nolo episcopari

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From Latin nolo episcopari (I do not want to be bishop). It was formerly maintained that those nominated for the post of bishop politely declined the offer twice with these words.


nolo episcopari

  1. Expressing a facetiously modest refusal of something which is actually desired.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), London: A[ndrew] Millar [], OCLC 928184292:
      He soon found means to make his addresses, in express terms, to his mistress, from whom he received an answer in the proper form, viz.: the answer which was first made some thousands of years ago, and which hath been handed down by tradition from mother to daughter ever since. If I were to translate this into Latin, I should render it by these two words, Nolo Episcopari: a phrase likewise of immemorial use on another occasion.
    • 1847, ‘Parliamentary Prospects’, The Quarterly Review, vol. LXXXI:
      their Leader – for so, in spite of his Nolo episcopari, we must presume to call him — has given in his Elbing Letter so distinct a pledge – not merely of opinions, but of actual designs if his ministerial career had not been arrested – that we have little doubt that [...] Sir Robert Peel will substantially forward there measures, whoever may propose them.
    • 1869, Pele-Mele, ‘Nolens (Volens) Episcopari’, New Monthly Magazine, vol. 145:
      Nolo episcopari,’ he urges in grateful deprecation.
    • 1908, G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:
      Carlyle's hero may say, "I will be king"; but the Christian saint must say "Nolo episcopari." If the great paradox of Christianity means anything, it means this—that we must take the crown in our hands, and go hunting in dry places and dark corners of the earth until we find the one man who feels himself unfit to wear it.