“Omnia mutantur, nihil interit (everything changes, nothing perishes).”
― Ovid, Metamorphoses
People often say that English comes from Latin. But how “Latin” is English? According to experts, English is about 29% Latin. Understanding the origins of English (and specifically how Latin works within it) will help you have a better understanding of the English language.
Latin in English
How is Latin working in English? Latin is used in English in the form of expressions, terms related to law and science, and with adjectives related to nature and biology. Let’s take a look at each.
Common Latin expressions
Here are some Latin expressions commonly used in English:
- e.g. (exempli gratia)
- Definition: for example
- Example: Most of San Diego’s main beaches (e.g. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach) have boardwalks.
- etc. (et cetera)
- Definition: and other things; and so forth
- Example: We did all the major touristy things: the SD Zoo, the beaches, Balboa Park, etc.
- i.e. (id est)
- Definition: which means; in other words
- Example: I’m super pale, i.e. I need a tan!
- N.B. or n.b. (nota bene)
- Definition: note well; take notice
- Example: As you can see from the report, the weather in SD is beautiful year-round, but n.b. the cooler evenings. You will need a sweater.
- P.S. (post script)
- Definition: an addition remark at the end of a letter
- Example: P.S. Did I mention that I love you?
Latin in law
Latin is commonly found in terms related to law . . . but you don’t have to be a lawyer to use these terms!
- ad hoc
- Definition: translated to “for this,” used to describe something created or used for a specific purpose.
- Example: They created an ad hoc agreement for the new client.
- Definition: translated to “he has sworn,” used to describe a formal statement.
- Example: I have a signed affidavit from the witness.
- bona fide
- Definition: translated to “in good faith,” used to show someone’s good intentions regardless of a situation’s outcome.
- Example: The man said he thought he was buying a bona fide autograph of Michael Jordan, but it was a fake.
- de facto
- Definition: translated to “from fact” or “in fact,” used to reference something that is true in practice, but has not been officially instituted or endorsed. (This is often applied to an unofficial position someone works without being given an official title.)
- Example: He worked as the de facto manager until a new one was hired.
Latin in adjectives
An interesting way English has preserved Latin is found in the use of some adjectives. In many cases in English, there are both German and Latin nouns for one thing. The Latin word is often more formal and is related to science. It is often both an adjective and a noun (depending on its use) and typically serves as the adjective form of the Germanic noun. In the examples below, the Latin version serves as an adjective.
Here are some examples in relation to nature and biology:
- I am allergic to bees. (noun)
- Apian allergies are common. (adjective)
- I love to watch the birds in the morning. (noun)
- Avian sciences are fascinating. (adjective)
- I’m a cat person. I’ve always had cats. (noun)
- My dog sometimes acts like a cat. I say she has feline tendencies. (adjective)
- My dog is 10 years old. (noun)
- There is nothing more impressive than canine loyalty. (adjective)
- Have you ever ridden a horse? (noun)
- I am studying equine diseases. (adjective)
- I met a man from Kentucky. (noun)
- This cologne has a very masculine odor. (adjective)
- There will be a full moon tonight. (noun)
- Did you see the lunar eclipse? (adjective)
- I need some sun! (noun)
- The car is powered by solar energy. (adjective)
- I’m afraid of dark water. (noun)
- Have you been to the new aquatic center? (adjective)
- He married a wonderful woman from Germany. (noun)
- What a beautiful and feminine dress. (adjective)
A few others, just for fun:
- Do you know how to drive a boat? (noun)
- I just learned about this interesting naval battle in history class. (adjective)
- That was a great book. (noun)
- I always appreciate a literary man or woman. (adjective)
- They just bought a new house. (noun)
- I prefer domestic chores to chores outside, like mowing the lawn. (adjective)
- Do you live in a town or in the country? (noun)
- I had a very urban childhood. (adjective)
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