(You may well say this doesn't fit into an "English language" site, but the scientific Latin terms could be said to be part of English.)

My young daughter loves snails; I would like her to learn the scientific name for the common garden snail, or Grove Snail: Cepaea nemoralis, but how do I pronounce the word Cepaea?

  • This seems like a very localized question. Perhaps you could rephrase it to ask about Latin pronunciations in general? (Since Latin names for species are still used by English-speaking scientists, I think there's room for the topic on ELU. But asking about one particular Latin word may be too narrow a scope.)
    – J.R.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 16:28
  • @J.R. Actually, it isn't too localized when you realize that what it is actually asking is how Latin has been traditionally pronounced in English.
    – tchrist
    Oct 18, 2012 at 17:17
  • @tchrist: Yes, I think that's what I was trying to say, too.
    – J.R.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 18:24
  • In Goodbye to All That Robert Graves remarks that he went to (I think) four different schools and learned four different systems for pronouncing Latin. I myself learned one system when I took Latin in the US (1960-2), another when I was in an Austrian school (1963), and yet another when I attended (US) Catholic churches in the 1970s. Oct 18, 2012 at 21:41

3 Answers 3


The normal English pronunciation of Cepaea, believe it or not, would be /səˈpiː(j)ə/. Some speakers would use an /aɪ/ dipthong there for ae instead of /iː/

English pronunciation of Latin (and Greek) has an extremely long and complex history. So words like Linum (the genus of the common flax plant) end up coming out as /ˈlaɪnəm/ not as /ˈlinum/. Yes, I know this is strange, but if you don't do it this way, it messes up our poetry, where this pronunciation is expected.

You can, and probably should, read the Wikipedia article on the Traditional English pronunciation of Latin.

That means that Caesar is /ˈsiːzəɹ/ not /ˈkaɪsaɾ/, while things like Menelaus come out as /ˌmɛnɪˈleɪəs/. Strange but true.


Biological Latin mainly follows Church Latin pronunciation, rather than Classical Latin.

Details on both here.

  • For Cepaea nemoralis, this would yield /sɪˈpeɪ.a ˌnɛ.mɔˈrɑ.lɪs/, or more likely /sɪˈpeɪ.ə ˌnɛ.məˈrɑ.lɪs/ in general use. Oct 18, 2012 at 16:53
  • 1
    /sɪˈpeɪ.a/ is not (Roman Catholic) Church Latin, but what I call schoolboy Latin
    – Henry
    Oct 18, 2012 at 17:34

There are differing views on how Latin should be pronounced, but the convention I’m familiar with would have it as Ke-pea-ya nem-or-ah-lis.

  • 1
    Alas, biologists never seem to have studied Classical Latin. I blame Linnaeus. Oct 18, 2012 at 16:44
  • Here in Italy I think the pronunciation would be slightly different (che-pea-ya instead of ke-pea-ya). It's a long lasting debate about how to pronounce the initial "ce/ci", but that's the way I was taught and which still holds with many teachers.
    – Paola
    Oct 18, 2012 at 16:49

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