1. an Italic language spoken in ancient Rome, fixed in the 2nd or 1st century b.c., and established as the official language of the Roman Empire. Abbreviation: L
  2. one of the forms of literary Latin, as Medieval Latin, Late Latin, Biblical Latin, or Liturgical Latin, or of nonclassical Latin, as Vulgar Latin.
  3. a native or inhabitant of Latium; an ancient Roman.
  4. a member of any of the Latin peoples, or those speaking chiefly Romance languages, especially a native of or émigré from Latin America.
  5. a member of the Latin Church; a Roman Catholic, as distinguished from a member of the Greek Church.
  1. denoting or pertaining to those peoples, as the Italians, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc., using languages derived from Latin, especially the peoples of Central and South America: a meeting of the Latin republics.
  2. of or relating to the Latin Church.
  3. of or relating to Latium, its inhabitants, or their language.
  4. of or relating to the Latin alphabet.

Origin of Latin

before 950; Middle English, Old English < Latin Latīnus. See Latium, -ine1
Related formsan·ti-Lat·in, adjectivenon-Lat·in, adjective, nounpre-Lat·in, adjective, nounpro-Lat·in, adjectivequa·si-Lat·in, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for latin

Contemporary Examples of latin

Historical Examples of latin

British Dictionary definitions for latin


  1. the language of ancient Rome and the Roman Empire and of the educated in medieval Europe, which achieved its classical form during the 1st century bc. Having originally been the language of Latium, belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European family, it later formed the basis of the Romance groupSee Late Latin, Low Latin, Medieval Latin, New Latin, Old Latin See also Romance
  2. a member of any of those peoples whose languages are derived from Latin
  3. an inhabitant of ancient Latium
  1. of or relating to the Latin language, the ancient Latins, or Latium
  2. characteristic of or relating to those peoples in Europe and Latin America whose languages are derived from Latin
  3. of or relating to the Roman Catholic Church
  4. denoting or relating to the Roman alphabet

Word Origin for Latin

Old English latin and læden Latin, language, from Latin Latīnus of Latium
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for latin



Old English latin, from Latin Latinus "belonging to Latium," the region of Italy around Rome, possibly from PIE root *stela- "to spread, extend," with a sense of "flat country" (as opposed to the mountainous district of the Sabines), or from a prehistoric non-IE language. The Latin adjective also was used of the Roman language and people.

Centurion: What's this, then? ‘People called Romanes they go the house?’
Brian: It ... it says, ‘Romans, go home.’
Centurion [thrashing him like a schoolboy]: No, it doesn't. ‘Go home?' This is motion towards. Isn't it, boy?
Brian: Ah ... ah, dative, sir! Ahh! No, not dative! Not the dative, sir! No! Ah! Oh, the ... accusative! Domum, sir! Ah! Oooh! Ah!
Centurion [pulling him by the ear]: Except that domum takes the ...?
Brian: The locative, sir!
[Monty Python, "Life of Brian"]

Used as a designation for "people whose languages descend from Latin" (1856), hence Latin America (1862). The Latin Quarter (French Quartier latin) of Paris, on the south (left) bank of the Seine, was the site of university buildings in the Middle Ages, hence the place where Latin was spoken. The surname Latimer, Lattimore, etc. is from Vulgar Latin latimarus, from Latin latinarius "interpreter," literally "a speaker of Latin."



"the language of the (ancient) Romans," Old English latin, from Latin latinium (see Latin (adj.)). The more common form in Old English was læden, from Vulgar Latin *ladinum, probably influenced by Old English leoden "language."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

latin in Culture


The language of ancient Rome. When Rome became an empire, the language spread throughout southern and western Europe.


The modern Romance languages — French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and a few others — are all derived from Latin.


During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Latin was the universal language of learning. Even in modern English, many scholarly, technical, and legal terms, such as per se and habeas corpus, retain their Latin form.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.