Annus horribilis

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Annus horribilis is a Latin phrase, meaning “horrible year”. It is complementary to annus mirabilis, which means “wonderful year”; however, annus mirabilis is a traditional term, while annus horribilis is of relatively recent coinage.

Elizabeth II[edit]

Although the phrase was used in 1891 to describe 1870, the year in which the Roman Catholic church defined the dogma of papal infallibility,[1] and is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary as being in use as early as 1985, it was brought to prominence by Queen Elizabeth II, in a speech to the Guildhall on 24 November 1992, marking the 40th anniversary of her accession, in which she described the closing of the year as an annus horribilis.

1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis.

The phrase may allude to John Dryden’s poem “Annus Mirabilis” about the events of 1666. The “sympathetic correspondent” was later revealed to be her former assistant private secretary, Sir Edward Ford.

Listed here are some of the events to which the British Queen alluded.

Kofi Annan[edit]

Kofi Annan, then United Nations Secretary-General, used the phrase in his year-end press conference on 21 December 2004. He reflected, “There’s no doubt that this has been a particularly difficult year, and I am relieved that this annus horribilis is coming to an end.”[2] His remarks were widely interpreted as having alluded to persistent allegations of corruption in the UN’s Iraq Oil-for-Food Program.[3] His remarks came just days before the deadliest event of the year, the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26.

Juan Carlos I of Spain[edit]

In 2007, the Spanish Royal Family, in particular Juan Carlos I, faced a difficult year. Family tragedy and a series of controversies led to Spanish newspapers to refer to the year as the king’s annus horribilis.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anonymous, "Möhler, Döllinger and Oxford Anglicanism", in The London Quarterly Review vol. lxxv. London: C. H. Kelly. 1891. p. 105. 
  2. ^ New York, 21 December 2004 - Secretary-General's year-end press conference (unofficial transcript) The Secretary-General Off the Cuff
  3. ^ Associated Press (December 22, 2004). "UN chief welcomes end of 'horrible' year". NineMSN. Archived from the original on September 13, 2005. 
  4. ^ El “annus horribilis” del Rey Juan Carlos, La Nación, 15 November 2007.

External links[edit]