Global Language and World Culture
Latin and English

Latin and English

Latin and English language
Latin and English language

English is a Germanic language, with a grammar and a core vocabulary inherited from Proto-Germanic. However, a significant portion of the English vocabulary comes from Romance and Latinate sources. A portion of these borrowings come directly from Latin, or through one of the Romance languages, particularly Anglo-Norman and French, but some also from Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; or from other languages (such as Gothic, Frankish or Greek) into Latin and then into English. The influence of Latin in English, therefore, is primarily lexical in nature, being confined mainly to words derived from Latin roots.

Many English speakers may not realize how often English words are actually taken, verbatim, from both ancient and modern languages. Latin, in particular, has been extremely influential not only on the romance languages, such as French, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, but also on today’s English. It may come as a surprise to learn that English speakers use common Latin phrases every day, most recognizably in the sciences.

A Latinism therefore (from Medieval Latin: Latinismus) is a word, idiom, or structure in a language other than Latin that is derived from, or suggestive of, the Latin language. The Term Latinism refers to those loan words that are borrowed into another language directly from Latin (especially frequent among inkhorn terms); English has many of these, as well. There are many Latinisms in English, and other (especially European) languages.

As a matter of fact many words that we still use nowadays comes from the latin language; let’s take VIRUS for example, it was used in the 18th and early 19th centuries for “any agent that causes infectious disease.” The word originally derived from the Greek, ios. As well as meaning a poisonous secretion by snakes, it was also used in Latin to mean a poisonous emanation from a plant, a poisonous fluid, a nasty manner of speech or disposition, an acrid juice or a magic potion.

From figurative senses of VIRUS in the old “poison” meaning we get words like VIRULENT and VIRULENCE. These were used earlier in medicine, in reference to wounds or ulcers that were “full of corrupt or poisonous matter.” The figurative senses seem to date from c. 1600.

VIRAL is a 20th century word, originally “of the nature of, or caused by, a virus.” The internet sense of “become suddenly widely popular through sharing” seems to be from the 1990s, originally in the jargon of marketing, and is based on the spread of a computer virus.

CORONA is the Latin word for “a crown, a garland,” in ancient Rome especially “a crown or garland bestowed for distinguished military service.” Our English CROWN is just the same Latin word passed through French, which beat a few sounds out of it.

Latin phrases still used in English
Latin phrases still used in English

Since it left Latin it has acquired many extended senses in botany, anatomy, cigars, beers, etc. A CORONAVIRUS is so called for the spikes that protrude from its membranes and resemble the tines of a crown or the corona of the sun. When I wrote that entry probably very few people had seen a representation of one. Now, probably, all of you have.

HOSPITAL is the same word as HOTEL (and HOSTEL, and, partly, HOSPICE), and is related to both GUEST and HOST, and to HOSPITALITY and HOSTILITY. It’s one of the word-groups that takes you into the deepest trenches of language history and gives you a whiff of the ancestral homelands.

HOSPITAL – mid-13c., “shelter for the needy,” from Old French hospital, ospital “hostel, shelter, lodging” (Modern French hôpital), from Late Latin hospitale “guest-house, inn,” noun use of neuter of Latin adjective hospitalis “of a guest or host” (as a noun, “a guest; the duties of hospitality”), from hospes (genitive hospitis) “guest; host.”

INOCULATION and VACCINATION now are generally used interchangeably for “artificial induction of immunity against various infectious diseases.” There’s a difference, but it’s mostly historical.

INOCULATION describes the older form of the process that was used to protect against smallpox. Another word for it in 18th century English was VARIOLATION, from VARIOLA, the medical Latin word for “smallpox,” which is a diminutive of Latin varius “changing, various,” in this case “speckled, spotted” (related to VARY and VARIOUS).

Other famous words that come from Latin are the following ones:

acumen = ability to make good judgments
agenda = list of things to be done
altruism = selfless concern for others
ambiguous = having a double meaning
aplomb (Fr.) = self-confidence
atrocity = cruel act
avarice = greed
bibulous = excessively fond of drinking alcohol
camp = a place where tents, huts, or other temporary shelters are set up, as by soldiers, nomads, or travelers.
celibate = abstaining from sex or marriage
certain = determined, fixed from Certus, determined
chivalrous (Fr.) = gallant
condign = worthy, appropriate
conglomerate = parts put together to form a unit while remaining separate identities
corona = a faintly colored luminous ring or halo appearing to surround a celestial body
crepuscular = pertaining to twilight
cull = select from a variety of sources
debilitate = weaken

