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Latin (Latin: lingua latīna, IPA: [ˈlɪŋɡʷa laˈtiːna]) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Latin was originally spoken in Latium, in the Italian Peninsula. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant language, initially in Italy and subsequently throughout the Roman Empire. Vulgar Latin developed into the Romance languages, such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Romanian. Latin and French have contributed many words to the English language. Latin and Ancient Greek roots are used in theology, biology, and medicine.

By the late Roman Republic (75 BC), Old Latin had been standardised into Classical Latin. Vulgar Latin was the colloquial form spoken during the same time and attested in inscriptions and the works of comic playwrights like Plautus and Terence. Late Latin is the written language from the 3rd century, and Medieval Latin the language used from the 9th century to the Renaissance which used Renaissance Latin. Later, Early Modern Latin and Modern Latin evolved. Latin was used as the language of international communication, scholarship, and science until well into the 18th century, when it began to be supplanted by vernaculars. Ecclesiastical Latin remains the official language of the Holy See and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.

Today, many students, scholars and members of the Catholic clergy speak Latin fluently as a liturgical language. It is taught in primary, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions around the world. [5] [7]

Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, seven noun cases, four verb conjugations, four verb principal parts, six tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, two aspects and two numbers.


A number of historical phases of the language have been recognised, each distinguished by subtle differences in vocabulary, usage, spelling, morphology, and syntax.

After the Western Roman Empire fell in 476, and Germanic kingdoms took its place, the Germanic people adopted Latin as a language more suitable for legal and other formal uses.

The earliest known form of Latin is Old Latin, which was spoken from the Roman Kingdom to the middle of the Roman Republic period. It is attested both in inscriptions and in some of the earliest extant Latin literary works, such as the comedies of Plautus and Terence. The Latin alphabet was devised from the Etruscan alphabet. The writing later changed from what was initially either a right-to-left or a boustrophedon [8] script to what ultimately became a strictly left-to-right script.

During the late republic and into the first years of the empire, a new Classical Latin arose, a conscious creation of the orators, poets, historians and other literate men, who wrote the great works of classical literature, which were taught in grammar and rhetoric schools. Today's instructional grammars trace their roots to such schools, which served as a sort of informal language academy dedicated to maintaining and perpetuating educated speech.

Philological analysis of Archaic Latin works, such as those of Plautus, which contain snippets of everyday speech, indicates that a spoken language, Vulgar Latin (termed sermo vulgi, "the speech of the masses", by Cicero), existed concurrently with literate Classical Latin. The informal language was rarely written, so philologists have been left with only individual words and phrases cited by classical authors and those found as graffiti.

As it was free to develop on its own, there is no reason to suppose that the speech was uniform either diachronically or geographically.

Despite dialectal variation, which is found in any widespread language, the languages of Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy retained a remarkable unity in phonological forms and developments, bolstered by the stabilising influence of their common Christian (Roman Catholic) culture.

One key marker of whether a given Romance feature was found in Vulgar Latin is to compare it with its parallel in Classical Latin.

Vulgar Latin began to diverge into distinct languages by the 9th century at the latest, when the earliest extant Romance writings begin to appear.

Medieval Latin is the written Latin in use during that portion of the postclassical period when no corresponding Latin vernacular existed.

Without the institutions of the Roman empire that had supported its uniformity, medieval Latin lost its linguistic cohesion: for example, in classical Latin sum and eram are used as auxiliary verbs in the perfect and pluperfect passive, which are compound tenses.

The Renaissance briefly reinforced the position of Latin as a spoken language by its adoption by the Renaissance Humanists. Often led by members of the clergy, they were shocked by the accelerated dismantling of the vestiges of the classical world and the rapid loss of its literature. They strove to preserve what they could and restore Latin to what it had been and introduced the practice of producing revised editions of the literary works that remained by comparing surviving manuscripts. By no later than the 15th century they had replaced Medieval Latin with versions supported by the scholars of the rising universities, who attempted, by scholarship, to discover what the classical language had been.

