All things Latin

Latin is an ancient language that was spoken in ancient Rome and Latium (central western Italy). It is now considered a dead language but is still taught in many schools and universities.

What is a dead language?

Dead languages are those which are still known and used in special contexts, especially in the written form but not widely spoken or used for everyday communication. They are different from "extinct languages" that have no speakers left in the world and are not in use at all.

Even though Latin is ancient, it's fun and useful to know a bit of the tongue because many English words have their roots in Latin. If you grow up to become someone who studies about the origin of words, then you would be called an etymologist.

So how about learning some common phrases in Latin?

Happy birthday to you – Felix dies natalis tibi

Welcome – Salve

How are you? – Quomodo vales?

Good luck – Bonum fortunam

Thank you – Gracias tibi ago

I love you – Te amo

Sorry – Ignosce mihi

What’s your name? – Quid est nomen tibi?

My name is – Nomen mihi est...

Words we have inherited

Can you think of any Latin words/phrases that we use when we speak English? Here are a few with their meanings:

et cetera – And the rest

mea culpa – My fault

prima facie – By first look (means self-evident from given facts)

quid pro quo –something for something

versus – inverted (against)

Swedish natural scientist Carl Linnaeus introduced a formal system of naming living things with a name consisting of two parts, both of which using Latin grammatical forms. Informally, they are called Latin names.

Binomial nomenclature

The system is still followed today although the names can be drawn from other languages too. The first name belongs to the genus and the second name is that of the species. The genus name should start with a capital letter and the species name with a small letter. Both names should be italicised.

Did you know that a now extinct lizard was recently named after Obama. The Latin name given to the slender lizard was Obamadon gracilis . Scientists said the name was given because the lizard had tall, straight teeth and Obama has tall, straight incisors! Gracilis means ‘slender’ or ‘graceful’.

Here is a game you can play in class: Form two teams. The first team draws the picture of a fictional animal, bird or insect. Now give a Latin name for the creature and justify the name. The team with the whackiest name wins.

It’s all Latin to me – a word game

These words in English are all from Latin. Guess what the words are:

1. Thigh bone

2. Old student of a school

3. The worm stage before an insect grows into an adult

4. Raw information

5. A straight line through an object on which it spins