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Latin (lingua Latina)
speaker Only as a second language
Official status
Official language in Vatican cityVatican Vatican City and Holy See
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


The Latin language (Latin lingua Latina ), Latin for short , is an Indo-European language that was originally spoken by the Latins , the inhabitants of Lazio with Rome as its center. The earliest evidence goes back to the 5th or 6th century BC ( early Latin ), longer texts are available from the 3rd century BC ( Old Latin ), their full expression in the form of the classical Latin that is mainly known and learned today reached the ( Written) language in the first century BC.

Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire and thus became the dominant lingua franca in the western Mediterranean . While the spoken colloquial language, the so-called Vulgar Latin , developed into the Romance languages in the early Middle Ages , the Latin of the Roman writers remained the leading language of literature, science, politics and the church as a dead language until modern times. Scholars such as Thomas Aquinas , Petrarch , Erasmus , Luther , Copernicus , Descartes and Newton wrote works in Latin. Until the 19th century, lectures at universities across Europe were given in Latin; Dissertations were mostly written in Latin, sometimes until the early 20th century. Up until then, Latin was the official language of Poland, Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire . In thousands of loan and foreign words as well as idioms, Latin is now also present in non-Romance languages ​​such as German or English . When creating new technical terms, Latin is used again and again.

Because of its enormous importance for the linguistic and cultural development of Europe , Latin is taught in many schools and universities, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Some courses of study require knowledge of Latin or the Latinum . The situation is similar in the United Kingdom, where Latin is taught at primary level .

Linguistic classification

Latin belongs to the main Italian branch of the Indo-European languages , of which, outside of Latin, noteworthy traces have only survived in the form of Oscar and Umbrian . The vocabulary suggests a similarity between Italian and the Celtic languages , but it is not certain whether this means a closer genetic relationship or a prehistoric language contact.

Like ancient Greek, Sanskrit and other old Indo-European languages, Latin is a typical inflectional language with a synthetic structure .

Regiolects and sociolects

Although the sources on this subject are sparse, it can be assumed that Latin, like other languages, was divided into regiolects (geographical structure) and sociolects (structure according to social class). Classical philology , which mainly deals with the language of the so-called golden and silver latinism, does not notice this fact at all or only marginally. The fact that Latin is differentiated into the individual Romance languages ​​(in addition to the influence of substrate languages ) and the rich dialectal structure within the individual Romance languages ​​with dialects that are sometimes difficult to understand speak in favor of a rich regional structure of Latin .

The greatest extent of the Roman Empire when the Emperor Trajan died in 117 AD.

With regard to the social differentiation of Latin, the contrast between the spoken language (of the "lower" classes) on the one hand and the written language handed down to us in classical texts on the other must be emphasized. The latter is likely to have been the colloquial language of the educated classes in this or a very similar form. This "standard language" has developed around the third century BC and was brought into its final form in the last century BC by men like Marcus Tullius Cicero ("school book Latin"). It can be assumed that even in Cicero's time the standard language deviated considerably from the "Latin of the street". Since the educated classes in ancient Rome had no interest in the colloquial language of the lower classes, the information handed down on this is very sparse. An important source in this respect is, for example, the graffiti obtained from the volcanic eruption of Pompeii in the year 79, in which (depending on the level of education of the writer) a language form is sometimes manifested that in many cases already anticipates features of the Romance languages ​​(e.g. case syncretism in Accusative with loss of the final -m ). The Latin written (and spoken?) By educated people like Cicero, Caesar etc. should therefore be viewed as an artificial language . However, this applies more or less to all written and high-level languages.

Unless otherwise stated, only the phonetic level and grammar of the classical Latin language will be discussed below .


Like many other cultural assets, the Latin alphabet was borrowed from Greece via the ancient Italian alphabet of the Etruscans . In classical times, the Latin alphabet consisted of the following 23 characters:


Minuscules were unknown in classical times; that is, it was only written with the capitals listed here . I and V simultaneously stand for the vowels i , u and the consonants j , v . The word iuventus (youth) was spelled IVVENTVS. The letters K , Y and Z were mainly used in Greek foreign words or proper names.

In addition to stone inscriptions, writing was done on wooden and wax tablets ( tabula cerata ), parchment or papyrus . Stylus ( stilus ) were used for writing on the wax tablets . Papyrus was written in black and red inks . The black ink consisted of carbon black and a solution of gum arabic , the red ink was made from ocher ( red chalk ). A brush made of rushes served as a writing instrument , and in Greco-Roman times a writing tube, Greek κάλαμος (kálamos), Latin calamus. In classical times, large-scale works were written down on scrolls and codices and copied by copying.

The first known shorthand script was invented by Marcus Tullius Cicero's house slave and private secretary Marcus Tullius Tiro .