During the Early Modern Age, Latin still was the most important language of culture in Europe.

The largest organisation that retains Latin in official and quasi-official contexts is the Catholic Church. Latin remains the language of the Roman Rite; the Tridentine Mass is celebrated in Latin. Although the Mass of Paul VI is usually celebrated in the local vernacular language, it can be and often is said in Latin, in part or whole, especially at multilingual gatherings. It is the official language of the Holy See, the primary language of its public journal, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis , and the working language of the Roman Rota. Vatican City is also home to the world's only automatic teller machine that gives instructions in Latin. [19] In the pontifical universities postgraduate courses of Canon law are taught in Latin, and papers are written in the same language.

In the Anglican Church, after the publication of the Book of Common Prayer of 1559, a Latin edition was published in 1560 for use at universities such as Oxford and the leading "public schools" (English private academies), where the liturgy was still permitted to be conducted in Latin [22] and there have been several Latin translations since. Most recently, a Latin edition of the 1979 USA Anglican Book of Common Prayer has appeared. [24]

Some films of ancient settings, such as Sebastiane and The Passion of the Christ , have been made with dialogue in Latin for the sake of realism. Occasionally, Latin dialogue is used because of its association with religion or philosophy, in such film/ television series as The Exorcist and Lost ("Jughead"). Subtitles are usually shown for the benefit of those who do not understand Latin. There are also songs written with Latin lyrics. The libretto for the opera-oratorio Oedipus rex by Igor Stravinsky is in Latin.

Switzerland adopts the country's Latin short name Helvetia on coins and stamps, since there is no room to use all of the nation's four official languages. For a similar reason, it adopted the international vehicle and internet code CH, which stands for Confoederatio Helvetica, the country's full Latin name.

Many organizations today have Latin mottos, such as "Semper paratus" (always ready), the motto of the United States Coast Guard, and "Semper fidelis" (always faithful), the motto of the United States Marine Corps. Several of the states of the United States also have Latin mottos, such as "Qui transtulit sustinet" ("He who transplanted still sustains"), the state motto of Connecticut; "Ad astra per aspera" ("To the stars through hardships"), that of Kansas; "Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice" ("If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you"), that of Michigan; "Salus populi suprema lex esto" ("The health of the people should be the highest law"), that of Missouri; "Esse quam videri" (To be rather than to seem), that of North Carolina; "Sic semper tyrannis" (Thus always for tyrants), that of Virginia; and "Montani semper liberi" (Mountaineers are always free), that of West Virginia. Another Latin motto is "Per ardua ad astra" (Through adversity/struggle to the stars), the motto of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Some schools adopt Latin mottos, for example Harvard University's motto is "Veritas" meaning (truth). Veritas was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn, and the mother of Virtue.

Similarly Canada's motto "A mari usque ad mare" (from sea to sea) and most provincial mottos are also in Latin (British Columbia's is Splendor Sine Occasu (splendor without diminishment)).

Occasionally, some media outlets broadcast in Latin, which is targeted at enthusiasts.

There are many websites and forums maintained in Latin by enthusiasts.

Latin is taught in many high schools, especially in Europe and the Americas.


The language has been passed down through various forms.

Some inscriptions have been published in an internationally agreed, monumental, multivolume series, the "Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL)". Authors and publishers vary, but the format is about the same: volumes detailing inscriptions with a critical apparatus stating the provenance and relevant information. The reading and interpretation of these inscriptions is the subject matter of the field of epigraphy. About 270,000 inscriptions are known.

The works of several hundred ancient authors who wrote in Latin have survived in whole or in part, in substantial works or in fragments to be analyzed in philology. They are in part the subject matter of the field of classics. Their works were published in manuscript form before the invention of printing and are now published in carefully annotated printed editions, such as the Loeb Classical Library, published by Harvard University Press, or the Oxford Classical Texts, published by Oxford University Press.

