English Viewed as Modern Day Latin

Depending upon which linguist one talks to, English, supposedly Germanic root language, derives 30% or more of its words from Latin.  In some specialized areas of study, such as medicine, it is estimated that 90% of the vocabulary is derived from Latin.  It is for that reason that I assert that those of us who speak English today are still speaking Latin, although we normally take no note of it.

In my blog last week, I took us on a stroll through a city, which was a day in the life of ancient Rome.  That story is sprinkled with Latin words. For example, if you re-read the story you will see our modern equivalent of at least the following Latin words: suburbium, villa, ambulatio, senatus, admissio, corporatus, turista, Aegyptus, arcuatura.  The fact that a word such as villa, or tourist, or corporation has nearly the same meaning today some 1500 years after the demise of Rome merely underscores how deeply imbedded the thoughts and concepts  of ancient Romans are in the psyche of modern Americans.  This goes beyond our deliberate attempts to emulate Rome: our founding fathers clearly made our government sound and feel like the ancient Roman government by creating a senate where members had to be at least 35 years of age, swearing an oath of office on January 3,  and were responsible for governing a republic.  Our national capitol was deliberately designed with many buildings which wold have pleased the ancient Roman eye.  This influence of language is subtle, but pervasive.   In what words we express our ideas, and the context in which we formulate our ideas, our ideas are shaped.

Here is a list of common Latin words which every English speaker will recognize are really English or clearly are the root of an English word!

List of Common English Words Derived from Latin

  1. aqua water, aquamarine
  2. arbor tree, arbor day
  3. arma arm, armature
  4. articulus articulate
  5. axis axel, axis, axial
  6. bene good, benefit, benediction, benefactor
  7. bulbus bulbous, blub
  8. camera camera
  9. centum cent
  10. circus circle, circus
  11. codex code, codex
  12. crux cross, crux, crucifixion
  13. damnum damn, condemn
  14. dexter dexter, ambidextrous
  15. digitus, digit, toe, finger
  16. duo two, doubt, duplex, duo
  17. fēmina female, feminine
  18. femur thigh, femur bone
  19. fīnis end, limit finite
  20. formula formula, form, formulate
  21. frequens often, frequently
  22. gluten glue, gluten
  23. gratus free, gratis, congratulate
  24. herba grass herbivore, herbs
  25. homō man, homage, homicide
  26. honor honor, honorable
  27. imbecillus weak, imbecile
  28. labor toil , labor, laborious
  29. lapis stone, lapis lazuli, dilapidate
  30. leo, lion, leonine
  31. liber book, libriran, library , libretto
  32. lingua tongue, lingua franca, bilinguial
  33. locus place, location, local, locate, location
  34. lūna moon, lunar, lunatic, lunate
  35. magister master, magistrate
  36. Mars Mars, maritian
  37. nervus nerve, nervous
  38. numerus number, numerator, enumerate, numeral
  39. octō eight,octuplet, octopus
  40. omen omen, ominous,
  41. opus work, magnus opus, operator, opera
  42. pauper poor, pauper, poverty
  43. persona person, impersonate, person, personality
  44. plebs common people, pleb, plebian, plebiscite
  45. quartus fourth, quart, quarter, quarto,
  46. radius spoke, radius radial, radio
  47. rosa rose, rosary
  48. rostrum bow, rostrum
  49. similis like, similar, dissimilar, simile, similitude
  50. sincerus truth sincere, insincere
  51. sol sun, solar, solstice
  52. stella star, stellar, constellation
  53. tardus late, tardy, retardation
  54. templum temple, template, Templar
  55. tempus time, temporary, tempest, contemporary
  56. terminus boundary, terminal, determine
  57. umbella shadow, umbrella
  58. varius varying, various, variety,
  59. via way, viaduct, convey
  60. vīlla country house, villa, village

My point is simple: The fact, that we still use a large number of Latin words in our everyday lives, means we are still influenced by the thinking of our ‘Roman ancestors’.  How many of our values, our mottos, and our heroes are Roman in origin?  Almost every state in the United States  has a state motto which is a Latin word or expression. For example, New York’s motto is Excelsior! Each of these mottos expresses something about the people or the ambitions of the people of that state.  We have not come to this world whole, complete, and new; we have come to this world with a built-in history, with a built-in way of thinking, and with a built-in form of government.  Rome is still, in many ways, our ideal towards which we strive.


4 thoughts on “English Viewed as Modern Day Latin

    • Dear Kutukamus:
      I do not understand your question. I would be glad to answer your question, if you would explain further what you want to know. Thanks very much for reading my blog. My very best to you, Bill

  1. Hello Bill,
    Sorry, My bad. What I was trying to say/ask about number 30 (leo-lion-lionine) is: Why the boldface? Anything special? Again, just curious.
    PS: I am in no way a Latin-literate guy (Latin is just beyond me). but I do memorize a few Latin words for they often come quite handy in scrabble (don’t know most of their meanings, though). 🙂

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