Everyday Latin

Well, I figured it would be interesting to know where many English words come from for those who are not familiar with Latin. The old Latin topic died, so here’s one solely dedicated to etymology, ie what a word really means.

Let me know what you think of this.

I’ll post some words every now and then, to keep you informed, and possibly let you discover some curiosities.

Here are some I can think of now:

Interest: from the verb INTEREST, which means “(he/she/it)'s among (us/you/them)”, formed by INTER (between/among) and EST (he/she/it is).

Capital: from the adjective CAPITALIS, which means “concerning the head” (“head” = CAPVT), a word which later took the meaning of “very important”, “critical”.

Salary: from the noun SALIS, which means “salt”. Salt was used as a means of payment back in the day.

Profane: from the expression PRO FANUM, which means “in front of the temple”, therefore outside of it, therefore not sacred.

Redux: from the adjecitve REDVX, which means “brought back” (RE = “back/again”, DVCERE = “to carry/lead/bear/bring/drag”).

Invent: from the verb INVENIRE, which means “to find” (“finding” = INVENTIO).

Secure: from the expression SINE CVRA, which means “without worries”, therefore safe.

And there are many, many more. Who said Latin’s useless?

I’ll think this would be interesting :content: I love knowing where words come from especially when it had a different meaning from the beginning.

I remember that “vulgar” also came from a Latin word “Vulgaris” maybe :tongue: (I don’t know the latin word) but I knew that the latin word didn’t meant vulgar but ordinary.
I like how words can change meaning, and I looking forward to more posts

Well, thanks. Here’s the expert’s explanation:

Vulgar: from the adjective VVLGARIS, (VVLGVS meaning “common people”). Medieval Italian was called “volgare”, becaused it was a language spoken by the people, as opposed to the official and ecclesiastical Latin.

Latent: from the adjective LATENS, which means “hiding” and is the present participle of LATERE, which means “to hide”.

Participate: from the expression PARTEM CAPERE, which means “to take part”.

Missile: from the adjective MISSILE, which means “something that can be sent”. It designated arrows, bolts, javelins, and other things you could “send” to your enemies.

Also, on Ancient Rhetoric: to invent was the first step of conceiving art and speech, and therefore the first school of rhetorics. The Ancient schools of Rhetorics being inventio (to come up with the thing), dispositio (to arrange the thing), elocutio (to get the thing through), memoria (to remember the thing) and actio (to act as you orate the thing). :yes: Great days, back then.

Here are some more:

Duct: from the verb DVCERE, which means “to carry”, at least in this case. Notice that the past participle is DVCTVM.

Infant: formed by IN (non-) + FANS (speaking), INFANS meaning “the one who doesn’t speak”. In fact, infants don’t talk.

Calculate: from the noun CALCVLVS, which means “pebble”. Kids were taught counting with the help of small stones.

Revenant: formed by RE (back/again) + VENIRE (to come). So, it means “the one who comes back”.

Rejuvenate: formed by RE (back/again) + JVVENIS (young). It would mean “to make something/someone young again”.

Advent: from the noun ADVENTVS, formed by AD (towards) + VENIRE (to come). It means “arrival”.

I have tens of them in mind.

Wow! Interesting coincidence. As I was coming out of the shower today, I thought to myself about Latin, and how English derives words from it. I don’t really believe in coincidences though, I believe that minds are somehow linked together, enabling things like this to happen.

What I was thinking of is how in French, lipides means fat in English, and how fat suction is called liposuction, and how fat in Latin must be something like the French word for fat. My mind is erratic :razz:

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction? :smile:

What a cool thread, Paradise Lost! Thanks for educating us with the Latin roots to some important English words. I love learning what bits and pieces shape our language. When my grandparents explained why strawberries are in fact “strawberries” (multiple reasons, really, but the one that stood out most to me was that the fruit seemed to grow better when in a bed of straw), I just loved it! Latin is definitely not useless. It’s quite fascinating. :biggrin:

People think Latin’s useless because it’s not spoken anymore, but they are blissfully unaware of what impact it had on European languages and how much of it is still used as of today.

Liposuction: literally “fat (lipo)-sucking (SVCTIO)”. I think the lipo- part comes from Greek though.

Alien: from the adjective ALIENVM, which means “stranger”.

Abduct: from AB (away) + DVCERE (to take), so it means “to take away”.

Science: from the noun SCIENTIA, which derives from the verb SCIRE (to know). Literally “knowledge”.

Ferocity: from the noun FERA, which means “beast”.