Latin translations of modern literature such as The Hobbit , Treasure Island , Robinson Crusoe , Paddington Bear , Winnie the Pooh , The Adventures of Tintin , Asterix , Harry Potter , Walter the Farting Dog , Le Petit Prince , Max and Moritz , How the Grinch Stole Christmas! , The Cat in the Hat , and a book of fairy tales, "fabulae mirabiles," are intended to garner popular interest in the language. Additional resources include phrasebooks and resources for rendering everyday phrases and concepts into Latin, such as Meissner's Latin Phrasebook.

The Latin influence in English has been significant at all stages of its insular development. In the Middle Ages, borrowing from Latin occurred from ecclesiastical usage established by Saint Augustine of Canterbury in the 6th century or indirectly after the Norman Conquest, through the Anglo-Norman language. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, English writers cobbled together huge numbers of new words from Latin and Greek words, dubbed "inkhorn terms", as if they had spilled from a pot of ink. Many of these words were used once by the author and then forgotten, but some useful ones survived, such as 'imbibe' and 'extrapolate'. Many of the most common polysyllabic English words are of Latin origin through the medium of Old French. Romance words make respectively 59%, 20% and 14% of English, German and Dutch vocabularies. [4] Those figures can rise dramatically when only non-compound and non-derived words are included.

The influence of Roman governance and Roman technology on the less-developed nations under Roman dominion led to the adoption of Latin phraseology in some specialized areas, such as science, technology, medicine, and law. For example, the Linnaean system of plant and animal classification was heavily influenced by Historia Naturalis , an encyclopedia of people, places, plants, animals, and things published by Pliny the Elder. Roman medicine, recorded in the works of such physicians as Galen, established that today's medical terminology would be primarily derived from Latin and Greek words, the Greek being filtered through the Latin. Roman engineering had the same effect on scientific terminology as a whole. Latin law principles have survived partly in a long list of Latin legal terms.

A few international auxiliary languages have been heavily influenced by Latin. Interlingua is sometimes considered a simplified, modern version of the language. Latino sine Flexione, popular in the early 20th century, is Latin with its inflections stripped away, among other grammatical changes.

One study analyzing the degree of differentiation of Romance languages in comparison to Latin (comparing phonology, inflection, discourse, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation) indicated the following percentages (the higher the percentage, the greater the distance from Latin): Sardinian 8%, Italian 12%, Spanish 20%, Romanian 23.5%, Occitan 25%, Portuguese 31%, and French 44%.

Throughout European history, an education in the classics was considered crucial for those who wished to join literate circles.

The Living Latin movement attempts to teach Latin in the same way that living languages are taught, as a means of both spoken and written communication. It is available at the Vatican and at some institutions in the US, such as the University of Kentucky and Iowa State University. The British Cambridge University Press is a major supplier of Latin textbooks for all levels, such as the Cambridge Latin Course series. It has also published a subseries of children's texts in Latin by Bell & Forte, which recounts the adventures of a mouse called Minimus.

In the United Kingdom, the Classical Association encourages the study of antiquity through various means, such as publications and grants. The University of Cambridge, [9] the Open University, [11] a number of prestigious independent schools, for example Eton, Harrow, Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School and Via Facilis, [13] a London-based charity, run Latin courses. In the United States and in Canada, the American Classical League supports every effort to further the study of classics. Its subsidiaries include the National Junior Classical League (with more than 50,000 members), which encourages high school students to pursue the study of Latin, and the National Senior Classical League, which encourages students to continue their study of the classics into college. The league also sponsors the National Latin Exam. Classicist Mary Beard wrote in The Times Literary Supplement in 2006 that the reason for learning Latin is because of what was written in it. [17]

Latin was or is the official language of European states:


The ancient pronunciation of Latin has been reconstructed; among the data used for reconstruction are explicit statements about pronunciation by ancient authors, misspellings, puns, ancient etymologies, and the spelling of Latin loanwords in other languages.