Volume and accent

The sound stock of Latin is relatively manageable and limited to "common" consonants and vowels, as they appear in a very large number of languages. The historically "correct" pronunciation (as far as it can be reconstructed) does not cause any major problems for German native speakers. Of the Romance languages, Italian has best preserved the Latin phonetics.


The following table shows the consonant inventory of Latin:

  labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
easy labiovelar
Plosive voiced / b / / d / / ɡ /  
unvoiced / p / / t /   / k / / kʷ /
unvoiced / f / / s / /H/
nasal / m / / n /      
Vibrant / r /      
Approximant   / l / / y / / w /

The voiced plosives b , d and g were probably pronounced as in German. In contrast to German, the voiceless variants were not aspirated. A palatalization of [⁠ k ⁠] (letter ⟨C⟩) before clear vowels probably took place only in the post-classical period, being possible that could be found in certain regional or sociolects already before the Christian era a Palatalisierung. The ⟨qu⟩ written plosive labiovelar [⁠ K ⁠] similar to the German ⟨qu⟩, but the ingredient is ⟨u⟩ bilabial not like the Germans, labiodental . The ⟨R⟩ was the Zungenspitzen- r , which was like today rolled still in Italian. The ⟨L⟩ was depending on the position either as the German phonetic [⁠ l ⁠] or how auslautendes English [⁠ ɫ ⁠] articulated. The initial h is likely to have been articulated at best by members of the educated classes already in classical times. The final m may also have been articulated only weakly in classical times, possibly with simultaneous nasalization of the preceding vowel. The written as ⟨V⟩ According to a bilabiales [⁠ w ⁠] as in English.

Vowels and diphthongs

Like many other languages, Latin knows the five vowels a , i , u , e and o . All five vowels can be short or long. The following table gives an overview of the exact pronunciation:

  front central back
long short long short long short
closed / iː / / ɪ /   / uː / / ʊ /
half closed / eː / / ɛ /   /O/ / ɔ /
open   / aː / / a /  

In terms of diphthongs , the Latin knows au , ai (written as ae ), oi (written as oe ) and the rarer ei , ui and eu .

Unlike in German, no glottal closure was articulated before the beginning vowel .

Syllable structure

Latin knows open (vowel final) and closed (consonant final) syllables . Initially, a maximum of three consonants (K) are allowed, with three consonants the third must be a resonant (R), as is also the case in German. A maximum of two consonants are allowed in the final syllable, one of which must also be a resonant. The syllable vowel (V) can be followed by a half vowel (H) (diphthong). Only vowels can be used as syllable carriers , but not resonants or even consonants (such as in the Czech word vlk 'wolf' or the German interjection pst! ). This results in the following syllable structure: (K) (K) (R) V (H) (R) (K).


  • KV: 'you'
  • VK: os 'bones'
  • KVK: sweet 'pig'
  • KKV (K): spē ablative sg. ~ Spēs nom. Sg. 'Hope'
  • -VRK: amant 'they love'
  • KKRV-: strīga 'witch'

The syllable structure of Latin is thus significantly less complex than that of German, so that there are significantly fewer "permitted" syllables in Latin (also because of the small number of sounds) than in German. The Italian has well preserved the syllabic structure of Latin quite.


In classical Latin, the word accent in polysyllabic words is usually on the penultimate or third from last syllable. The decision as to which syllable is to be emphasized in polysyllabic words depends solely on the penultimate syllable ( Panultia rule ).

The question of the nature of the Latin accent remains unclear and the subject of discussion. Some scientists assume a dynamic accent or pressure accent, such as in German, in which the stressed syllable is articulated louder. This theory is supported by the many vowel weakenings in Latin words that are typical of unstressed syllables in stressed languages, e.g. B. facere (to do) and the derived deficere (to decrease, leave, die) with the weakening of the stem vowel from a to i . The fact that all Romance languages ​​have a dynamic accent also speaks for this theory.

Other scholars assume a musical or melodic accent for Latin, in which the pitch of the vowel is changed instead of the volume. A strong argument for this theory can be seen in the fact that the quantitative metric "imported" from Greece by the Romans is useless for languages ​​with dynamic accents and therefore requires a melodic accent.




Latin verbs can be conjugated according to the following categories:

Latin distinguishes between four conjugation classes :

  • 1. Conjugation or ā-conjugation
  • 2. Conjugation or ē conjugation
  • 3. Conjugation, consisting of the consonant conjugation and the mixed conjugation (ĭ conjugation)
  • 4. Conjugation or ī conjugation

Every regular verb is assigned to one of these four classes.

