Latin/Pronunciation

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This is a very basic guide to Latin pronunciation. You will get plenty of help in the lessons with audio files.

The good news is that Latin is pronounced quite consistently. The sounds are quite easy to reproduce. As a general guide, Latin would have sounded more like modern Spanish or Italian than English.

Latin is however spoken with two rather different systems, widely called "Classical" and "Ecclesiastical". You should choose according to your needs and preferences. Classical is more widely taught in lessons in Anglophone countries. Ecclesiastical pronunciation is common in Italy's schools.

Vowels[edit]

Sounds Audio Notes
a, ā 
e, ē
i, ī
o, ō
u, ū
y, ȳ 
La-cls-all-vowels
All the vowels together
Vowel Latin example Classical[1] Ecclesiastical[2]
Sounds like Listen Sounds like Listen
a ballista father
Audio
father
Audio
 
ā fābula
Audio
Audio
e September met
Audio
met
Audio
ē mēnsis
Audio
Audio
i dictātor machine
Audio
machine
Audio
ī dīvīsor
Audio
Audio
o bonus dog
Audio
dog
Audio
ō sōl
Audio
Audio
u lupus rude
Audio
rude
Audio
ū lūna
Audio
Audio
y mysticus über[3]
Audio
meet
Audio
ȳ Dionȳsus
Audio
Audio
All the vowels
Audio
Audio

Practice[edit]

Choose your preferred pronunciation method: Classical or Ecclesiastical. Then attempt to pronounce the following words before listening to them. Don't worry about the correct pronunciation of the consonants or syllable stresses at this point; just pay attention to the vowels.

Word Classical Ecclesiastical
secundus
Audio
Audio
proximitās
Audio
Audio
perpendiculum
Audio
Audio
dīvīnitās
Audio
Audio
Hēraclītus
Audio
Audio
mīrāculum
Audio
Audio
amygdalum
Audio
Audio
ūmidus
Audio
Audio
pila
Audio
Audio
pīla
Audio
Audio
papȳrus
Audio
Audio
potēns
Audio
Audio
pōtus
Audio
Audio
locus
Audio
Audio
lōcustā
Audio
Audio

Diphthongs[edit]

Two vowels together usually are pronounced as distinct vowels. Thus, the word radiī is pronounced ra•di•ī. However, some combinations have a pronunciation in which the first vowel glides into the second vowel: they are diphthongs.

Diphthong Latin example Classical[4] Ecclesiastical[5]
Sounds like Listen Sounds like Listen
ae paenīnsula by
Audio
Pronounce as ē
Audio
au automaton how
Audio
how
Audio
eu[6] Eurōpa Pronounce as eū
Audio
Pronounce as eū
Audio
oe oeconōmia foil
Audio
Pronounce as ē
Audio
ua, ue, ui, uo after q or ng aequilībrium kw + vowel
Audio
kw + vowel
Audio

There are a few exceptions, such as the word āēr, which you might see as aër in Vicipaedia or āër in other books. The marks indicate that the vowels are pronounced separately as ā•ēr, not as the diphthong ae. When we encounter other such words, we'll point them out, otherwise these tables would get very complicated very quickly.

More information[edit]

For a much fuller version of this guide, see this Wikibooks page.

Notes[edit]

  1. Janson, p. 5
  2. de Angelis, pp. 8-9
  3. English has no equivalent, so we used a German word. You can listen to the basic sound of this vowel on Wikipedia.
  4. Wheelock, p. xli
  5. de Angelis, pp. 9-11
  6. If eu occurs before the last letter in a word, as in -eus or -eum, then this is not a diphthong because the two vowels belong to different syllables: -e•us and -e•um. This will become much more obvious when you get to the chapter on the first and second declension.