The consonant phonemes of Classical Latin are shown in the following table: [28]

In Old and Classical Latin, the Latin alphabet had no distinction between uppercase and lowercase, and the letters ⟨J U W⟩ did not exist. In place of ⟨J U⟩, ⟨I V⟩ were used. ⟨I V⟩ represented both vowels and consonants. Most of the letterforms were similar to modern uppercase, as can be seen in the inscription from the Colosseum shown at the top of the article.

The spelling systems used in Latin dictionaries and modern editions of Latin texts, however, normally use ⟨i u⟩ in place of Classical-era ⟨i v⟩.

Some notes concerning the mapping of Latin phonemes to English graphemes are given below:

In Classical Latin, as in modern Italian, double consonant letters were pronounced as long consonant sounds distinct from short versions of the same consonants. Thus the nn in Classical Latin annus, year, (and in Italian /anno/) is pronounced as a doubled /nn/ as in English unnamed. (In English, distinctive consonant length or doubling occurs only at the boundary between two words or morphemes, as in that example.)

In Classical Latin, ⟨U⟩ did not exist as a letter distinct from V; the written form ⟨V⟩ was used to represent both a vowel and a consonant.

Classical Latin distinguished between long and short vowels. Then, long vowels, except for ⟨I⟩, were frequently marked using the apex, which was sometimes similar to an acute accent ⟨Á É Ó V́ Ý⟩. Long /iː/ was written using a taller version of ⟨I⟩, called i longa"long I": ⟨ꟾ⟩. In modern texts, long vowels are often indicated by a macron ⟨ā ē ī ō ū⟩, and short vowels are usually unmarked except when it is necessary to distinguish between words, when they are marked with a breve: ⟨ă ĕ ĭ ŏ ŭ⟩.

Long vowels in Classical Latin were pronounced with a different quality from short vowels and also were longer.

A vowel letter followed by ⟨m⟩ at the end of a word, or a vowel letter followed by ⟨n⟩ before ⟨s⟩ or ⟨f⟩, represented a long nasal vowel, as in monstrum /mõːstrũː/.

Classical Latin had several diphthongs. The two most common were ⟨ae au⟩. ⟨oe⟩ was fairly rare, and ⟨ui eu ei⟩ were very rare, at least in native Latin words. There has also been debate over whether ⟨ui⟩ is truly a diphthong in Classical Latin, due to its rarity, absence in works of Roman grammarians, and the roots of Classical Latin words (i.e. hui ce to huic, quoi to cui, etc.) not matching or being similar to the pronunciation of classical words if ⟨ui⟩ were to be considered a diphthong. [33]

The sequences sometimes did not represent diphthongs.

Old Latin had more diphthongs, but most of them changed into long vowels in Classical Latin.

In Vulgar Latin and the Romance languages, ⟨ae au oe⟩ merged with ⟨e ō ē⟩.


Latin was written in the Latin alphabet, derived from the Old Italic script, which was in turn drawn from the Greek alphabet and ultimately the Phoenician alphabet. This alphabet has continued to be used over the centuries as the script for the Romance, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Finnic, and many Slavic languages (Polish, Slovak, Slovene, Croatian and Czech); and it has been adopted by many languages around the world, including Vietnamese, the Austronesian languages, many Turkic languages, and most languages in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, and Oceania, making it by far the world's single most widely used writing system.

The number of letters in the Latin alphabet has varied.

W was created in the 11th century from VV.

Classical Latin did not contain sentence punctuation, letter case, or interword spacing, but apices were sometimes used to distinguish length in vowels and the interpunct was used at times to separate words. The first line of Catullus 3, originally written as

or with interpunct as

would be rendered in a modern edition as

or with macrons

or with apices

The Roman cursive script is commonly found on the many wax tablets excavated at sites such as forts, an especially extensive set having been discovered at Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall in Britain. Most notable is the fact that while most of the Vindolanda tablets show spaces between words, spaces were avoided in monumental inscriptions from that era.