Latin verbs are synthetic in all active forms as well as in the present, past and future tense ( i.e. the forms of the present stem) . H. without auxiliary verbs and only by means of grammatical educational morphemes. Only in the passive form of the perfect, past perfect and future perfect tense , as in German, is there an analytical formation using the past participle and the auxiliary verb esse (sein). Here, there is an analytical tendency that differs from the general synthetic character of Latin (see below). Unlike in German, the auxiliary verb “haben” ( habere ) is never used.

Latin verbs consist of a verb stem (present tense or perfect stem), possibly provided with a verb prefix , a tense and mode sign, which indicates the tense and mode and which follows or replaces the stem-final vowel, and - except in the infinitive - a personal ending , which simultaneously shows person, number and diathesis.

The following table shows the structure of Latin verbs based on selected forms of the verb amare ("to love").

meaning tribe Tense / mode signs Person, number, diathesis
Present tense
1st person singular present indicative active I am in love ama- - -o (-a- + -o to o)
2nd person singular present subjunctive active you may love on (a) - -e- -s
2nd person plural imperfect subjunctive active you loved ama- -re- -tis
1st person plural future indicative passive we will be loved ama- -bi- -mur
1st person singular perfect indicative active I loved / I loved amav- - -i
2nd person singular perfect subjunctive active you loved amav- -eri- -s
3rd person plural past perfect indicative active they had loved amav- -era- -nt

The table shows that the middle position between stem and personal ending is taken by the tense and modus morphem , while the last position is reserved for the suffix , which simultaneously indicates person, number and diathesis. In the present and perfect indicative, the tense sign is a null morpheme (the position is therefore not occupied). In some future and subjunctive forms, the stem vowel is replaced by a different vowel depending on the declension class.


The following grammatical categories are distinguished on the noun :

  • Genus (grammatical gender): masculine, feminine, neuter
  • Number (number): singular, plural
  • Case (case): nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, ablative, locative

The functions of the first four above-mentioned cases roughly correspond to the functions that they also have in German: the nominative is the case of the grammatical subject, the genitive indicates ownership and the like, the dative is the case of the indirect and the accusative case of the direct object.

In the Latin ablative case syncretism, several older cases have coincided: ablative, instrumental, locative. The functions that the ablative fulfills in Latin are correspondingly diverse. The original ablative denotes a movement in space or time away from the corresponding noun, e.g. For example : a Roma ("away from Rome"), ab urbe condita ("since the city [Rome] was founded"). The ablative as instrumental describes the use of an object, e.g. E.g .: gladio pugnare ("to fight with the sword"). The ablative as locative describes a place in space or in time, e.g. E.g .: eo loco (“at this place”), eo tempore (“at this time”).

The vocative, which can still be found in the Czech language today, for example, is the form of address. This is differentiated (among other things) in the singular of the second declension (O-declension) from the nominative and is usually not listed separately in "modern" school grammars or only for the second declension. In the singular of the second declension, the stem ending u (or in an older language level: o ) is replaced by an e . The famous alleged last sentence of Gaius Julius Caesar , “You too, my son, Brutus”, is in Latin: et tu, mi fili Brute , with both “Brutus” and “meus filius” in the vocative.

The pure locative is only rudimentarily preserved and, like the vocative, is usually not listed separately in school grammars. In addition to old locatives that have solidified into adverbs, such as domi (at home), humi (on the floor), the locative also appears in place names, e.g. E.g .: Romae (in Rome).

Latin has five classes of declination :

declination 1. Declination 2. Declination 3. Declination 4. Declination 5. Declination
tribe a declination o-declination Consonant
Mixed declination i-declination u declination e-declination
example domina, -ae f.
The mistress
dominus, -i m.
the gentleman
corpus, -oris n.
the body
navis, -is f.
the ship
turris, -is f.
the tower
portus, -us m.
the harbor
res, rei f.
the thing
Nominative domin a domin us corpus nav is turr is port us r it
Genitive domin ae domin i corpor is nav is turr is port us r ei
dative domin ae domin o corpor i nav i turr i port ui r ei
accusative domin on domin around corpus nav em turr in port around r em
vocative domin a domin e corpus nav is turr is port us r it
ablative domin a domin o corpor e nav e turr i port u r e
locative Rome ae Corinth i rur i ( in the country ) - mar i ( to sea ) dom i ( at home ) -
Nominative domin ae domin i corpor a nav it do it port us r it
Genitive domin arum domin orum corpor around nav ium turr ium port uum r erum
dative domin is domin is corpor ibus nav ibus Turr ibus port i bus r ebus
accusative domin as domin os corpor a nav it turr is port us r it
vocative domin ae domin i corpor a nav it do it port us r it
ablative domin is domin is corpor ibus nav ibus Turr ibus port i bus r ebus
locative Athens is Pompei is - - - - -


Just like nouns, adjectives in Latin are among the declinable words. A large part of the adjectives is inflected after the first and second declension, as was already introduced above for nouns:

  • bonus, bona, bonum (good)
  • sacer, sacra, sacrum (holy)
  • miser, misera, miserum (wretched)

The oblique cases also correspond to the forms of the first and second declension shown above .