Intrude: from IN + TRVDERE (to get in), so it would mean “to get in”.

Some more…(hate to double post, but if I don’t this will die)


(Note: the word palace has the same origin)

Transgress: from the verb [size=109]TRANSGREDI[/size] (to go beyond), formed by [size=109]TRANS[/size] (beyond/across) and [size=109]GREDI[/size] (to walk, to go, to tread).

Library: from [size=109]LIBER[/size] (book).

Diva: from the same Latin noun, meaning “goddess” (for example, it was common for an emperor to have the title of [size=109]DIVVS[/size], given the cult around his figure).

Course: from the noun [size=109]CVRSVS[/size], which roughly means “road”. It’s interesting to notice that the word comes in turn from the verb [size=109]CVRRERE[/size] (to run), so the Latin for road literally means “run” (noun). Words like current and currency have the same origin.

Elapse: from the verb [size=109]ELABI[/size] (to slip away), which is formed by [size=109]E[/size] (from) and [size=109]LABI[/size] (to slip). The past participle of this verb is [size=109]ELAPSVM[/size].

Chart: from the noun [size=109]CHARTA[/size], which meant “paper”.

Some more. They come into my mind in the least expected moments.

Fact: from FACTVM (done/deed).

School: from the noun SCHOLA, which meant the same thing.

Obvious: from OB (in front of, in the middle of) and VIA (road/path), roughly meaning “in the way”, so clearly visible.

Solar: from SOL (sun).

Lunar: from LVNA (moon).

Stellar: from STELLA (star).

Fortune: from FORTVNA (fate). Fortunate, unfortunate, and words like that have the same root.

Incredible: from IN (negation particle, like the Greek alpha) and CREDIBILE (credible). CREDIBILE, in turn, comes from CREDERE (to believe). Credit has the same root, meaning “belief”. Speaking of which…

Cult: from CVLTVS, the noun that designed the action of the verb COLERE (which meant to cultivate), so it means, roughly, to cultivate a belief/worship in something/someone.

Monster: from MONSTRVM (amazing thing).

Obscene: from OBSCENVS (foul, repulsive, detestable) from OB CAENVM (‘from filth’).

That’s the only one I remember right now but A LOT of english words are from Latin and Greek.

You know what, I didn’t know about that one…

By the way, a more proper translation would be “in the filth”.

Anyway, Latin-deriving words are more…everyday words, while Greek-deriving words concern mainly medicine. Why?

The Romans were practical, down-to-earth people, as long as the empire kept running smoothly, expanding, and thriving, they didn’t care much (not at all, actually) about say, the ralationships between the sides of a triangle. The Greeks instead, were more scholarly and speculative, as you can tell from their phylosophy, math, and other things, like for example Hippocrates’ oath.

This is in general of course, not everyone was, or is, or will be, the same.

Also, the Romans conquered Britain (BRITANNIA) up till Scotland (there’s still Adrian’s wall there), so it had an influx on the English language, especially after the fall of the empire. It wasn’t like “well, there’s no more empire, so let’s all go back to Italy”, the Roman settlers stayed and created, together with the local populations, one of the Romano-barbaric kingdoms of the Dark Ages.

Wrong! :tongue:

Obscene comes from Ancient Greek theatre: οβσκενη, obskene, the “backstage,” or the place where actors wore their masks (personai, from which comes the word “person”), which was not supposed to be seen by the audience, and where characters died.

Wikipedia seems to say the same thing Painocus said, even if it reads “probably”, and has the same imprecise translation. Anyway:

Junior: the short for JVVENIOR (younger).

Senior: it’s basically a Latin word, meaning “older”.

Minor: again, straight from Latin, meaning “lesser” or “smaller”.

Major: the opposite of the above, ie “greater” or “bigger”. Swap the j with a y and you get mayor.

Effect: from the verb EFFICERE (to make something happen), the past participle is EFFECTVM.

Despise: from the verb DESPICERE (to look from above, thus figuratively considering others at a lower level), the verb is made by DE (from above towards a lower location) and the SPICERE suffix, “to see/watch/look”. Spectacles has the same root.

Enemy: from the noun INIMICVS, formed by IN (negative particle) and AMICVS (friend).

Hostile: a Latin word meaning just that. Enemies in war were called HOSTES.

