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
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
Vulgar Latin developed into the Romance languages, such as
Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Romanian. Latin, Greek and
French have contributed many words to the English language.
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
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.
Latin is taught in primary, secondary and postsecondary educational
institutions around the world.
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
1.1 Old Latin
1.2 Classical Latin
1.3 Vulgar Latin
1.4 Medieval Latin
1.6 New Latin
1.7 Contemporary Latin
2.3 Influence on present-day languages
2.5 Official status
3.2.1 Simple vowels
4.1 Alternate scripts
5.2.1 First and second-declension adjectives
5.2.2 Third declension adjectives
5.4.1 Deponent verbs
9 Example text
10 See also
13 External links
13.1 Language tools
Grammar and study
Latin language news and audio
Latin language online communities
Main article: History of Latin
The linguistic landscape of Central Italy at the beginning of Roman
A number of historical phases of the language have been recognised,
each distinguished by subtle differences in vocabulary, usage,
spelling, morphology, and syntax. There are no hard and fast rules of
classification; different scholars emphasise different features. As a
result, the list has variants, as well as alternative names. In
addition to the historical phases,
Ecclesiastical Latin refers to the
styles used by the writers of the Roman
Catholic Church as well as by
Protestant scholars from
Late Antiquity onward.
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, more formal uses.
Main article: Old Latin
The earliest known form of
Latin is Old Latin, which was spoken from
Roman Kingdom to the later part 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 script to what ultimately became a strictly
Main article: Classical Latin
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.
Vulgar Latin and Late Latin
Philological analysis of Archaic
Latin works, such as those of
Plautus, which contain snippets of everyday speech, indicates that a
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.
On the contrary, romanised European populations developed their own
dialects of the language, which eventually led to the differentiation
of Romance languages. The Decline of the
Roman Empire meant a
deterioration in educational standards that brought about Late Latin,
a postclassical stage of the language seen in Christian writings of
the time. It was more in line with everyday speech, not only because
of a decline in education but also because of a desire to spread the
word to the masses.
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. It was not until the Moorish conquest of Spain in
711 cut off communications between the major Romance regions that the
languages began to diverge seriously. The
Vulgar Latin dialect
that would later become Romanian diverged somewhat more from the other
varieties, as it was largely cut off from the unifying influences in
the western part of the Empire.
One key marker of whether a given Romance feature was found in Vulgar
Latin is to compare it with its parallel in Classical Latin. If it was
not preferred in Classical Latin, then it most likely came from the
undocumented contemporaneous Vulgar Latin. For example, the Romance
for "horse" (Italian cavallo, French cheval, Spanish caballo,
Portuguese cavalo and Romanian cal) came from
Latin caballus. However,
Classical Latin used equus. Therefore caballus was most likely the
Vulgar Latin began to diverge into distinct languages by the 9th
century at the latest, when the earliest extant Romance writings begin
to appear. They were, throughout the period, confined to everyday
Medieval Latin was used for writing.
Main article: Medieval Latin
Bible from 1407.
Medieval Latin is the written
Latin in use during that portion of the
postclassical period when no corresponding
Latin vernacular existed.
The spoken language had developed into the various incipient Romance
languages; however, in the educated and official world
without its natural spoken base. Moreover, this
Latin spread into
lands that had never spoken Latin, such as the Germanic and Slavic
nations. It became useful for international communication between the
member states of the Holy
Roman Empire and its allies.
Without the institutions of the Roman empire that had supported its
Latin lost its linguistic cohesion: for example,
Latin sum and eram are used as auxiliary verbs in the
perfect and pluperfect passive, which are compound tenses. Medieval
Latin might use fui and fueram instead. Furthermore, the meanings
of many words have been changed and new vocabularies have been
introduced from the vernacular. Identifiable individual styles of
Most 15th century printed books (incunabula) were in Latin, with the
vernacular languages playing only a secondary role.
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
Medieval Latin with versions supported by the scholars of the
rising universities, who attempted, by scholarship, to discover what
the classical language had been.
Main article: New Latin
During the Early Modern Age,
Latin still was the most important
language of culture in Europe. Therefore, until the end of the 17th
century the majority of books and almost all diplomatic documents were
written in Latin. Afterwards, most diplomatic documents were written
in French and later just native or other languages.