In addition, Latin also knows many third declension adjectives. These are usually inflected like I-stems , whereby they usually show an -em instead of an -im in the accusative singular , as is the case with the corresponding nouns .

  • atrox (all genera) (cruel)
  • agilis (m./f.), agile (n.) (flexible, fast)
  • celer (m.), celeris (f.), celere (n.) (quickly)

Fourth and fifth declension adjectives do not exist.

As in German, the comparative and the superlative are formed by suffixation. The comparative suffix for masculine and feminine is -ior and for neuter -ius , the superlative suffix is -issimus, -a, -um (m./f./n.). In the case of adjectives with the stem ending -r , the suffix is ​​assimilated to -rimus .

  • benignus, benignior / benignius, benignissimus (friendly, friendlier, most friendly)
  • pulcher, pulchrior / pluchrius, pulcherrimus (beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful)

As in German, some adjectives have irregular forms of increase , e.g. B .:

  • bonus, melior / melius, optimus (good, better, best)
  • malus, peior / peius, pessimus (bad, worse, worst)
  • magnus, maior / maius, maximus (big, bigger, biggest)


Pronouns are declinable words (nouns) that stand “in place of nouns” ( pro nomine ). Latin distinguishes between the following types of pronouns: personal pronouns , possessive pronouns , reflexive pronouns , relative pronouns , demonstrative pronouns , interrogative pronouns , indefinite pronouns .


The following table shows the basic numerals from 1 to 20 and then in tens and hundreds to 1,000. The numbers 1 to 3, the hundreds (except centum ) and the plural of the word ( mille ) for 1,000 can be declined.

1 I. unus, –a, –um 11 XI undecim 21st XXI unus et viginti 101 CI centum et unus
2 II duo, –ae, –o 12 XII duodecim 22nd XXII duo et viginti 200 CC ducenti, -ae, -a
3 III tres, tres, tria 13 XIII tredecim 30th XXX triginta 300 CCC trecenti, -ae, -a
4th IV quattuor 14th XIV quattuordecim 40 XL quadraginta 400 CD quadringenti, -ae, -a
5 V quinque 15th XV quindecim 50 L. quinquaginta 500 D. quingenti, -ae, -a
6th VI sex 16 XVI sedecim 60 LX sexaginta 600 DC sescenti, -ae, -a
7th VII septem 17th XVII septendecim 70 LXX septuaginta 700 DCC septingenti, -ae, -a
8th VIII octo 18th XVIII duodeviginti 80 LXXX octaginta 800 DCCC octingenti, -ae, -a
9 IX novem 19th XIX undeviginti 90 XC nonaginta 900 CM nongenti, -ae, -a
10 X decem 20th XX viginti 100 C. centum 1000 M. mille
  • Ordinal numbers ( Ordinalia ; first, second ...): primus, secundus, tertius, quartus, quintus, sextus, septimus, octavus, nonus, decimus ...
  • Repeat numerals ( iteratives ; once, twice ...): semel, bis, ter, quater, quinqie (n) s, sexie (n) s, septie (n) s, octie (n) s, nonie (n) s, decie ( n) s ...

The repeating numerals are not inflectable as adverbs .


The syntax of Latin is free in many respects, as the individual parts of the sentence can often be clearly assigned based on their endings. In poetry and literature in particular, the few, hardly binding rules tend to be meaningless. As in most Romance languages, a personal pronoun can be omitted as a subject ( e.g. venimus 'we come', on the other hand nos venimus ' we come' (stressed)). Likewise, “said / spoke” etc. are often omitted before the verbatim speech (for example: tum illegal: cras veniam , then the one [said]: “I'll come tomorrow”).

In the first place in the sentence are usually stressed parts of the sentence (subject, object or adverb), question pronouns (e.g. quis, quid, quando ... ), imperatives and the question particles num 'about?' and nun 'don't you think so?' Verbs are often at the end of a sentence (e.g. ego te absolvo , I speak you loose ”).

Adjectives, participles, possessive pronouns, and genitive attributes usually come after the associated noun , e.g. B. Carolus Magnus 'Charlemagne', homo sapiens 'the wise man', domus mea 'my house'.

