Latin All Around You: Some Words and Situations That Prove Latin is Useful

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people discredit Latin as a useful language just because it isn’t spoken. And how it infuriates me! Latin can be extremely useful in any romance language to gain a deeper understanding of words.


First, let’s look at some examples of everyday words that derive directly from Latin.

describe – “de” about and “scribe” write. “Write about.”

suicide – “sui” oneself and “caedere” to kill. [Note: ae in Latin often changes to i or e in English.] “To kill oneself.”

perfect – “per” completely and “facere” to do. “To do completely.”

village – “villa” house. “House.”

antique – “antiqua” old. “Old.”

comprehend – “com” together and “prehendere” to grasp. “To grasp together.”


Those are just few of many. Now, here are some less used words that you could find the meaning of if you knew Latin:

valetudinarian (a person afraid of being or becoming ill) – “valetudinarium” meaning “hospital.”

peninsula (a land mass surrounded by water on 3 sides) – “paene” almost and “insula” an island. “Almost an island.”

blandish (to coax someone with flattery) – “blandus” meaning “soft or smooth.”

jocular (fond of joking; humorous or playful) – “iocus” meaning “joke.” [Note: Consonantal I’s often change to J’s from Latin]

ebullient (full of energy) – “e” out of and “bullire” to boil. “To boil out of.” (As if energy was boiling over)

belligerent (hostile; agressive) – from “bellum” meaning “war.”


Latin can even help you get a deeper understanding of words that you already know. I can only think of one example for now, but you’ll come across several of these.

What’s the difference between “diligently” and “meticulously?” None, right? They both mean to work carefully. WRONG! There is a difference. “Diligently” comes from the Latin “diligentia,” meaning “earnestness or carefulness.” “Meticulously” derives from the Latin word “metus,” meaning “fear.” So if you work diligently, you honestly care about what you’re doing. If you work meticulously, you’re doing it because you fear what will happen if you don’t.


So yes, in short, Latin IS useful. To the Latin scholars out there, was there ever a time Latin really helped you in a pickle? For all the non-Latin students, what’s your opinion about my statements?