I was the worst Latin student of all time (ever). I took one year of Latin when I was in 7th grade, hoping it would help me later in college when I studied English. It might have benefited (helped) me more, however, if I had decided to go into the medical field, but I still think it’s fun to find Latin words used in English and try to remember what they mean.

As with our borrowings from French, Yiddish, and German here and here, we’ve gained a lot as a culture from the Ancient Romans and their language, Latin, such as the letters we use, mottos (such as the state motto of Virginia, where I’m from, “Sic semper tyrannis”), planet names, and even the English grammatical structure. Both Latin and the Romans have had a huge influence (impact) on our culture and language, so we couldn’t let them go unacknowledged (without talking about them) here on the Bespeaking blog. (It doesn’t hurt that Rome is one of my favorite cities!)

If you’d like to get a little more “ancient” in your knowledge of English, here are some Latin words used in English, their derivatives, and what they mean.


Latin meaning: stomach, belly

In English: abdomen (stomach), abdominal (having to do with the belly).


Latin meaning: needle

In English: acuity (when someone is very intelligent), acupuncture (the practice of inserting needles into pressure points in the body to relieve pain), acute (present or experienced to a severe or intense degree).


Latin meaning: war

In English: antebellum (post-American Civil War, particularly in the South), belligerent (someone who argues a lot or is violent), rebel (someone who fights against their government or system of authority), revel (to enjoy oneself in a noisy way).


Latin meaning: horse

In English: cavalry (a regiment in an army that is mounted on horses), chivalry (the medieval system of courtly manners in relation to knights, religion, and morality).


Latin meaning: vault

In English: bicameral (two chambers, such as the US Congress), antechamber (a small room leading to a main one), camera (a device used for taking photographs or videos).


Latin meaning: mild

In English: clemency (mercy or lenience), clement (mild, such as the weather), inclement (poor or bad, such as the weather).


Latin meaning: god

In English: deity (a god), deification (making something or someone into a god).



Latin meaning: day

In English: adjourn (to let something out for the day, such as a meeting), diary (a journal that you keep about what happened to you during the day), journey (an adventure or way to a place), meridian (the middle of something).


Latin meaning: happy

In English: felicitations (congratulations), felicity (intense happiness).


Latin meaning: end, limit

In English: refine (to improve on something), affinity (to have a liking for something), finish (to end something), infinity (to have no end), define (to give the meaning of something).

Have you learned some new Latin words in used English? Were you surprised by any of the English words we get from Latin? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English7 Synonyms for Being Drunk7 American English Slang Words, or these Sports Idioms used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, and yoga instructor, and has an affinity for Latin words used in English.

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