Language history

Inscription on the lapis Niger , one of the oldest surviving Latin texts (6th to 5th centuries BC)


Latin takes its name from the Latins , a people in ancient Latium (today a central part of the Italian region of Lazio ), whose center has been since the 8th century BC. BC Rome developed. The earliest form of Latin, spring Latin, is only found in some inscriptions such as the Lapis Niger or the DUENOS inscription from the 6th or 5th century BC. Chr. Tangible. From it developed through Rhotazismus , vowel weakening and other changes in phonology and morphology up to the 3rd century BC. Chr., The Old Latin , for the comedies of Plautus and Terence (3./2. Century v. Chr.) A large text corpus is present.

Bust of Cicero , the finisher of classical Latin ( Capitoline Museums , Rome)

For the 1st century BC Chr. And the turn of the ages one speaks of classical Latin . It differs from Old Latin mainly in assimilations and some orthographical changes. With the flourishing of Roman literature during this time, it was increasingly able to assert itself against (ancient) Greek in literature and science . The authors of the so-called Golden Latitude , in particular Marcus Tullius Cicero and Virgil , were instrumental in the further development of the language .

Because the literature of this time was regarded as exemplary and could not be further improved, the Latin literary language changed from then on only in terms of vocabulary , but not in terms of forms or syntax . The Latin of authors of the 1st / 2nd Century AD such as Seneca and Tacitus , who are included in the Silver Latinity, or by late antique authors such as Augustine of Hippo and Boethius ( late Latin ), therefore does not differ fundamentally from the Latin of the classical period, but increasingly from the spoken language of the simple people, the so-called Vulgar Latin , which developed continuously until the Romance languages emerged from it in the early Middle Ages . In syntax, for example, the accusativus cum infinitivo became increasingly unusable in late antiquity, but it was still considered correct and therefore did not disappear. The classical philologist Wilfried Stroh therefore advocates the thesis that Latin had already become a "dead" language at the turn of the century, when it did not change significantly after that and that is precisely why it became an international means of communication in the Middle Ages and the early modern period .

In the course of the Roman expansion , Latin established itself as the dominant lingua franca in the entire Roman Empire , and through the Romanization , especially of the western territories, it was also beyond Latium - namely in the rest of Italy , in Gaul and in the provinces of Hispania , Dacia and Africa - the native language of the local population.

In late antiquity in particular , several Latin words penetrated the vocabulary of Greek, the lingua franca of Eastern Europe . In the eastern Mediterranean, on the other hand, Latin was the language used in the military and administration, but it could never replace Greek as the lingua franca .

middle Ages

Frontispiece of the Carmina Burana with a depiction of the wheel of Fortuna (ca.1230)

During late antiquity and the Great Migration , Latin grammar teaching gradually declined and with it the use of written Latin. Much of the Latin literature of antiquity went 550-750 lost , new literary texts in that language emerged since the late 6th century any more. The last Roman emperor whose mother tongue was Latin was Justinian (527-565), and the last important ancient Latin poet is his contemporary Gorippus (around 550). Even Gregory the Great preached to 600 still in classical Latin. In the period that followed, however, the gap between the colloquial language and high Latin in the area of ​​the former Western Roman Empire widened so significantly that the local dialects eventually developed their own vernacular languages. The Council of Tours in 813, at which it was decided to allow sermons in the popular language from now on, as the believers no longer understand Latin, is considered the “birth certificate” of these Romance languages . In East Current , where Latin was still spoken in the administration and army in the 6th century, Latin was completely out of use in the early 7th century and was replaced by Greek.

Latin experienced a renaissance under Charlemagne and his advisor Alcuin . In an instruction from the year 789, all monasteries and episcopal seats in the empire were instructed to maintain schools in which Latin should be taught. Soon re-emerged new literary works in Latin such as Einhards Karl biography Vita Karoli Magni , the language and content of antique models, in particular, Suetonius , oriented. Other Latin authors from the Middle Ages are for example Balderich von Bourgueil or Hrotsvitha von Gandersheim .

As a “dead” language, Latin did not change significantly in the Middle Ages. However, the vocabulary continued to expand and simplifications in the area of ​​grammar became commonplace, such as the object sentence introduced by quod instead of the classic (and parallel to it still used) accusativus cum infinitivo . The quantities of the Latin syllables were often no longer taken into account, so that poems were created with the accentuation customary today , such as many songs from the Carmina Burana collection . Phonetics also changed, influenced by the Romance vernacular: For example, the / c / before / e / and / i / was spoken as a sibilant (which previously did not exist in Latin) since the late 6th century , while pronunciation became commonplace from / ti / as / zj /, as it is still common today in German foreign words, e.g. B. 'Reaction'. The diphthongs / ae / and / oe / were spoken and written increasingly as / eː / as early as late antiquity.

