the English word "pace". Dec 21 '14 at 15:33
  • 5
    All three pronunciations are standard. The reason is, Latin for most of its history was an international language (like Esperanto except really in use). The writing was the same everywhere but each country had its own pronunciation, which followed the conventions of the local language. ˈpā-(ˌ)sē is traditional English pronunciation of Latin, ˈpä-(ˌ)chā is Ecclesiastical pronunciation, and ˈpä-(ˌ)kā is Classical pronunciation.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jan 19 '15 at 5:37

Appropriately used in academic citations where the writer contradicts a respected scholar or an expert on the subject, wherein the writer holds the scholar or expert's corpus in high regard.


Pace is often used in writings on philosophy and political philosophy in the sense of contrary to or despite (somebody's opinion). Italics are always used.

  • 2
    Your answer could be improved if you include references, like a dictionary entry.
    – Em.
    Apr 10 '17 at 0:03

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