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Lingua Latina est lingua Indoeuropaea qua in Roma antiqua Romani utebantur. Linguam Latinam "linguam mortuam" appellare solemus, tamen institutionibus academicis adhuc lingua Latina docetur. Linguae vivae multae, sicut Italiana, Gallica, Hispanica, Lusitana, Catalana, Sarda, Rhaetica, ex Latina ortae sunt.

Latin is a "dead language" that was used in ancient Rome. It is one of the Indo-European languages, and in ancient times it was one of an undetermined number of the Italic family within Indo-European; little is known about the others, as they are all very poorly attested. Many modern living languages are descended from Latin, notably Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Sardinian and Romanian; Romanian is the most conservative extant Romance language. And though English isn't descended from Latin, it has a considerable number of Latin loanwords, either coming from it directly, via French, and in more recent times Spanish and other Romance languages. People often use Latinisms to sound clever.

Although Latin can look interminably boring, as happens to anything labeled "classical", one way to liven it up a bit is to pronounce the letter r as Latin speakers intended. While most English speakers who attempt to learn Latin carry over the English pronunciation, the standard English r (and especially the rhotic vowels American English held onto) is actually one of the rarest sounds in the world's languages. Actual Latin pronounced the letter r with a trill, similar to what exists in most (French notwithstanding) Romance languages today. Seriously, try it.[1]

Latin as a dead language[edit]

The use of the term "dead language" in reference to Latin is sometimes used as a snarl word against modern learners of Latin (some would say rightfully so), and is also often misused colloquially, but the term has actually has a pretty precise linguistical meaning. A dead language is simply one that does not have a community of native speakers of it, but can still have modern speakers. In this sense, Latin is a dead language, it quite obviously has no native speakers of it, but is still spoken by some people throughout the world [2]. A term which seems similar to this is that of an extinct languageWikipedia, but is pretty different, which is a language which currently has no speakers whatsoever [3]. A language such as EtruscanWikipedia, which is comparatively much less understood than Latin, and has no current speakers is considered extinct, for example. These two terms should not be conflated with each other and the precise meaning of both should be adequately understood in their precise non-colloquial ways in discussions of the Latin language.

Latin today[edit]

Until recently, Roman Catholic Masses were performed in Latin.[4] A Latin document effectively helped priests to carry on abusing children (see Crimen Sollicitationis).

1861 Ph. D. certificate from Yale University in Latin.

Many Latin phrases are used in law, logic, and Astérix comics; these phrases are usually italicized to indicate their foreign origin. Many university mottoes are in Latin, and some fancy schmancy universities like Yale print their diplomas in Latin.[5][6][7]

Latin is also used, along with Greek, for the roots of scientific names for genera and species of living things.[8]

Contrary to rumor, neither Dan Quayle nor George W. Bush ever expressed a desire to learn Latin for an upcoming trip to Latin America; Bush, whatever else his faults, actually speaks reasonably decent Spanish.[9]

Various attempts have been made to revive Latin, sometimes in a simplified form. Some children have been raised in it, and there are broadcasts in it (not all from the Vatican). There is a Living Latin community online, although it is very small. The Latin revival is nowhere near the scale of Hebrew, but it can be seen as parallel to the revival of Sanskrit.

Dog Latin[edit]

In case you want to say something in Latin but don't know how, use the {{Dog latin}} template.

Does reading Latin make you smarter?[edit]

Many people who have wasted years of their lives reading Caesar's Gallic Wars in Latin claim that reading publications written in the language makes you "smarter"- specifically, at learning other languages.[10][11] The latter might hold a grain of truth if the language you're trying to learn is English or a Romance language, as these will often feature a lot of Latin-derived words.

There is also evidence that bilingualism or multilingualism has benefits not only in academic performance, but even in mental health and preventing dementia.[12] That being said, much of this research focuses on those who actually speak multiple languages, rather than the more text-based manner in which Latin is taught, and thus you would be better off learning a language that you can speak. It is unclear if Latin has any particular benefit, while a language such as Chinese has obvious benefits if you go to China, meet Chinese people, want to invest in China, fear invasion of your country and world domination by China, etc. In contrast to claims that there is something special about Latin that promotes language learning singularly superior to that which you could gain from all other languages, a 2003 study found that people who studied French did better than those who studied Latin at learning Spanish.[13] It is claimed that people who study Latin do better academically[10] but that might be because Latin is mostly taught in elite schools.

Studying Latin could also carry the benefit of helping one to understand concepts of linguistics which are obscure in one's native language, through demonstration in another language, but there are many other ways besides the learning of Latin that this could be done. Latin could also be of interest to and benefit those interested in and learning about scientific naming and law, due to the aforementioned fact of Latin's ubiquity in the naming conventions in those fields.


The book Le français ne vient pas du latin attempts, but fails, to prove that the Romance languages are not descended from Latin, but rather from "old Italian". Certain Romanian nationalists, in their eternal quest to prove that Romanian is not derived from Latin, have unsurprisingly latched onto this work as supposedly being support for their ethnocentric nonsense.

See also[edit]


  2. Matthews, P. H. (2007-01-01), "dead language", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics, Oxford University Press
  3. Lenore A. Grenoble, Lindsay J. Whaley, Saving Languages: An Introduction to Language Revitalization, Cambridge University Press (2006) p.18
  4. Facts on Latin in the Roman Catholic Church
  5. University Latin Mottos
  6. A Degree in English
  7. Making Diplomas Modern
  8. How are scientific names developed?
  9. Quayle Quotes, Snopes.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Benefits of Latin: Why study Latin?, College of Arts & Sciences, University of Kentucky, accessed 13 Mar 2020
  11. The Unique Benefits of Learning Latin, Davenant Institute, Jun 24, 2019
  12. The amazing benefits of being bilingual, Gaia Vince, BBC Future, 12th August 2016
  13. In search of the benefits of learning Latin. Haag, L., & Stern, E. (2003). Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 174–178.