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Ancient latin Pronounciation - How was it Really

The English language is full or latin words, but the English pronounciation is very remote from that of the ancient romans. Also dommon scool latin differs radically.
Views: 857 Created 05/03/2016

By Knut Holt


In Latin the words were pronounced as written. So if you know the sound each letter stood for, you will know how to pronounce it in genuine Roman style.

The stops p,t,k (and c) were always pronounced the same way. The sounds were the same as the most usual pronounciation in English, but without the breath called aspiration, and therefore they sounded sharper, like the way they are pronounced in the Romance languages. The same is true about the stops b,d,g.

Latin uses the letter c instead of k in most words.

C was always pronounced as k, never as s.

"Ti" was pronounced "ti", never pronounced "tsi".

Ae was pronounced as the diphtong ai (like the i in the word "mine")

Oe was pronouced as the diphtong oi (like the oy in "boy")

Ui was a difting composed of a sound like in "cool" plus an i like in "pit".

R was a rolled thongue tip r, like the Italian r.

V was pronounced as English w. U after a consonant was also pronounced as w. Qu was pronounced as kw. In old latin there was not any difference between the letters u and v. U and v were only two styles of writing the same letter. Sometimes you can encounter latin written this way, which sometimes makes it difficult to know how it shall be pronounced. But the letter will in this case mostly be pronounced u between two consonants, and w after a consonant and in the beginning of words.

J is pronounces as y in "yes". In old writing one often used an i instead of a j.  In latin written in this style, i will mostly be pronounced i between two consonants, and j after a consonant and in the beginning of words.

In late latin m in the end of a word, was not prononced like m. but indicated a nasalization of the vowel before. But it is fine to prononce it as m, because this is the oldest way of pronouncing it.

If a consonant was written double, it was pronouced longer that a simple written consonant.

X indicated ks. Z was only used in greek loan words and indicated ts or ds.

y was most probably pronounces i by most Romans, but the correct pronounciation is like u in french "sur".

O was a clean vowel, not a diphtong, and was pronounced as the vowel in "more". I was always a clean vowel, lik in "pit". Likewise a was a clean vowel like in "calm". E was a clean vowel like in "bed", but perhaps a litttle narrower. U was a clean vowel like in "cool", but perhaps somewhat longer back in the mouth and somewhat narrower.

Latin vowels could be short or long, but this was not indicated in script, except in certain instances where a bar was placed over long vowels.

In latin words, the stress usually fell on the next to last syllable. If the third last syllable had a long vowel, that syllable got the stress.


During the middle ages and until quite recently, Latin was still used as a litteral and liturgical language. During this time the pronunciation of latin words underwent a gradual change, influenced by the pronunciation of Italian and French. At some time this classically incorrect pronunciation was standardized, and this standard is by now used by scientific communities, the Catholic church and for scientific words of latin origin in the daily language of so-called educated citizens. This standard is as follows:

Ae is pronounced like the "a" in "hat". Oe is pronounced "e" or as the "eu" in the French word "beurre".

C is pronounced as s before e, i, ae and oe. In Italia and by the Catholic church it is pronounced as the "ch" in the word "child". Elsewhere c is proniunced "k".

Ti is pronounced "tsi"

The difference between long and short vowels is mostly ignored.

V is pronouced "v", Qu is pronounced "kv", but in Italy and the Catholic church "kw".

Elswhere the pronunciation is like the classical Latin one.


Knut Holt is a business consultant and marketer focusing on the health field. At his site there are more information about health and fitness. You can also find presentation of products to improve health, products to enhance sexual excitement, abilities and satisfaction, and of products in the categories hobby, automotive and apparel.


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