Definition of Latin in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlatɪn/


1 [mass noun] The language of ancient Rome and its empire, widely used historically as a language of scholarship and administration.
Example sentences
  • In the areas once part of the Roman empire, Latin was effectively the vernacular and it gradually evolved into the various Romance languages of western Europe.
  • These were written in Anglo-Saxon, the spoken tongue, rather than Latin which was the language of the church.
  • This represents only one of the aspects of the ecclesiastical monopoly over written culture and Latin, the only language that could be used for writing.

Latin is a member of the Italic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. After the decline of the Roman Empire it continued to be a medium of communication among educated people throughout the Middle Ages in Europe and elsewhere, and remained the liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church until the reforms of the second Vatican Council (1962-5); it is still used for scientific names in biology and astronomy. The Romance languages are derived from it.

2A native or inhabitant of a country whose language developed from Latin, especially a Latin American.
Example sentences
  • When I started break dancing, I never thought I was an interloper because the guys I was dancing with were Latin, black, and white.
2.1 historical An inhabitant of ancient Latium.
3 [mass noun] Music of a kind originating in Latin America, characterized by dance rhythms and extensive use of indigenous percussion instruments: eclectic jazz through Latin into soulful grooves
More example sentences
  • I would have chosen some dance music, something Latin with a beat.
  • Bangalore Live will offer jazz, world music, Latin, fusion, and rock, to begin with.
  • I love jazz and R & B, Latin, salsa music, all that kind of stuff.


1Relating to Latin: Latin poetry
More example sentences
  • Horace, on the other hand, can be said to represent the more innovative vein of Latin poetry, a vein that looked towards the Alexandrian poets as models and predecessors.
  • I spent, for reasons that need not concern us here, much of last night reading some of my favourite Latin poetry.
  • A close friend of Erasmus and gifted student of law and Greek, More translated Lucian and wrote English and Latin poetry.
1.1Relating to the countries using languages, such as French and Spanish, that developed from Latin: Mexico and other Latin countries
More example sentences
  • At the last tutorial, Sue informed me that it was time I stop speaking Spanish like a Latin Tarzan and get cracking on my conjugations.
  • At the back, my Latin American neighbours are in conversation in Latin Spanish.
  • She teaches and publishes on Spanish, Latin American. and Chicano/a art.
1.2Relating to the Western or Roman Catholic Church (as historically using Latin for its rites): the Latin patriarch of Antioch
More example sentences
  • Drawing on both the new code for the Latin rite and that for the Oriental church, he provides a long list of rights that every Christian, whether clerical or lay, possesses.
  • And in 1984, Scotland's catholic bishops banned the Latin rite from being used in regular church services, although it could still be performed in monasteries.
  • Litanies of this type are frequently encountered in the services of the Orthodox Church and in the non-Roman rites of the Latin West.
1.3 historical Relating to ancient Latium.
2Relating to or characteristic of Latin American music: snapping his fingers to a Latin beat
More example sentences
  • He passionately enjoys reggae and Latin folk music.
  • Soon, though, the music switched to a Latin beat.
  • So think of this album as a sort of crossover for both me, the reviewer, and you, the reader, to the world of Latin music.



Pronunciation: /ˈlatɪnɪz(ə)m/
Example sentences
  • Orwell's use of Latinisms and classical references all but vanished; his previously colourful language dissolved into plain and lucid prose.
  • Totus Tuus must have been amongst the first Latinisms whose translation I researched.
  • Unintelligible Latinisms litter the insides of the booklet, awkwardly coupling with sepulchral imagery.


Pronunciation: /ˈlatɪnɪst/
Example sentences
  • As an excellent Latinist, he would have been familiar with the tale of the Sibyl, and probably kept the painting nearby.
  • The Scotland that its intellectual ambassador George Buchanan, the greatest Latinist of the Renaissance, hymned before the French court, was independent, historically conscious, and proud of it.
  • The royal secretary was a gifted Latinist with an astute legal mind.


From Latin Latinus 'of Latium' (see Latium).

  • What the Romans did for us

    As well as education, wine, roads, under-floor heating, and the fresh water system, the Romans gave us words and phrases. Far from being a dead language, Latin is alive and well, and may be found in a sentence near you.

    ENGLISH is full of words of Latin origin that came into the language by way of the French-speaking Norman invaders of 1066. But we also use many phrases that came into English later, typically in the 17th and 18th centuries, and remain in their original Latin form.

    In Latin index referred to the ‘forefinger’ or ‘index finger’, with which you point. From this we got our term for a list of topics in a book which ‘point’ to the right page. When we decide to leave by a door marked exit, we may not know that in Latin this meant ‘he or she goes out’. The phrase in flagrante delicto, literally ‘in blazing crime’, means in English ‘in the very act of wrongdoing’, and particularly refers to sexual misconduct. If someone is caught in flagrante delicto they are generally found in bed with someone else's partner.

    If we want to say that someone really knows about something we might say that they are bona fide, Latin words meaning ‘with good faith’. A remark that has no logical connection with a previous statement is a non sequitur—literally, ‘it does not follow’. A particular stipulation or condition is a caveat, a word which means literally ‘let a person beware’. If a person is preparing to buy something, you might say caveat emptor, ‘let the buyer beware’, to remind them that it is the buyer alone who is responsible for checking the quality of the goods before the purchase is made.

    Someone who dislikes sailing might be very glad to find themselves back on terra firma or ‘firm land’. If they had heard too much of the delights of the sea, they might say that they had been lectured about it ad nauseam, or ‘to sickness’. They might be wary of decisions taken on an ad hoc basis, Latin for ‘to this’, used in English to mean ‘created or done for a particular purpose’. Sometimes you have no chance to influence what happens, as things may be done in your absence, or in absentia.

    In 1992, following the marital troubles of her children and a disastrous fire at Windsor Castle, the Queen said in a speech that it had turned out to be an annus horribilis. This term for a year of disaster or misfortune is an alteration of an established Latin phrase annus mirabilis ‘wonderful year’.

    Changes are often received with apprehension, especially by people who would prefer to preserve the existing state of affairs or status quo—literally ‘the state in which’. The band Status Quo had their first hit, ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’, in 1968 and are still going strong. Another band with a Latin name are Procol Harum, who released the enigmatic ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ in 1967. The band's name is a misspelled version of a Latin phrase meaning ‘far from these things’ – it should really be procul his.

    The legal world is full of Latin. If someone is not of sound mind they are said to be non compos mentis, literally ‘not having control of the mind’. Journalists may sometimes feel frustrated at not being able to report freely on a case because it is sub judice ‘under a judge’—under judicial consideration and so prohibited from public discussion.

    Latin supplies a number of well-known mottoes. E pluribus unum, or ‘one out of many’, is the motto of the United States. In 1913 King George V approved per ardua ad astra, ‘through struggle to the stars’, as the motto of the Royal Air Force.

    Some Latin phrases lie behind our most familiar abbreviations. If we want to emphasize the importance of something, we may say or write NB—short for nota bene, or ‘note well’. QED, pointing out that a fact or situation demonstrates the truth of what you are saying, stands for quod erat demonstrandum, ‘which was to be demonstrated’. A long list of items may finish with etc., standing for et cetera ‘and the rest’. Advancing age may be referred to jokingly as Anno Domini, Latin for ‘in the year of the Lord’, which also gives us the abbreviation ad. The passage of time inevitably leads to RIP, short for requiescat in pace, ‘rest in peace’, although the same cannot be said to apply to Latin itself.

Words that rhyme with Latin


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: Latin

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