Latin lover- can Ancient Latin teach you Italian?


I love the Ancient Latin language - Many Italian words, expressions and verbs originated from Ancient Latin. I fondly remember the days at school when we had to translate many a passage from Latin into comprehensible Italian sentences: terrifying, challenging and yet thrilling when those sentences finally made sense.

Those phrases were always about some kind of hero, some kind of monster to defeat, noble and courageous acts to take, fears to overcome and new lands to conquer. They might sound ridiculous today, but they had their own charm: they communicated traditions, values and a complex and deep sense of belonging that I’m afraid young cultures often lack.

Today, I still appreciate what Latin does for me: it frequently helps me explain things to my students and anyone interested in learning Italian.

Take the Italian numbers, for instance:

Uno /oo-noh/ one

Due /doo-eh/ two

Tre /treh/ three

Quattro /kwat-troh/ four

Cinque /cheen-kweh/ five

Sei /seh-ee/ six

Sette /seht-teh/ seven

Otto /oht-toh/ eight

Nove /noh-veh/ nine

Dieci /dee-eh-chee/ ten


How does one remember them?

There are many English words that derive from Ancient Latin and I often use these to help learners see how close English and Italian can be and eventually make them realise how easy learning Italian can be!


Uno - think of … unique, unanimous,

Due - think of … duality

Tre - trilogy

Quattro - quarter

Cinque - well this one changed a little from the Latin quinque into a vulgar Latin cinque

Sei - semester

Sette - September (September used to be the seventh month of the year, until a couple of famous Roman emperors, aka Julius Caesar and Augustus, added two months in the middle of the year: Luglio (July) from Julius and Agosto (August) from Augustus, thus making September fall into the 9th position.

Otto - octopus (or October)

Nove- November

Dieci - December, decimal


Note that all those English words are actually of Latin origins.

And that is why Latin is a useful tool for teaching Italian to English speaking learners.


What other English words do you know are of Latin origin?


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