Occasionally, Latin has been written in other scripts:


Latin is a synthetic, fusional language in the terminology of linguistic typology. In more traditional terminology, it is an inflected language, but typologists are apt to say "inflecting". Words include an objective semantic element and markers specifying the grammatical use of the word. The fusion of root meaning and markers produces very compact sentence elements: amō, "I love," is produced from a semantic element, ama-, "love," to which , a first person singular marker, is suffixed.

The grammatical function can be changed by changing the markers: the word is "inflected" to express different grammatical functions, but the semantic element does not change.

For example, amābit, "he (or she or it) will love", is formed from the same stem, amā-, to which a future tense marker, -bi-, is suffixed, and a third person singular marker, -t, is suffixed.

The inflections express gender, number, and case in adjectives, nouns, and pronouns, a process called declension . Markers are also attached to fixed stems of verbs, to denote person, number, tense, voice, mood, and aspect, a process called conjugation . Some words are uninflected and undergo neither process, such as adverbs, prepositions, and interjections.

A regular Latin noun belongs to one of five main declensions, a group of nouns with similar inflected forms.

There are seven Latin noun cases, which also apply to adjectives and pronouns and mark a noun's syntactic role in the sentence by means of inflections.

Latin lacks both definite and indefinite articles so puer currit can mean either "the boy is running" or "a boy is running".

There are two types of regular Latin adjectives: first- and second- declension and third-declension.

Latin numbers are sometimes declined.

First and second-declension adjectives are declined like first-declension nouns for the feminine forms and like second-declension nouns for the masculine and neuter forms.

First and second declension -er adjectives

Some first and second declension adjectives have an -er as the masculine nominative singular form and are declined like regular first- and second-declension adjectives.

Third-declension adjectives are mostly declined like normal third-declension nouns, with a few exceptions.

Latin participles, like English participles, are formed from a verb.

Latin sometimes uses prepositions, depending on the type of prepositional phrase being used.

A regular verb in Latin belongs to one of four main conjugations. A conjugation is "a class of verbs with similar inflected forms." The conjugations are identified by the last letter of the verb's present stem. The present stem can be found by omitting the -re (- in deponent verbs) ending from the present infinitive form. The infinitive of the first conjugation ends in -ā-re or -ā-ri (active and passive respectively): amāre, "to love,"hortārī, "to exhort"; of the second conjugation by -ē-re or -ē-rī: monēre, "to warn", verērī, "to fear;" of the third conjugation by -ere, : dūcere, "to lead,"ūtī, "to use"; of the fourth by -ī-re, -ī-rī: audīre, "to hear,"experīrī, "to attempt".

Irregular verbs may not follow the types or may be marked in a different way.

There are six general tenses in Latin (present, imperfect, future, perfect, pluperfect and future perfect), three moods (indicative, imperative and subjunctive, in addition to the infinitive, participle, gerund, gerundive and supine), three persons (first, second and third), two numbers (singular and plural), two voices (active and passive) and three aspects (perfective, imperfective, and stative). Verbs are described by four principal parts:

There are six tenses in the Latin language.

The table below displays the common inflected endings for the indicative mood in the active voice in all six tenses.

The future perfect endings are identical to the future forms of sum (with the exception of erint) and that the pluperfect endings are identical to the imperfect forms of sum.

Some Latin verbs are deponent, causing their forms to be in the passive voice but retain an active meaning: hortor, hortārī, hortātus sum (to urge).


As Latin is an Italic language, most of its vocabulary is likewise Italic, ultimately from the ancestral Proto-Indo-European language. However, because of close cultural interaction, the Romans not only adapted the Etruscan alphabet to form the Latin alphabet but also borrowed some Etruscan words into their language, including persona"mask" and histrio"actor". Latin also included vocabulary borrowed from Oscan, another Italic language.