Main article: Contemporary Latin
The signs at
Wallsend Metro station
Wallsend Metro station are in English and
Latin as a
tribute to Wallsend's role as one of the outposts of the Roman Empire.
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
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
Vatican City is also home to the world's only automatic teller
machine that gives instructions in Latin. 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 and there have been several
since. Most recently, a
Latin edition of the 1979 USA Anglican Book of
Common Prayer has appeared.
European Union has adopted
Latin names in the logos of
some of its institutions for the sake of linguistic compromise, an
"ecumenical nationalism" common to most of the continent and as a sign
of the continent's heritage (such as the EU Council: Consilium)
Switzerland has adopted 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
Canada's motto A mari usque ad mare ("from sea to sea") and most
provincial mottos are also in Latin. The Canadian
Victoria Cross is
modelled after the British
Victoria Cross which has the inscription
"For Valour". Because
Canada is officially bilingual, the Canadian
medal has replaced the English inscription with the
Latin Pro Valore.
Several states of the
United States have
Latin mottos: such as
Connecticut's motto Qui transtulit sustinet ("He who transplanted us,
sustains us"); Kansas's Ad astra per aspera ("To the stars through
hardships"); Michigan's Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice
("If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you"); Missouri's Salus
populi suprema lex esto ("The health of the people should be the
highest law"); North Carolina's Esse quam videri ("To be rather than
to seem"); Virginia's
Sic semper tyrannis
Sic semper tyrannis ("Thus always to tyrants");
and West Virginia's Montani semper liberi ("Mountaineers are always
Many military organizations today have
Latin mottos, such as Semper
paratus ("always ready"), the motto of the
United States Coast Guard;
Semper fidelis ("always faithful"), the motto of the United States
Marine Corps; and
Per ardua ad astra
Per ardua ad astra ("Through adversity/struggle to
the stars"), the motto of the
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force (RAF).
Some colleges and universities have adopted
Latin mottos, for example
Harvard University's motto is
Veritas was the
goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn, and the mother of Virtue.
Latin is taught at many high schools, especially in Europe and the
Americas. It is most common in British public schools and grammar
schools, the Italian liceo classico and liceo scientifico, the German
Humanistisches Gymnasium and the Dutch gymnasium. In the United
States, it is taught at Baltimore City College, Boston
Latin School, Brooklyn
Latin School, Central High School of
Philadelphia, English High School of Boston, Norwell High School
(Massachusetts), Oak Hall School, and many other public and private
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
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.
Occasionally, some media outlets, targeting enthusiasts, broadcast in
Latin. Notable examples include
Radio Bremen in Germany,
YLE radio in
Finland, and Vatican Radio & Television, all of which broadcast
news segments and other material in Latin.
There are many websites and forums maintained in
Latin by enthusiasts.
Latin has more than 100,000 articles written in Latin.
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.
Commentarii de Bello Gallico
Commentarii de Bello Gallico is one of the most famous
Latin texts of the Golden Age of Latin. The unvarnished,
journalistic style of this patrician general has long been taught as a
model of the urbane
Latin officially spoken and written in the floruit
of the Roman Republic.
The works of several hundred ancient authors who wrote in
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,
Harvard University Press, or the Oxford Classical Texts,
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
Influence on present-day languages
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
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. Those figures can rise
dramatically when only non-compound and non-derived words are
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
Interlingua is sometimes considered a simplified, modern
version of the language.[dubious – discuss] 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%.
Latin dictionary in the University Library of Graz.
Throughout European history, an education in the classics was
considered crucial for those who wished to join literate circles.
Instruction in Latin
Instruction in Latin is an essential aspect. In today's world, a large
Latin students in the US learn from Wheelock's Latin: The
Latin Course, Based on Ancient Authors. This
book, first published in 1956, was written by Frederic M.
Wheelock, who received a PhD from Harvard University. Wheelock's Latin
has become the standard text for many American introductory Latin
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
University of Kentucky and Iowa State
University. The British
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press is a major supplier
Latin textbooks for all levels, such as the Cambridge
series. It has also published a subseries of children's texts in Latin
by Bell & Forte, which recounts the adventures of a mouse called
Ancient Greek at Duke University, 2014.
In the United Kingdom, the
Classical Association encourages the study
of antiquity through various means, such as publications and grants.
The University of Cambridge, the Open University, a number of
prestigious independent schools, for example Eton, Harrow,
Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, Via Facilis and Rugby, a
London-based charity, run
Latin courses. In the
United States and in
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
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.
