Soren and Iggy at home speaking, Soren saying

Have you ever found yourself using a word in English that sounded oddly foreign, almost like it was from another language? Well, you were probably not wrong. Latin has had a huge influence on the English language (in addition to many other languages, such as French) over the centuries.

There are plenty of words that we use every day that have their roots in this ancient language. From common expressions like "etcetera" to more obscure terms like "in vitro," these Latin words have found their way into our vocabulary.

Let’s explore 15 Latin words used in English today, and maybe learn a thing or two along the way!

How Has Latin Influenced the English Language?

Let's take a fun trip back in time to when the Latin language first started influencing English. We're talking about way back in the days of ancient Rome, around 2000 years ago.

At that time, Latin was the language of the Roman Empire, which was a super-powerful civilization that controlled almost the whole of Europe, from where the Romance languages appeared.

They even conquered parts of Britain in 43 AD. The Romans stayed in Britain for about 400 years, and during that time, they introduced many words into the Germanic language that was spoken there. That is why there are a number of English words derived from Latin today, such as the Latin word "arma" (which means "arms" or "weapons"), that became "army" in English.

Further Influence

But Latin’s influence on English didn't stop there. In fact, many Latin words made their way into English vocabulary over the centuries, especially during the Middle Ages. This was because Latin was still the language of scholars and educated people, so many English writers and thinkers used Latin words in their work. The same happened with other languages, such as Greek.


Latin has contributed a vast number of words to the English language. Many of these words are scientific, legal, or medical terms, such as "magnify," "optical," "etcetera," "amendment," "status quo," "quid pro quo," "ad hoc," and "ad infinitum."


Latin has also had an impact on English grammar. For example, the use of the subjunctive mood, which is still found in phrases like "if I were you," can be traced back to Latin.

Iggy and Soren in the English classroom, Iggy saying

Another example includes the use of tense and aspect in English, as well as the construction of complex sentences.


Latin was the language of the educated classes in Europe for centuries, and as a result, many English words and phrases associated with academia and education have Latin roots. For example, "curriculum," "alumnus," and "summa cum laude" are all derived from Latin.

15 Latin Words Used in English Today

Let's have a look at 15 examples of words with Latin roots that are still widely used today. We're sure you'll be surprised!

  • Ad hoc: created or done for a specific purpose, often temporary or improvised.
  • Alibi: evidence that someone was elsewhere when a crime was committed, or an excuse to account for one's absence.
  • Alumni: plural form of alumnus/alumna, meaning former students or graduates of a particular school or university.
Soren, Benji and Iggy throwing hats in the air, as if graduating from university.
  • Ante: the amount of money or chips a player must put into the pot to participate in a card game.
  • Credo: a set of beliefs or principles that guide a person's actions or worldview.
  • Curriculum: a plan or course of study, often used in the context of education.
  • In vitro: a scientific term meaning "in glass," used to describe biological processes that take place outside of a living organism.
  • Modus operandi: a Latin phrase meaning "method of operating," used to describe a person's typical way of doing things.
  • Persona: the way a person presents themselves to others, often in a public or professional context.
  • Pro bono: a Latin phrase meaning "for the public good," used to describe professional work that is done for free or without payment.
  • Status quo: the current state of things, often used to describe a situation that is stable or unchanging.
  • Terra firma: a Latin phrase meaning firm ground, used to describe solid ground as opposed to water or air.
  • Ultimatum: a final demand or threat of action, often given in a dispute or negotiation.
 Iggy speaking on the phone and saying: “Come and fix the electricity, this is an ultimatum.”
  • Vice versa: a Latin phrase meaning "the other way around," used to indicate that the positions of two things or concepts have been reversed.
  • Via: a Latin word meaning "by way of," used to indicate a route or method of travel.

These words cover a wide range of topics, including law, education, science, and philosophy, and they demonstrate the lasting influence of Latin on the English language.

The Bottom Line

Iggy using her phone to learn English (maybe showing her screen featuring Langster).

In conclusion, Latin has had a significant impact on the English language, with many Latin words still used today. From scientific terms to legal jargon and academic phrases, Latin has contributed to the richness and diversity of English vocabulary.

If you find learning this vocabulary a bit challenging, using a language app such as Langster can help you improve your language skills and expand your vocabulary in the most interactive and entertaining way. Get started today!

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Daniela brings over a decade of expertise as a university-level ESL instructor, guiding students from diverse global backgrounds in learning both English and Spanish languages. Beyond her pedagogical pursuits, Daniela's passions extend to writing, painting, and cooking delicious Argentinian dishes. With boundless enthusiasm, she endeavors to impart her wealth of knowledge on languages and cultures, inviting you to learn more!