I'm prompted by a question on the origin of the word English. Being English myself, I pretty much know that one.

But "Latin"? Why call it that?

As soon as this question crossed my mind, I realised it wouldn't exactly be an easy thing to Google, so I'm not even going to try. Surely someone here knows.

  • 6
    Etymonline's entry on "latin" also includes reference to this instructive clip. Jul 7, 2011 at 20:24
  • 1
    Am intrigued to see someone voted to close querying the origin of the word "Latin". But not, apparently, the same for "English" on an earlier question! Jul 7, 2011 at 20:57
  • 4
    First hit on google for "latin etymology": etymonline.com/index.php?term=Latin
    – Hellion
    Jul 7, 2011 at 21:25
  • 2
    @Hellion: Okay, I concede! I didn't bother because I expected the first 100 pages to be Latin origins for other words. Anyway, several people have voted for the answer, so I'm not going to delete the question. Apologies to anyone who thinks I've wasted time asking something I could have found out myself had I but had faith. Jul 7, 2011 at 21:46
  • "Latin" may be "Italy" because initially writings were written from right to left
    – Guest
    Dec 13, 2017 at 22:32

5 Answers 5


Latin comes from the latin word Latinus which means "*of Latium".

Latium is the ancient name of Lazio, one of the several regions Italy is divided into, and where Rome, the capital, is situated.

EDIT: I uploaded another image that explains better the region and the position of Rome, the arrows and the names are mine. The other regions are indicated and the dots are the "capitals" (I don't know how it's in English) for each region.

Map of modern Italy, indicating Roma and it surrounding region, Lazio

This is what the Dictionary says about "Latium", just to be complete: "An ancient region in west central Italy, west of the Apennines and south of the Tiber River. Settled during the early part of the 1st millennium bc by a branch of the Indo-European people known as the Latini, it was dominated by Rome by the end of the 4th century bc."

  • Ahah, I suppose so :D
    – Alenanno
    Jul 7, 2011 at 20:22
  • Native speakers as I recall called their language "lingua latinae". Somebody who remembers more Latin than me could perhaps tell us whether strictly this means "language of Latium" or "language of the Latini". Jul 7, 2011 at 20:26
  • As with ancient Greek, there seems to be uncertainty as to whether or how much these languages were indigenous to their earliest established locale, and how much they were influenced/brought in by foreign invaders, etc. Jul 7, 2011 at 20:53
  • Nice little picture. I don't know much about art, but I know what I like! It does lend weight to the idea that much of the language might have effectively been "indigenous", being nestled in to the landscape like that. Jul 7, 2011 at 21:49
  • 3
    @Neil Coffey: Your Latin is a bit rusty, but maybe just a bit. Lingua latina is the correct phase and it means the Latin tongue or the Latin language. Latinus/a/um is the adjectival form of Latium.
    – Ryan Haber
    Jul 7, 2011 at 22:07

Mount Latium, after which the region got its name, was named after godess Lati/Lat. The transcript "DEA LATI, LVCIUS URSEI" found on many temples, meaning "to goddess Lat I dedicate this“, referred to her. She was considered a Mother Goddess.

The Celts also worshipped her, the phrase "DIE LATI" meaning "to Lat" would be found on manu Celtic-built structures on the British Isles dedicated to her.

But the most well known people honored her were the Arabs who gave her the name Al-Lat, simply the feminine form in Arabic for "Allah" considerring her God's/Allah's wife, and being the mother Goddess the Mother of Baal/Pal/Apollo/Veles.

From the etymology it appears that her name comes from Arabic, worshipped later by other peoples, like many other Arabian Gods and Goddesses e.g. Assyra/Aphrodite, and Baal/Apollo and Naila and Isaf.

  • That sounds like you made it up. Do you have any references?
    – Mitch
    Nov 9, 2012 at 0:02
  • What part do you suppose i made up?
    – simsim
    Nov 11, 2012 at 0:12
  • 2
    I've never heard of anything like that before so I'm just curious and would like to know where to read up more about it.
    – Mitch
    Nov 11, 2012 at 3:49
  • al Lat is an ancient Arabian goddess, and is mentioned in the Quran[53:19], and the Hadith in relation to the Satanic Verses. She was part of a trinity of sorts.
    – Carl Smith
    Jun 4, 2015 at 23:50

The Latins were the people living around the city of Rome. They were "absorbed" politically by the better-organized dwellers of that city, who nevertheless adopted much of their language and culture, and made them among the earliest "citizens" of the new Empire.

Put another way, the Latins "merged" with the Romans, but their language (or much of it) survived the "merger."


Connecting Latium (and thereby Latin) to a pre-Islamic goddess mentioned in the Coran (written in the 7th Century AD) is highly creative (even if not respectful to linguists, to Muslims and to Romans). So is the mention of this "Mount Latium". I live in Monterotondo, not far from Rome, please do not hesitate to give me the location of this mountain, unknown to all the people in the region, and I will drive there immediately ! Baci da bellissima lazio.

Oh, by the way : Lătĭum , ii, n. 2. lătus; Sanscr. root prath-, to spread or widen; cf. Lat. later, etc.; prop., the plains or flat-land; “by the ancients referred to latēre, because here Saturnus lay concealed from his son,” Ov. F. 1, 238; Verg. A. 8, 322; Arn. 4, 143; Lact. 1, 13; “or to Latinus,” the name of the mythical king, Varr. L. L. 5, § 32 Müll., a country of Italy, in which Rome was situated

in Charlton T. Lewis et Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1879


I have read that the word Latin is derived from latens, meaning 'hidden', & 'lut', meaning 'veil'. Source quoted as being a book by Pierre Sabak, a comparative linguist & symbologist.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.