Latin was or is the official language of European states:
Holy See – used in the diocese, with Italian being the
official language of Vatican City
Latin was the sole official language of the Kingdom
Hungary from the 11th century to the mid 19th century, when it was
replaced by Hungarian in 1844. The best known
Latin language poet
Hungary was Janus Pannonius.
Latin was the official language of Croatian
Parliament (Sabor) from the 13th to the 19th century (1847). The
oldest preserved records of the parliamentary sessions (Congregatio
Regni totius Sclavonie generalis) – held in Zagreb (Zagabria),
Croatia – date from 19 April 1273. An extensive Croatian Latin
Latin is still used on Croatian coins on even
Poland, Kingdom of
Poland – officially recognised and widely
used between the 10th and 18th centuries, commonly
used in foreign relations and popular as a second language among some
of the nobility
Latin spelling and pronunciation
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.
Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses.
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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
The consonant phonemes of
Classical Latin are shown in the following
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, respectively; ⟨I
V⟩ represented both vowels and consonants. Most of the letterforms
were similar to modern uppercase, as can be seen in the inscription
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 systems use ⟨j v⟩ for the consonant sounds /j w/
except in the combinations ⟨gu su qu⟩ for which ⟨v⟩ is never
Some notes concerning the mapping of
Latin phonemes to English
graphemes are given below:
Always hard as k in sky, never soft as in central, cello, or social
As t in stay, never as t in nation
As s in say, never as s in rise or issue
Always hard as g in good, never soft as g in gem
Before ⟨n⟩, as ng in sing
As n in man
Before ⟨c⟩, ⟨x⟩, and ⟨g⟩, as ng in sing
When doubled ⟨ll⟩ and before ⟨i⟩, as clear l in link (l
In all other positions, as dark l in bowl (l pinguis)
Similar to qu in quick, never as qu in antique
Sometimes at the beginning of a syllable, or after ⟨g⟩ and
⟨s⟩, as w in wine, never as v in vine
Sometimes at the beginning of a syllable, as y in yard, never as j in
Doubled between vowels, as y y in toy yacht
A letter representing ⟨c⟩ + ⟨s⟩: as x in English axe, never as
x in example
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
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. ⟨Y⟩ was adopted to represent upsilon in loanwords from
Greek, but it was pronounced like ⟨u⟩ and ⟨i⟩ by some
speakers. It was also used in native
Latin words by confusion with
Greek words of similar meaning, such as sylva and ὕλη.
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. The difference is
described in table below:
similar to u in cut when short
similar to a in father when long
as e in pet when short
similar to ey in they when long
as i in sit when short
similar to i in machine when long
as o in sort when short
similar to o in holy when long
similar to u in put when short
similar to u in true when long
as in German Stück when short (or as short u or i)
as in German früh when long (or as long u or i)
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. 
The sequences sometimes did not represent diphthongs. ⟨ae⟩ and
⟨oe⟩ also represented a sequence of two vowels in different
syllables in aēnus [aˈeː.nʊs] "of bronze" and coēpit
[kɔˈeː.pɪt] "began", and ⟨au ui eu ei ou⟩ represented
sequences of two vowels or of a vowel and one of the semivowels /j w/,
in cavē [ˈka.weː] "beware!", cuius [ˈkʊj.jʊs] "whose", monuī
[ˈmɔn.ʊ.iː] "I warned", solvī [ˈsɔɫ.wiː] "I released",
dēlēvī [deːˈleː.wiː] "I destroyed", eius [ˈɛj.jʊs] "his",
and novus [ˈnɔ.wʊs] "new".
Old Latin had more diphthongs, but most of them changed into long
vowels in Classical Latin. The
Old Latin diphthong ⟨ai⟩ and the
sequence ⟨āī⟩ became Classical ⟨ae⟩.
Old Latin ⟨oi⟩ and
⟨ou⟩ changed to Classical ⟨ū⟩, except in a few words whose
⟨oi⟩ became Classical ⟨oe⟩. These two developments sometimes
occurred in different words from the same root: for instance,
Classical poena "punishment" and pūnīre "to punish". Early Old
Latin ⟨ei⟩ usually changed to Classical ⟨ī⟩.
Vulgar Latin and the Romance languages, ⟨ae au oe⟩ merged with
⟨e ō ē⟩. A similar pronunciation also existed during the
Classical Latin period for less-educated speakers.
