Latin (latīnum, [laˈtiːnʊ̃] or lingua latīna, [ˈlɪŋɡʷa laˈtiːna]) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area around present-day Rome (then known as Latium), but through the power of the Roman Republic it became the dominant language in Italia and subsequently throughout the Roman Empire. Even after the fall of Western Rome, Latin remained the common language of international communication, science, scholarship and academia in Europe until well into the 18th century, when other regional vernaculars (including its own descendants, the Romance languages) supplanted it in common academic and political usage, and it eventually became a dead language in the modern linguistic definition.
|Region||Originally in the Italian Peninsula, and the zone of influence of the Roman Empire. Today, it is official in Vatican City, although Italian is the working language there.|
|Era||7th century BC – 18th century AD|
Official language in
| Vatican City|
Map indicating the greatest extent of the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan (c. 117 AD) and the area governed by Latin speakers (dark red). Many languages other than Latin were spoken within the empire.
Range of the Romance languages, the modern descendants of Latin, in Europe.
Latin is a highly inflected language, with three distinct genders, six or seven noun cases, five declensions, four verb conjugations, six tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, two or three aspects, and two numbers. The Latin alphabet is directly derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets.
By the late Roman Republic (75 BC), Old Latin had been standardised into Classical Latin used by educated elites. Vulgar Latin was the colloquial form spoken at that time among lower-class commoners and attested in inscriptions and the works of comic playwrights like Plautus and Terence and author Petronius. Late Latin is the written language from the 3rd century; its various Vulgar Latin dialects developed in the 6th to 9th centuries into the modern Romance languages. Medieval Latin was used during the Middle Ages as a literary language from the 9th century to the Renaissance, which then used Renaissance Latin. Later, New Latin evolved during the early modern era to eventually become various forms of rarely spoken Contemporary Latin, one of which, the Ecclesiastical Latin, remains the official language of the Holy See and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church at Vatican City.
Latin has also greatly influenced the English language and historically contributed many words to the English lexicon via the Christianization of Anglo-Saxons and the Norman conquest. In particular, Latin (and Ancient Greek) roots are still used in English descriptions of theology, science disciplines (especially anatomy and taxonomy), medicine and law.