Many of the concepts you’ll come across in Stoicism are simple to understand, and don’t require any kind of formal education or list of definitions to get the gist of. For the most part, modern translations of writings from famous Stoic philosophers (like The Urban Enchiridion) use words and terminology that are easy for modern readers to comprehend.
If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into the principles of Stoicism, though, it can help to have a broader understanding of a few terms that you’ll frequently come across in Stoicism books and lessons.
Some references to ancient Greek and Roman words — or philosophical concepts that aren’t commonly taught to new students — might be a bit confusing to someone who’s just starting to learn about Stoicism.
This guide to Stoic terms is meant to eventually be an all-encompassing glossary of every potentially confusing reference — including descriptions of words, people, places and concepts — that modern students of Stoicism might come across.
Stoic Words and How to Pronounce Them
For those of you who wonder how, exactly, you should pronounce these words, we’re also going to add audio to each word that will let you listen to someone saying them out loud. (One word of warning, though: these are the Americanized pronunciations of Greek words, so keep that in mind when you hear them.)
Oh, and one more thing: don’t be intimidated by the length of this list of definitions. Even if you don’t understand all of them, they really aren’t necessary learning for anyone who wants to practice Stoic thinking for themselves. These definitions are nice to know, but you don’t need to memorize them to get into Stoicism.
We’ll continue updating and expanding this guide over time, and we hope it helps you more easily to successfully apply the concepts of Stoicism to your life!
A Glossary of Stoic Words & Philosophical Concepts
Stuff that is indifferent, and not good or bad. In Stoicism, this applies to everything outside of our own choices.
An object of desire that is proper for someone to desire.
Literally “to love your fate.” In Stoicism, it’s taught that we should learn to love everything that happens to us, because it all plays a part in the universe’s plan.
A term that means “people” or “human beings,” as an individual or group.
The peaceful mind that one can achieve from being calm and without passions.
The desire to avoid action or to not act.
To miss your purpose, or to fail to achieve what you were aiming for.
Things that we don’t prefer to experience or have, but that we are still indifferent to, and that have no value of good or bad.
The quality of human excellence or goodness.
A kind of focused training that one does to become a virtuous person.
The tranquility that comes from not being upset or disturbed by things external to you.
The real worth or value of things in our lives.
The genius present in individual human beings; or, a kind of divine spirit found within.
Dividing things into separate parts to analyze them. In Stoicism, this term is used when referring to what we can and cannot choose.
Human intelligence or thought.
An act or way of life that promotes righteousness and justice.
A person’s principles or reasoned judgments that come from their past experiences in the world.
To examine something in close detail and put it to a test.
Someone’s beliefs or opinions on something.
Having a natural aversion to something, or being inclined to not want it or get away from it.
The concept that our universe is born and reborn in a constant, never-ending cycle.
Liberty and freedom of mankind.
Eph’ hêmin (ἐφ’ ἡμῖν)
The things that are in our total control and that are truly up to us.
Knowledge that is true and certain.
A human being’s habits or things we are accustomed to doing.
The ultimate happiness or well-being that a human can experience.
Emotions that exist because of acting virtuously and using the correct judgments.
To miss your goal, to fail in what you aimed for, or to do wrong.
A person’s guiding principles and the internal reason that rules over their actions.
Our destiny, or the fate that the universe has set for us.
Having a disposition for something, or having a certain habit or frame of mind.
Action taken because of a positive impulse that we have toward an object.
The raw material, or the matter that composes or makes up something.
Taking up a notion or an opinion about something; having an understanding of a concept.
Beauty, in terms of someone’s inner virtue or morality.
The sort of determined conviction or clear comprehension you need to act virtuously.
The correct actions that one takes — or the duty they perform — on the way to being virtuous.
Something that is shared in common with another concept or entity.
The entire universe; the whole world and everything in it.
Logos/ Logikos (λόγος/ λογικός)
Rationality or reason as it exists in nature or the universe.
“Remember you must die.” or “Remember your mortality.”
A human custom, law or societal expectation.
Deceiving yourself with an arrogant or conceited opinion.
Concerning an individual, the appropriation of self-ownership.
Having an inclination for something, or a desire for a thing.
A person’s inner substance, the stuff that makes up their being.
Education, teaching or training for something.
The type of emotion often caused by mistaken judgments
An impression or perception of something external.
A type of wisdom that is practical and applicable to our lives in helpful ways.
The natural order of stuff; nature.
In Stoicism, a part of the soul that can be disturbed by desires and aversions.
Thinking ahead to things that might go wrong in our lives, so that we are better prepared to handle them.
Preferred indifferents such as good health.
A human’s ability to choose and freedom to make choices in life.
Moving along the path toward wisdom and virtue.
The ability to form conceptions (or preconceptions) that is possessed by human beings.
A type of foresight or foreknowledge of things.
To be diligent, pay attention and approach life with sober reflection.
A human’s life or state of mind.
The ideal concept of a Stoic who has reached a level to be called a Sage.
The ultimate good or highest goal.
Organic parts as they relate to the whole; sympathy.
Giving our assent to judgments and impressions (usually before taking action).
A profession or a vocation that involves skill, art or craft.
The final goal of a human’s life, or the objective they are striving to reach.
Our general perceptions or principles of the truth.
The power that created and gave order to the universe.
A concept of repulsion and attraction; tension that leads to vice and virtue in human beings.