Diphthongs classified by beginning sound
The Duenos Inscription, from the 6th century BC, is one of the
Old Latin texts.
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. When it was
first derived from the Etruscan alphabet, it contained only 21
letters. Later, G was added to represent /ɡ/, which had
previously been spelled C, and Z ceased to be included in the
alphabet, as the language then had no voiced alveolar fricative.
The letters Y and Z were later added to represent Greek letters,
upsilon and zeta respectively, in Greek loanwords.
W was created in the 11th century from VV. It represented /w/ in
Germanic languages, not Latin, which still uses V for the purpose. J
was distinguished from the original I only during the late Middle
Ages, as was the letter U from V. Although some
use J, it is rarely used for
Latin text, as it was not used in
classical times, but many other languages use it.
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
LV́GÉTEÓVENERÉSCVPÍDINÉSQVE ("Mourn, O Venuses and Cupids")
or with interpunct as
would be rendered in a modern edition as
Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque
or with macrons
Lūgēte, ō Venerēs Cupīdinēsque
or with apices
Lúgéte, ó Venerés Cupídinésque.
A replica of the Old Roman Cursive inspired by the Vindolanda tablets,
the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain.
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.
Latin has been written in other scripts:
Praeneste fibula is a 7th-century BC pin with an Old Latin
inscription written using the Etruscan script.
The rear panel of the early 8th-century
Franks Casket has an
inscription that switches from
Old English in
Anglo-Saxon runes to
Latin script and to
Latin in runes.
Latin grammar and
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 -ō, 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. (
Inflection uses affixing and
infixing. Affixing is prefixing and suffixing.
Latin inflections are
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. There
is an inherent ambiguity: -t may denote more than one grammatical
category: masculine, feminine, or neuter gender. A major task in
Latin phrases and clauses is to clarify such ambiguities
by an analysis of context. All natural languages contain ambiguities
of one sort or another.
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
Latin noun belongs to one of five main declensions, a group
of nouns with similar inflected forms. The declensions are identified
by the genitive singular form of the noun. The first declension, with
a predominant ending letter of a, is signified by the genitive
singular ending of -ae. The second declension, with a predominant
ending letter of o, is signified by the genitive singular ending of
-i. The third declension, with a predominant ending letter of i, is
signified by the genitive singular ending of -is. The fourth
declension, with a predominant ending letter of u, is signified by the
genitive singular ending of -ūs. The fifth declension, with a
predominant ending letter of e, is signified by the genitive singular
ending of -ei.
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. Thus, word order is not as important in
Latin as it is in
English, which is less inflected. The general structure and word order
Latin sentence can therefore vary. The cases are as follows:
Nominative – used when the noun is the subject or a predicate
nominative. The thing or person acting: the girl ran: puella cucurrit,
or cucurrit puella
Genitive – used when the noun is the possessor of or connected with
an object: "the horse of the man", or "the man's horse"; in both
instances, the word man would be in the genitive case when it is
translated into Latin). It also indicates the partitive, in which the
material is quantified: "a group of people"; "a number of gifts":
people and gifts would be in the genitive case). Some nouns are
genitive with special verbs and adjectives: The cup is full of wine.
Poculum plēnum vīnī est. The master of the slave had beaten him.
Dominus servī eum verberāverat.
Dative – used when the noun is the indirect object of the sentence,
with special verbs, with certain prepositions, and if it is used as
agent, reference, or even possessor: The merchant hands the stola to
the woman. Mercātor fēminae stolam trādit.)
Accusative – used when the noun is the direct object of the subject
and as the object of a preposition demonstrating place to which.: The
man killed the boy. Vir necāvit puerum.
Ablative – used when the noun demonstrates separation or movement
from a source, cause, agent or instrument or when the noun is used as
the object of certain prepositions; adverbial: You walked with the
boy. Cum puerō ambulāvistī.
Vocative – used when the noun is used in a direct address. The
vocative form of a noun is often the same as the nominative, but
exceptions include second-declension nouns ending in -us. The -us
becomes an -e in the vocative singular. If it ends in -ius (such as
fīlius), the ending is just -ī (filī), as distinct from the
nominative plural (filiī) in the vocative singular: "Master!" shouted
the slave. "Domine!" clāmāvit servus.