In the Middle Ages, Latin as the language of the educated gained importance in many areas of Europe that were outside of the former Roman Empire, i.e. that had never been spoken in Latin. It was here that Christianization found its way, because it was the language of the Church , Holy Mass and theological discourse. At the universities of Western, Northern and Central Europe that had been emerging since the 13th century, Latin was the language of communication and science. The most important author of the High Middle Ages , Thomas Aquinas , wrote Latin, which, however, since it was typical of scholasticism , was perceived by the later humanists as stiff and dry.

Modern times

Early printing by language: Latin dominated the printed word in the 15th century.
Fundamental to the nomenclature in zoology: Systema naturæ , edition of 1758

A renewal of the Latin language was the first goal of Renaissance humanism , which began in Italy with Francesco Petrarca and Giovanni Boccaccio . Also north of the Alps, Cicero was soon imitated again as a model in the use of Latin. Above all, Erasmus of Rotterdam came close to the ancient model with his elegant Latin. Christopher Columbus made the discovery of the New World known throughout Europe through the Latin letter De insulis nuper inventis . The Reformation and Counter-Reformation promoted Latin. Luther's friend Philipp Melanchthon wrote textbooks and curricula for the newly established Protestant grammar schools, the main goal of which was an active mastery of Latin. The same applied to the schools of the Jesuits , who also inspired the common people with their Latin school theaters. A Jesuit is also considered to be the greatest among the German baroque poets , Jacob Balde (1604–1668). Hugo Grotius laid the foundations of international law with his major work De jure belli ac pacis , published in 1625 . Generations of children have been learning Latin since 1658 with the Orbis sensualium pictus , the famous German-Latin picture book by the great pedagogue Johann Amos Comenius .

With the strengthening of the national languages ​​since the 17th century, Latin lost more and more of its ground. In Germany in 1681, for the first time, more books appeared in German than in Latin. Latin fiction like the novel Nikolai Klimii iter subterraneum by the Dane Ludvig Holberg , published in 1741, was now the exception. Further important Latin remained but as an international means in the sciences: Nicolaus Copernicus , Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei published their groundbreaking astronomical findings in Latin, the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton published in 1687 in Latin.

Carl Friedrich Gauß wrote his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae (Latin for number-theoretical investigations ) in 1798 at the age of only 21 , which were published in Leipzig on September 29, 1801. As a textbook on number theory, they are still valid and important today.

The philosopher René Descartes became famous with his sentence Cogito ergo sum from his principia philosophiae , published in 1644 , and Arthur Schopenhauer wrote his Theoria colorum physiologica in Latin in 1830 . The method developed by the Swede Carl von Linné in his Systema Naturae in 1735 to classify living beings in Latin is still in use today.

Since the Prussian educational reform by Wilhelm von Humboldt , Latin has played a central role in the humanistic grammar schools . According to Humboldt, the ancient languages ​​should serve the goal of general human education. It was not until Wilhelm II that the Latin Abitur essay and the oral examination in Latin were abolished at German grammar schools. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana became a global success in the 1930s. After the Second World War, Latin classes in German schools flourished to a certain extent as in the new federal states after the collapse of the GDR .

Latin in the present

School and university

In German-speaking countries, Latin is mainly taught at grammar schools and comprehensive schools. Around a third of all high school students in Austria and Germany now learn Latin as their first, second or third foreign language. Latin is offered as the first foreign language, especially at the humanistic grammar school . In Switzerland, Latin can be learned as an optional subject at the compulsory lower secondary level.

Despite the critical discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of teaching Latin in schools , the number of students who choose Latin as a foreign language has increased noticeably in Germany for about ten years. The reasons for this are unclear. The good results of humanistic grammar schools in national and international education tests, a significant modernization of Latin teaching and the corresponding textbooks or the general great interest in antiquity are named as reasons.

Latin can be studied at numerous universities. The Latin studies include not only the Greek Studies for Department of Classical Philology . Increasingly, chairs with a focus on Latin in the Middle Ages and Latin in the modern era are being established at universities. In some places, lectures or other events are also held in Latin. For some other courses, the Latinum or knowledge of Latin is required, especially in numerous humanities subjects. However, the regulations here differ from university to university.

Student environment

As a “university” language, Latin also had a considerable influence on the lads ' language in earlier times , which is still reflected today in the language used by the student associations . However, only individual terms are used here as a rule. Exceptions can only be found in individual events that are deliberately held in Latin. For example, since 1998 at AMV Waltharia Frankfurt in the Sondershäuser Association there has been a so-called “Latin pub” every semester, in which Latin is the only permitted language and this is not limited to the student songs, but also to all verbal contributions. Latin as a language has completely disappeared from the general student environment.

