“Pain Of Itself”: The Meaning Behind The “Lorem Ipsum” Placeholder Text

You’ve likely come across the Lorem Ipsum placeholder text at some point in your life. A typical passage, designed to be unintelligible, goes likes this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The placeholder text is used as an example when demonstrating screens displaying text, or as placeholder words in documents on your computer. Occasionally, people forget to remove the placeholder text, leading to such inventions as the Lorem Ipsum Dolor and Cheddar wrap.


The garbled text no longer has any meaning, but detective work by Classics professor Richard McClintock pointed out that it is a scrambled version of Cicero’s De finibus.

Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.

A 1914 translation of this text, as reported by Slate, reads:

Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure.

Essentially, the first part is a scrambled passage of Cicero that can be summarized as “no pain, no gain”.

It’s often claimed that the placeholder text dates back to an anonymous printer in the 1500s who scrambled a piece of Latin text as a way of demonstrating the quality of the print. However, further detective work by professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Versailles Philippe Cibois found that the source of the Lorum Ipsum placeholder text is likely from the 1914 translation, which also happens to begin a new page with the words “lorem ipsum”.

The placeholder text has been in use by newspapers in the UK since the 1960s, and perhaps has its origin at the UK company Letraset in 1959, but that’s far from the 1500s origin the Internet would have you believe.

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