Locative – used to indicate a location (corresponding to the English
"in" or "at"). It is far less common than the other six cases of Latin
nouns and usually applies to cities and small towns and islands along
with a few common nouns, such as the word domus (house). In the
singular of the first and second declensions, its form coincides with
the genitive (Roma becomes Romae, "in Rome"). In the plural of all
declensions and the singular of the other declensions, it coincides
with the ablative (Athēnae becomes Athēnīs, "at Athens"). In the
fourth-declension word domus, the locative form, domī ("at home")
differs from the standard form of all other cases.
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. They are so-called because their
forms are similar or identical to first- and second-declension and
third-declension nouns, respectively.
Latin adjectives also have
comparative (more --, -er) and superlative (most --, est) forms. There
are also a number of
Latin numbers are sometimes declined. See Numbers below.
First and second-declension adjectives
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. For
example, for mortuus, mortua, mortuum (dead), mortua is declined like
a regular first-declension noun (such as puella (girl)), mortuus is
declined like a regular second-declension masculine noun (such as
dominus (lord, master)), and mortuum is declined like a regular
second-declension neuter noun (such as auxilium (help)).
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. Some but not all adjectives
keep the e for all of the forms.
Third declension adjectives
Third-declension adjectives are mostly declined like normal
third-declension nouns, with a few exceptions. In the plural
nominative neuter, for example, the ending is -ia (omnia (all,
everything)), and for third-declension nouns, the plural nominative
neuter ending is -a or -ia (capita (heads), animalia (animals)) They
can have one, two or three forms for the masculine, feminine, and
neuter nominative singular.
Latin participles, like English participles, are formed from a verb.
There are a few main types of participles: Present Active Participles,
Perfect Passive Participles, Future Active Participles, and Future
Latin sometimes uses prepositions, depending on the type of
prepositional phrase being used. Prepositions can take two cases for
their object: the accusative ("apud puerum" (with the boy), with
"puerum" being the accusative form of "puer", boy) and the ablative
("sine puero" (without the boy), "puero" being the ablative form of
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 (-rī
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, -ī: 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. The "endings" presented above are not the suffixed
infinitive markers. The first letter in each case is the last of the
stem so the conjugations are also called a-conjugation, e-conjugation
and i-conjugation. The fused infinitive ending is -re or -rī.
Third-conjugation stems end in a consonant: the consonant conjugation.
Further, there is a subset of the third conjugation, the i-stems,
which behave somewhat like the fourth conjugation, as they are both
i-stems, one short and the other long. The stem categories descend
from Indo-European and can therefore be compared to similar
conjugations in other Indo-European languages.
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:
The first principal part is the first-person singular, present tense,
indicative mood, active voice form of the verb. If the verb is
impersonal, the first principal part will be in the third-person
The second principal part is the present infinitive active.
The third principal part is the first-person singular, perfect
indicative active form. Like the first principal part, if the verb is
impersonal, the third principal part will be in the third-person
The fourth principal part is the supine form, or alternatively, the
nominative singular, perfect passive participle form of the verb. The
fourth principal part can show one gender of the participle or all
three genders (-us for masculine, -a for feminine and -m for neuter)
in the nominative singular. The fourth principal part will be the
future participle if the verb cannot be made passive. Most modern
Latin dictionaries, if they show only one gender, tend to show the
masculine; but many older dictionaries instead show the neuter, as it
coincides with the supine. The fourth principal part is sometimes
omitted for intransitive verbs, but strictly in Latin, they can be
made passive if they are used impersonally, and the supine exists for
There are six tenses in the
Latin language. These are divided into two
tense systems: the present system, which is made up of the present,
imperfect and future tenses, and the perfect system, which is made up
of the perfect, pluperfect and future perfect tenses. Each tense has a
set of endings corresponding to the person and number referred to.
Subject (nominative) pronouns are generally omitted for the first (I,
we) and second (you) persons unless emphasis on the subject is
The table below displays the common inflected endings for the
indicative mood in the active voice in all six tenses. For the future
tense, the first listed endings are for the first and second
conjugations, and the second listed endings are for the third and
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.
Latin verbs are deponent, causing their forms to be in the
passive voice but retain an active meaning: hortor, hortārī,
hortātus sum (to urge).