Radio, television and internet

The Finnish radio station YLE (Yleisradio) published the Nuntii Latini in written and spoken versions or as a podcast until June 2019 , as did Radio Bremen (until December 2017) . Since April 2004, the German-language editorial team at Vatican Radio has also broadcast news in Latin. Radio FREI from Erfurt has had a weekly Latin program called Erfordia Latina since July 2015 . On August 23, 2008, the television station 3sat broadcast an episode of Kulturzeit in Latin. Not only are numerous Latin texts and corresponding secondary literature available on the Internet. In internet forums like Grex Latine Loquentium or e- latein chat , participants from different countries communicate in Latin, and in October 2009 a Latin version of Facebook was even published.

The medieval band Corvus Corax singing in Latin


Latin appears particularly frequently in classical sacred music, especially in the Catholic context, as the texts set to music (liturgical and biblical, for example) were predominantly in Latin until the middle of the 20th century. The melodies of Gregorian chant are almost exclusively provided with church Latin texts.

Apart from Latin versions of well-known pop songs , new songs are also created directly in Latin, such as O Caritas by Cat Stevens or Cursum Perficio by Roma Ryan , sung by Enya .

The English folk rock band Steeleye Span entered the UK Top Twenty in December 1973 with Gaudete , a 16th century Christmas carol.

The group “Ista” offers Latin hip-hop and Rosenstolz has the title Amo vitam . The Corvus Corax group is currently successful . Latin is also used in contemporary classical or neoclassical music. For example, the Belgian composer Nicholas Lens set a Latin libretto for his work Flamma Flamma , and Lens himself wrote a libretto in Latin for his work Terra Terra . Not to be forgotten are the numerous settings of Latin poems such as those by Jan Novák . Carl Orff underlay several of his vocal compositions with texts in Latin, a. a. of Catullus . Igor Stravinsky had the libretto for Oedipus Rex , written in French by Jean Cocteau after Sophocles, translated into Latin by Jean Daniélou . For the melody of the European anthem there is a Latin text by Peter Roland (Est Europa nunc unita) .


Books are always being translated into Latin. Nikolaus Groß, for example, published a completely Latinized transmission of Patrick Süskind's Das Parfum in the Brussels publishing house of the “Fundatio Melissa”, a national association for the cultivation of spoken Latin. With the “Glossarium Fragrantiae” a larger list of updated new creations is enclosed with the book . There is also a book by the same word artist about Baron Mynchusanus (Münchhausen). In 2003 the first part of Joanne K. Rowling's Harry Potter books appeared in Latin (Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis) . There are also many other translations of “classical” works into Latin, for example Karl May's Winnetou III or The Little Prince (Regulus) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry . The Latin version of the Asterix comics written by the German classical philologist Karl-Heinz von Rothenburg (Rubricastellanus) is also very popular . Since 1994, the Austrian daily Kurier has published curious reports from all over the world (Nuntii Latini) written by Wolfram Kautzky in Latin every Wednesday . On behalf of the Finnish government, Tuomo Pekkanen translated the national epic Kalevala into Latin in 1986 .

Catholic Church

Latin is the official language of the Vatican State . The Catholic Church publishes all official texts of universal importance in Latin. This applies to the liturgical books, the catechism , the code of canon law as well as the papal legal provisions ( canones and decretales ) and encyclicals . Church Latin is particularly perceived by the public during the Easter blessing of Pope Urbi et Orbi (for the city and the world) and in the formula Habemus papam (We have a Pope) announced by the cardinal protodiacon after the conclave . Until the liturgical reform in 1970 under Paul VI. Latin was the official language of the Holy Mass and is still officially (according to Sacrosanctum Concilium ) today, although other languages ​​are also allowed. In fact, very few services are still held in Latin. Pope Benedict XVI preferred Latin over Italian at his masses. In March 2007, in a letter Sacramentum Caritatis, he expressly recommended the use of Latin in church services. He also announced his resignation on February 11, 2013 in Latin.

Pope Paul VI called for the maintenance and further development of the Latin language . In 1976 the Latinitas Foundation came into being, which endeavors to create a Latin that is appropriate to modern language usage. In addition to a magazine, it publishes the Lexicon recentis Latinitatis , the lexicon of neo-Latin, which was last revised in 2004 with 15,000 new terms, including the Latin word for "computer" instrumentum computatorium.

