Latin in the World

Disparagingly described by many as a dead language, Latin maintained a prominent and proud position in the contemporary world, resonating globally.


for: Italics Magazine
Photo: Limone sul Garda, Brescia, Italia. Photo by Luca Tosoni on Unsplash.

for many months now, the most spoken word around the world — probably utterly by billions of people on a daily basis — and surely the most well-known word at any level — from the very young to the very old — is a Latin expression: coronavirus.

Disparagingly described by many as a dead language, Latin maintained a prominent and proud position within the Italian culture and education until relatively recently, before its gradual exclusion from curriculum and syllabuses, and almost removed from the Italian linguistic heritage thereafter.

Nevertheless, the language of Virgil and his contemporaries continues to be a lingua franca in the worlds of medicine, psychology, and economics like in the past — to name but a few examples — even in social media, English and any form of modern communication.

In this regard, Nicola Cardini of the University of Oxford describes in his Long Live Latin: the pleasures of a useless language how Latin was not only ante litteram to English, but a universal language that for centuries enabled communication between elites across and throughout Europe. Such a perspective therefore invites a reassessment of the language and the consideration of Latin as a science.

The science of the word which is part of our identity, its main object the mind and the expressive abilities of the human being. In Latin (and Greek), indeed, the intellectual and emotional system of the western world was formed. However, let us return to those Latin terms that resonate ‘globally’ today.

Agenda — An itinerary of things to do.
Campus — Term used to describe the grounds of a university and by extension academic life.
Curriculum vitae — A concise summary outlining an individual’s principal accomplishments, achievements and attributes; generally abbreviated to CV.
Deficit — An absence, lack, liability.
Etcetera — The remaining, the rest; generally abbreviated to etc.
Ex — Former, once, no longer, deceased.