Latin Abbreviations used in English
Latin Abbreviations used in English

dirigible = capable of being guided
facsimile = exact copy
ferrous = made of iron
flux = in the process of flowing
fort = a fortified place occupied by troops; an army post.
futile = in vain
garrulity = loquaciousness
hospital = A facility that provides emergency, inpatient, and usually outpatient medical care for sick or injured people.
interred = placed or buried in the earth
hotel = An establishment that provides lodging and usually meals and other services for travelers and other paying guests.
hospice = A shelter or lodging for travelers, pilgrims, foundlings, or the destitute, especially one maintained by a monastic order.
hospitality = Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.
hostile = warlike, aggressive: a hostile takeover; adverse, contrary, unsympathetic: a hostile response
impecunious = poor
incalculable = too great to be counted
incommunicado (Sp.) = not in communication with others
indefatigability = tireless
inoculation = The act or an instance of inoculating, especially the introduction of an antigenic substance or vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.
inocultate = to introduce a serum, vaccine, or antigenic substance into a body
insipid = lacking flavor
introspection = looking within at one’s mental or emotional state
languid = slow, relaxed
latinism = a mode of expression derived from or imitative of Latin.
lucubration = meditation
malfeasance (Fr.) = wrongdoing
medicine = from Latin medicina, the healing art, medicine; a remedy,” also used figuratively.
Mediterranean = a sea in the midde of two lands
modicum = small amount
moribund = near death
mundane = worldly as opposed to spiritual
naive = exhibiting lack of experience
obeisance = respect
obvious = clear (from the Latin for “in the way”)
parvenu = celebrity from obscure origins
perpetuate = preserve
perturb = make anxious
plausible = probable
precarious = uncertain
puerile = childishly silly
pulchritude = beauty
pusillanimity = showing a lack of courage

Latin Europe and the English language
Latin Europe and the English language

quarantine = A condition, period of time, or place in which a person, animal, plant, vehicle, or amount of material suspected of carrying an infectious agent is kept in confinement or isolated in an effort to prevent disease from spreading
rapport = close relationship

rapprochement (Fr.) = establishment of a harmonious relationship
recalcitrant = obstinate
renegade = a rebellious person
reprisal = retaliation
sacrosanct = very important or holy and not to be messed with
sane = Of sound mind; mentally healthy.
sanity = The quality or condition of being sane; soundness of mind.

simulacrum = image
stipend = fixed allowance
stultify = make appear foolish, cause to loose enthusiasm
succumb = fail to resist
taunt (Fr.) = provoke
tentative = provisional
terrace = flat earth with sloping sides
Terrier = a breed et dog that burrows into the earth for game
turpitude = depravity

ubiquity = found everywhere
vaccination = Inoculation with a vaccine in order to protect against a particular disease.

vaccine = a preparation of a weakened or killed pathogen
virulent = Characterized by, causing, or promoting the rapid onset of severe illness.
viral = Of, relating to, or caused by a virus
virus = any of various submicroscopic agents that infect living organisms

Did you know when you say this, it’s Latin?

Common Latin roots and its derived English words.

-dict to say contradict, dictate, diction, edict, predict
-duc to lead, to bring, to take deduce, produce, reduce
-gress to walk digress, progress, transgress
-ject to throw eject, inject, interject, project, reject, subject
-pel to drive compel, dispel, impel, repel
-pend to hang append, depend, impend, pendant, pendulum
-port to carry comport, deport, export, import, report, support
to write describe, description, prescribe, prescription, subscribe, subscription, transcribe, transcription
-tract to pull, to drag, to draw attract, contract, detract, extract, protract, retract, traction
to turn convert, divert, invert, revert
co- together coauthor, coedit
de- away, off; in English, generally indicates “reversal” or “removal” deactivate, debone, defrost, decompress, deplane
dis- no, not any  disbelief, discomfort, discredit, disrepair, disrespect 
inter- between, among  international, interfaith, intertwine, intercellular, interject 
non-  not nonessential, nonresident, nonviolence, nonskid, nonstop
post-  after postdate, postwar, postnasal, postnatal 
pre-  before preconceive, preexist, premeditate, predispose 
re- again; back, backward  rearrange, rebuild, recall, remake, rerun, rewrite 
sub-  under submarine, subsoil, subway, subhuman, substandard 
trans- across, beyond, through  transatlantic, transpolar 
forms adjective and means “capable or worthy of” likable, flexible, unbelievable, unable, 
-ation forms nouns from verbs creation, civilization, automation, speculation
forms verbs and means “to make or cause to become” purify, acidify, humidify
-men forms nouns from verbs  entertainment, amazement, statement, banishment 
forms nouns from adjectives  subtlety, certainty, cruelty, loyalty, eccentricity, electricity, similarity, technicality 

Learn more visiting these useful websites:   Latin English Dictionary     Online Etymology Dictionary

You can download the following books on Latin at this page:

Latin Language: Bennett, Charles E.: New Latin Grammar;
D’Oogle, Benjamin L.: Latin for beginners;
Wine, women and songs. Medieval Latin Student’s Songs, including translation and commentary by John Addington Symonds.