A Latin instruction manual for an ATM in the Vatican
Bilingual lettering at the "Wallsend Tyne and Wear Metro station"


In biology , the scientific names are formed in Latin and Greek. In medicine , the anatomical terms are predominantly Latin; Latinized Greek is also used for the individual organs . The disease names are derived from the Greek. In the law several Latin doctrines and technical terms exist ( Latin in law ). Latin in particular continues to play a major role in historical studies . In meteorology , Latin terms are used in the cloud classification . Latin is also common in pharmacy ; German pharmacists and doctors use Latin as the prescription language, especially in abbreviations. In addition to the international IUPAC name, there is also a Latin name for every medicinal substance, and a Latin name is also used for every medicinal plant , often mixed with names of Greek origin. In astronomy , the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has divided the entire celestial sphere into 88 constellations , all of which have an official Latin name together with a three-letter abbreviation. Individual stars within a constellation are designated with Greek or Latin letters or numbers, followed by the Latin genitive of the constellation name. According to the IAU, the nomenclature of the geological formations on other celestial bodies is also usually Latin. In late summer 2012, NASA defied this for the first time on Mars by referring to Aeolis Mons as Mount Sharp throughout its publications .

Language example

The following language example is taken from the text Commentarii de Bello Gallico by Gaius Iulius Caesar (1st book, 1st section).

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur. (2) Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se differunt. (3) Gallos from Aquitanis Garumna flumen, a Belgis Matrona et Sequana dividit. (4) Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae, propterea quod a cultu atque humanitate provinciae longissime absunt, minimeque ad eos mercatores saepe commeant atque ea quae ad effeminandos animos pertinent important, proximique sunt Germanis, qui trans Rhenum incolunt, quibus geruntum continenter bellum bellum. (5) Qua de causa Helvetii quoque reliquos Gallos virtute praecedunt, quod fere cotidianis proeliis cum Germanis contendunt, cum aut suis finibus eos prohibent aut ipsi in eorum finibus bellum gerunt. (6) Eorum una pars, quam Gallos obtinere dictum est, initium capit a flumine Rhodano, continetur Garumna flumine, Oceano, finibus Belgarum, attingit etiam ab Sequanis et Helvetiis flumen Rhenum, vergit ad septentriones. (7) Belgae ab extremis Galliae finibus oriuntur, pertinent ad inferiorem partem fluminis Rheni, spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem. (8) Aquitania a Garumna flumine ad Pyrenaeos montes et eam partem Oceani quae est ad Hispaniam pertinet; spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones.

“Gaul as a whole is divided into three parts, the first being the Belgians, the second being the Aquitaine and the third being a tribe called Celts in their own language, and Gauls in our language . (2) All of these differ from one another in language, customs and laws. (3) The Garonne River separates the Gauls from the Aquitaine, the Marne and Seine from the Belgians. (4) The bravest of all are the Belgians because they are furthest away from the (fine) way of life and education of the (Roman) province (Gaul) and do not have frequent contact with foreign merchants, who therefore do not bring them any objects, who are capable of feminizing the mind, and because they are closest to the Teutons who live on the other side of the Rhine, with whom they are incessantly waging war. (5) For the same reason the Helvetii also surpass the other Gauls in bravery, because they fight with the Teutons almost every day, either defending them from their own territory or waging war on their soil themselves. (6) That part (Gaul), which, as already mentioned, the Celts have, begins at the river Rhône, is bordered by the Garonne, the ocean and the territory of the Belger and extends on the side of the Sequaner and Helvetier to the Rhine river: but the whole direction is towards the north. (7) At the outermost border of the Gauls begins the land of the Belgians, which extends into the lower regions of the Rhine and lies to the north and east. (8) Aquitaine extends from the Garonne to the Pyrenees and to the part of the ocean that belongs to Spain; it faces west and north. "

See also

Portal: Latin  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Latin

Reference lists

Egidio Forcellini's Latin dictionary in the reading room of the University Library Graz


Web links

Wiktionary: Latin  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Latin  - learning and teaching materials
Wikisource: Latin Dictionaries  - Sources and Full Texts
Education, teaching
  • e-Latin : translations, vocabulary, software, etc.
  • Latin pagina : "Treasure trove" around the subject of Latin

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans-Joachim Glücklich , Latin lessons. Didaktik und Methodik , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1978, 2nd edition 1993, p. 221.
  2. Wilfried Stroh : Latin is dead, long live Latin! Small story of a great language. List Taschenbuch , Berlin 2007, p. 103 f.
  3. Rainer Schöneich: Report on the situation of ancient language teaching . In: Forum Classicum 2/2008, p. 87.
  4. : The broadcast from December 2017 .
  5. : Message about the discontinuation of Latin broadcasts on the transmitter homepage .
  6. ^ News from Radio Vaticana in Latin .
  7. ^ : Multilingual program presentation .
  8. : Top Fifty of December 16, 1973 .
  10. : Vatican press release .
  11. Nina Weber: The wrong "Mount Sharp". In: Spiegel Online . August 11, 2012, accessed December 10, 2014 .