Latin in English?

I thought this language was English! Why do I need to know Latin?

Believe it or not, Latin words and phrases are used in the English language all the time. We see it used in many different situations, some of which you may not realize.

What is Latin? Where did it come from?

Latin is the language of the ancient Romans. Their  capital was Rome (obviously), and the empire at its height included all of Italy, Spain, France, most of England, North Africa and reached into the Middle East. Rome was a huge empire and lasted for hundreds of years. Once the empire fell, Latin was no longer used. Instead, many regional dialects of Latin evolved into the modern Romance Languages, such as French, Spanish and Italian. Note they are called Romance languages not because they are beautiful to hear and fill your heart with amorous longing, but Romance because they are from the Roman language – Latin.

Why is Latin still used?

We still use it because the early Catholic Church adopted Latin as its official language. Masses in the Catholic Church were performed in Latin until the 1960s. Latin masses can be heard every once in a while to this very day.

Protestant Christians started performing their own services in local languages in the 1500s, and academia of the time thought Latin would be great to use for scientific, educational and diplomatic purposes. To this day, a lot of Latin phrases are used in legal settings, and Latin is used to identify living organisms. For example, scientists in any country in the world identify the common house fly as Musca domestica.

This is a very brief overview, but the general idea is Latin was very important in European and World history.

Let’s look at some important Latin words and phrases that are likely to be encountered in everyday English (in no particular order):

etc., or et cetera /ɛt ˈsɛt(ə)rə/ – and so on. It is used at the end of  a list to mean there are many other items in the same category that could be mentioned. There are lots of Romance languages spoken in the world today, such as French, Portuguese, Italian, etc.

e.g., or exempli gratia / ig-ˌzem-(ˌ)plē-ˈgrä-tē-ˌä/ – for example. I love Italian sports cars, e.g. Ferrari and Lamborghini.

i.e., or id est /id est/ – that is, or in other words. I have a bruise on my gluteus maximus, i.e., my bottom.

quid pro quo /ˌkwɪd prəʊ ˈkwəʊ/ – literally: something for something. This is a legal term that usually means there is some kind of favor (usually illegal) given for another kind of favor. The supervisor was fired when it came out that he was offering a quid pro quo for positive performance evaluations.

carpe diem /ˌkɑːpeɪ ˈdiːɛm,ˈdʌɪɛm/, and exclamation translated as, “seize the day.” In other words, live life to the fullest.

gluteus maximus /ˈɡluːtɪəs/ / -ˈmak-sə-məs /, the muscles in your bottom. I fell on the ice, and now I have a large bruise on my gluteus maximus.

A.D., or Anno Domini /ˌanəʊ ˈdɒmɪnʌɪ/ – used to specify the year as being after the birth of Christ, as opposed to B.C., which is “Before Christ.” C.E., or Common Era, and B.C.E.- Before Common Era, mean the exact same thing. The Roman Empire was at its peak in about 600 A.D.

This is a very short list. There are many more examples in use every day. Can you think of an example? Post it in the comments!


all the time (slang) – often. My sister goes camping all the time. At least every other weekend.

obviously /ˈɑːbvijəsli/ – clearly, easy for anyone to see. She’s obviously a talented artist. Her last painting sold for an incredible price.

amorous /ˈæmərəs/ – having strong feelings of love or attraction. He was feeling amorous, and left the party early with his date.

academia /ˌækəˈdiːmijə/ – having to do with higher learning. Being a brilliant philosopher, she was well known in the halls of academia.

encounter /ɪnˈkaʊntɚ/ – to meet or come upon. It is not common to encounter a bear in the winter because they are hibernating until spring.

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