Well not true according to both my etymological dictionary (of Portuguese, but still :tongue:) and my Classic & Vernacular Languages teacher… Don’t trust Wikipedia that much, by the way. It often contradicts itself… in fact:

[color=#663366]Just had a look at my grandpa’s Latin dictionary, an old volume printed in 1950. It has the following entry:[/color]

[color=#663366]The definition, thus, doesn’t make many allusions to filth itself, from which the word supposedly originates; I wasn’t able to find the radicals [size=100]CŒNUS, CĒNUS[/size] or [size=100]CÆNUS[/size].

What I did find was [size=100]CŒNUM, I.[/size] a noun which is found in Cicero meaning “mud” or “the man of nothingness, infamous,” and in Lucretius meaning “despicable state.” Doesn’t seem to bear strong relation with the current concept of obscenity as the Greek version does. I can’t prove anything, though, I’d need to consult one of the philologists in school to be sure.

Incidentally, while searching for [size=100]CÆNUS[/size], look at what I stumbled upon: “[size=100]CÆNIS, IS.[/size] f. Ovid. woman transformed into man and then into bird.” :lol: Probably a character of some story, but I’m definitely going to adopt that as a word from now on. :tongue: [/color]

Why don’t you start a Greek Etymology thread? I feel sorry for not having had the possibility of learning ancient Greek, and would love to know something more about it.

Anyway, some more words you use everyday and never knew what they actually meant…till now:

Actual: from ACTVALE, coming from ACTVS (action), which in turn comes from AGERE (to act). All those words in parentheses have the same root.

Long: in Latin it was LONGVM.

Hour: again, the ancients called it HORA.

Emotion: from E (out of) and MOTIO (movement), meaning “being moved”. I don’t know from what, though.

Mission: from MISSIO (sending). Easy, right?

Silence: from SILENTIVM, deriving from the verb SILERE (to be silent).

Feminine: from FEMINA (woman).

Masculine: from MASCVLVS (male).

-“Why all caps? Noob!”

The Romans only used those, officially. Yes, they had cursive too, but the official writing system was THIS. Ah, and the Romans invented the same alphabet we’re using. At least the caps. Well, they didn’t invent it completely, as it derives from other mediterranean scripts (compare the Greek alphabet, you’ll find many similarities), but the A, B, C, … , Z as we know them were used first by Romans.

It’s not called Latin alphabet for nothing.

I’ll have to get good at it first :tongue: right now, we’re only having “Ancient Greek Emergency Kit” classes, to ground and support our literary studies (that’s why I had heard of obscene: it’s literary lingo, theatre to be specific). I can read the first verses of the Iliad with correct intonation, that’s right, but I can’t yet conceive a phrase of my own. I’d need to get into more advanced classes (which I will: beginning next year) in order to be able to make an etymology topic.

But. The word etymology itself comes from Greek, and it means “the true meaning of words” or “the true meaning of thought”: ἔτυμον (étimon), “true meaning,” from ἔτυμος (étimos), “truth” + λόγος (lógos, meaning word, thought, idea etc.). :smile: Now. I’ll have to owe you that thread for a couple more semesters, I’m afraid.

Well Brune, you did want to learn Latin, right? I’m teaching you by accident, hehe.

Quick Latin pill, about numbers:

  1. VNVM (anything uni-*)
  2. DVO (where have you heard that before? Oh, right…)
  3. TRES
  4. QVATTVOR (anything quadri-**)
  6. SEX (no, sex doesn’t come from six, but from another Latin word, which meant…well, sex)
  7. SEPTEM (…ber?)
  8. OCTO (…ber?)
  9. [size=109]NOVEM /size
  10. DECEM (…ber?)

*Unicorn: from VNVM (you know what it means) and CORNV (horn).
**Quadruped: from QVATTVOR (you know what it means) and PEDES (feet).

why the questionsmarks after …ber?

I don’t want this topic to disappaer so let’s see what I can contribute with.

Forum comes from latin, and in latin it meant square, not square in geometry but square as in town square, and well I think people discussed thing in squares as we do now on the forum :tongue:
Forum,(TNO you have to correct the parts I got wrong :wink: )

Avatar - don’t even think it’s latin and I don’t know if this is the original meaning but I know that avatar as a profile picture isn’t the original meaning,
I think Avatar means “in the flesh”, or something like that, so that is a corporeal form the gods can take, that’s all I remember.


It was like “September?”, as if asking if you’ve already heard it somewhere.

Avatar is from somewhere around India, I don’t remember precisely. It meant something like “incarnation” or “living image”.

About forum you’re right. It was a square, a marketplace, and a place with some other functions (like someone telling people the time every now and then). A crucial social center.

But yes, I should get to update this. Thanks for the interest, I will soon.