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
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. Subsequently the Romans
transplanted Greek art, medicine, science and philosophy to Italy,
paying almost any price to entice Greek skilled and educated persons
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. The specific dialects of
Latin across Latin-speaking regions of the former
Roman Empire after
its fall were influenced by languages specific to the regions. The
Latin evolved into different Romance languages.
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. Continuing into the
Latin incorporated many more words from surrounding
Old English and other Germanic languages.
Over the ages, Latin-speaking populations produced new adjectives,
nouns, and verbs by affixing or compounding meaningful segments.
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.
The phrases are mentioned with accents to show where stress is
placed. 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,
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?
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.
Today, the numbers can be written with the Arabic numbers as well as
with Roman numerals. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 and every whole hundred
from 200 to 900 are declined as nouns and adjectives, with some
ūnus, ūna, ūnum (masculine, feminine, neuter)
duo, duae, duo (m., f., n.)
trēs, tria (m./f., n.)
IIII or IV
VIIII or IX
The numbers from 4 to 100 often do not change their endings.
Commentarii de Bello Gallico, also called De Bello Gallico (The Gallic
War), written by Gaius Julius Caesar, begins with the following
Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae,
aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli
appellantur. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se differunt.
Gallos ab Aquitanis Garumna flumen, a Belgis Matrona et Sequana
dividit. Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae, propterea quod a cultu
atque humanitate provinciae longissime absunt, minimeque ad eos
mercatores saepe commeant atque ea quae ad effeminandos animos
pertinent important, proximique sunt Germanis, qui trans Rhenum
incolunt, quibuscum continenter bellum gerunt. Qua de causa Helvetii
quoque reliquos Gallos virtute praecedunt, quod fere cotidianis
proeliis cum Germanis contendunt, cum aut suis finibus eos prohibent
aut ipsi in eorum finibus bellum gerunt. Eorum una pars, quam Gallos
obtinere dictum est, initium capit a flumine Rhodano, continetur
Garumna flumine, Oceano, finibus Belgarum; attingit etiam ab Sequanis
et Helvetiis flumen Rhenum; vergit ad septentriones. Belgae ab
extremis Galliae finibus oriuntur; pertinent ad inferiorem partem
fluminis Rheni; spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem. Aquitania
a Garumna flumine ad Pyrenaeos montes et eam partem Oceani quae est ad
Hispaniam pertinet; spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones.
Ancient Rome portal
Latin roots in English
List of Greek and
Latin roots in English
Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names
Latin translations of modern literature
Latin words with English derivatives
List of Latinised names
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Latin Course on YouTube and
audiobooks. Molendinarius. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
Byrne, Carol (1999). "Simplicissimus" (PDF). The
Latin Mass Society of
England and Wales. Retrieved 20 April 2011. (a course in
Harsch, Ulrich (1996–2010). "Ludus Latinus Cursus linguae latinae".
Bibliotheca Augustiana (in Latin). Augsburg: University of Applied
Sciences. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
Latin on The National Archives (United Kingdom)
Grammar and study
Bennett, Charles E. (2005) .
Grammar (2nd ed.).
Project Gutenberg. ISBN 1-176-19706-1.
Griffin, Robin (1992). A student's
Grammar (3rd ed.). University
of Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-38587-3.
Lehmann, Winifred P.; Slocum, Jonathan (2008). "
Latin Online, Series
Introduction". The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 16
Latin Pronunciation – a Beginner's Guide". H2G2, BBC. 2001.
Cui, Ray (2005). "Phonetica Latinae-How to pronounce Latin". Ray Cui.
Retrieved 25 June 2010.
Latin language news and audio
Nuntii Latini, from Finnish
YLE Radio 1
News in Latin, Radio Bremen
Classics Podcasts in
Latin and Ancient Greek, Haverford College
Latin Language course and
Latin Language YouTube Index
Latin language online communities
Grex Latine Loquentium (Flock of those Speaking Latin)
Circulus Latinus Interretialis (Internet
Latinitas Foundation, at the Vatican
Ages of Latin
until 75 BC
75 BC – 200 AD
History of Latin
Latino sine flexione
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum
Ancient Rome topics
historiography of the fall
Tribune of the Plebs
Frontiers and fortifications
Decorations and punishments
Conflict of the Orders
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Younger
Quintus Curtius Rufus
Seneca the Elder
Seneca the Younger
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Eusebius of Caesaria
Phlegon of Tralles
Lists and other
Cities and towns
Wars and battles