Let’s translate! SENATUS (with the accent on the A) means “senate.” POPULUS (with an accent on the O) means “people.” QUE is an “enclitic particle” and attaches to the word it follows. (Enclitic comes from the ancient Greek verb “to lean.” Since QUE “leans” on the word preceding it, it does not count grammatically as a word of its own.) It translates “and.” But wait, there is catch! “And” is not the same in Latin and English. Ancient Romans talked about “cats dogs and” or FELICES ∙ CANESQUE. Their twenty-four hours were composed of “night day and,” NOCTEM ∙ DIEMQUE. Feeling generous, they gave things “to me you and,” MIHI ∙ TIBIQUE. This is clearly not the rule in English, where “and” is placed between the two words it joins. Therefore, SENATUS ∙ POPULUSQUE (“Senate People and”) reflects Latin grammar. To translate it into English, we have to move the “and,” i.e. “Senate and People.” The final word, ROMANUS (with the accent on the A), is an adjective, telling us that both the Senate and the People were Roman. In other words: “the Roman Senate and the Roman People.” The pithier, more common, and less literal translation is “the Senate and People of Rome.”
The first letter of each Latin word creates a world-renowned acronym, S.P.Q.R. Whether S.P.Q.R. or SENATVSPOPVLVSQVEROMANVS shone on temples, triumphal arches, or government buildings, it acted as a monumental seal of approval, like “Made in the U.S.A.” It told ancient travelers and diplomats that they beheld Roman-certified, Roman-engineered, and Roman-approved marvels. It also expressed national pride, a “We the People” meets E Pluribus Unum–a guarantee that was written in stone!