After the Fall of Tarentum (272 BC), the Romans began hellenizing, or adopting features of Greek culture, including the borrowing of Greek words, such as camera (vaulted roof), sumbolum (symbol), and balineum (bath). This hellenization led to the addition of "Y" and "Z" to the alphabet to represent Greek sounds. [5] Subsequently the Romans transplanted Greek art, medicine, science and philosophy to Italy, paying almost any price to entice Greek skilled and educated persons to Rome and sending their youth to be educated in Greece. Thus, many Latin scientific and philosophical words were Greek loanwords or had their meanings expanded by association with Greek words, as ars (craft) and τέχνη (art).

Because of the Roman Empire's expansion and subsequent trade with outlying European tribes, the Romans borrowed some northern and central European words, such as beber (beaver), of Germanic origin, and bracae (breeches), of Celtic origin.

During and after the adoption of Christianity into Roman society, Christian vocabulary became a part of the language, either from Greek or Hebrew borrowings or as Latin neologisms.

Over the ages, Latin-speaking populations produced new adjectives, nouns, and verbs by affixing or compounding meaningful segments. [5] For example, the compound adjective, omnipotens, "all-powerful," was produced from the adjectives omnis, "all", and potens, "powerful", by dropping the final s of omnis and concatenating. Often, the concatenation changed the part of speech, and nouns were produced from verb segments or verbs from nouns and adjectives. [5]


The phrases are mentioned with accents to show where stress is placed. [5] In Latin, most words are stressed at the second-last (penultimate) syllable, called in Latin paenultima or syllaba paenultima. A few words are stressed at the third-last syllable, called in Latin antepaenultima or syllaba antepaenultima.

sálve to one person / salvéte to more than one person - hello

áve to one person / avéte to more than one person - greetings

vále to one person / valéte to more than one person - goodbye

cúra ut váleas- take care

exoptátus to male / exoptáta to female, optátus to male / optáta to female, grátus to male / gráta to female, accéptus to male / accépta to female - welcome

quómodo váles?, ut váles?- how are you?

Laudo - I praise

béne- good

amabo te- please

béne váleo- I'm fine

mále- bad

mále váleo- I'm not good

quáeso (['kwajso]/['kwe:so]) - please

íta, íta est, íta véro, sic, sic est, étiam- yes

non, minime- no

grátias tíbi, grátias tíbi ágo- thank you

mágnas grátias, mágnas grátias ágo- many thanks

máximas grátias, máximas grátias ágo, ingéntes grátias ágo- thank you very much

accípe sis to one person / accípite sítis to more than one person, libénter- you're welcome

qua aetáte es?- how old are you?

25 ánnos nátus to male / 25 ánnos náta to female - 25 years old

loquerísne...- do you speak...

  • Latíne?- Latin?
  • Gráece? (['grajke]/['gre:ke]) - Greek?
  • Ánglice? (['aŋlike]) - English?
  • Italiáne?- Italian?
  • Gallice?- French?
  • Hispánice?- Spanish?
  • Lusitánice?- Portuguese?
  • Theodísce? ([teo'diske]) - German?
  • Sínice?- Chinese?
  • Japónice? ([ja'po:nike]) - Japanese?
  • Coreane?- Korean?
  • Arábice?- Arabic?
  • Pérsice?- Persian?
  • Indice?- Hindi?
  • Rússice?- Russian?
  • Cambrica?- Welsh?
  • Suecice?- Swedish?

úbi latrína est?- where is the toilet?

ámo te / te ámo- I love you


In ancient times, numbers in Latin were written only with letters.

The numbers from 4 to 100 often do not change their endings.

Example text

Commentarii de Bello Gallico , also called De Bello Gallico (The Gallic War), written by Gaius Julius Caesar, begins with the following passage:

See also


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