Latinisation (also spelled Latinization: see spelling differences)
is the practice of rendering a non-
Latin name (or word) in a Latin
style. It is commonly found with historical personal names, with
toponyms and in the standard binomial nomenclature of the life
sciences. It goes further than romanisation, which is the
transliteration of a word to the
Latin alphabet from another script
This was often done in the classical to emulate
Latin authors, or to
present a more impressive image.
In a scientific context, the main purpose of Latinisation may be to
produce a name which is internationally consistent.
Latinisation may be carried out by:
transforming the name into
Latin sounds (e.g. Geber for Jabir), or
adding Latinate suffixes to the end of a name (e.g. Meibomius for
translating a name with a specific meaning into
Latin (e.g. Venator
for Italian Cacciatore; both mean "hunter"), or
choosing a new name based on some attribute of the person (e.g. Daniel
Santbech became Noviomagus, possibly from the
Gaulish for "new field") name for the town of Nijmegen).
1 Personal names
2 Scientific names
3 Place names
4 Historical background
Frontispiece of a 1743 legal text by
Barnabé Brisson shows his name
Latinised in the genitive Barnabae Brissonii ("of Barnabas
Brissonius"). Barnabas is itself a Greek version of an Aramaic name.
Humanist names, assumed by Renaissance humanists, were largely
Latinised names, though in some cases (e.g. Melanchthon) they invoked
Ancient Greek. Latinisation in humanist names may consist of
translation from vernacular European languages, sometimes involving a
playful element of punning. Such names could be a cover for humble
The title of the Wilhelmus, national anthem of the Netherlands,
preserves a Latinised form of the name of William the Silent.
See also: List of Latinised names
Latinisation is a common practice for scientific names. For example,
Livistona, the name of a genus of palm trees, is a Latinisation of
In English, place names often appear in Latinised form. This is a
result of many early text books mentioning the places being written in
Latin. Because of this, the English language often uses Latinised
forms of foreign place names instead of anglicised forms or the
Examples of Latinised names for countries or regions are:
Estonia (Estonian name Eesti, Dutch/German/Scandinavian name Estland,
i.e. "land of the Aesti")
Ingria (Finnish Inkerinmaa, German/Scandinavian Ingermanland, i.e.
"land of the Ingermans", the local tribe)
Livonia (German/Scandinavian name Livland, i.e. "land of the Livs",
the local tribe)
During the age of the Roman Empire, translation of names into Latin
(in the West) or Greek (in the East) was common. Additionally,
Latinised versions of Greek substantives, particularly proper nouns,
could easily be declined by
Latin speakers with minimal modification
of the original word.
During the medieval period, after the Empire collapsed in Western
Europe, the main bastion of scholarship was the Roman Catholic Church,
Latin was the primary written language. In the early
medieval period, most European scholars were priests and most educated
people spoke Latin, and as a result,
Latin became firmly established
as the scholarly language for the West.
During modern times Europe has largely abandoned
Latin as a scholarly
language (most scientific studies and scholarly publications are
printed in English), but a variety of fields still use Latin
terminology as the norm. By tradition, it is still common in some
fields to name new discoveries in Latin. And because Western science
became dominant during the 18th and 19th centuries, the use of Latin
names in many scholarly fields has gained worldwide acceptance, at
least when European languages are being used for communication.
^ a b "Latinize - definition of Latinize in English Oxford
^ "Group Identity Formation in the German Renaissance Humanists: The
Function of Latin". Institute for Renaissance Intellectual History and
Renaissance Philosophy, University of Munich. Retrieved
^ national-anthems.org – facts National Anthems facts
Declension of Greek Substantives in Latin". Retrieved
Nicolson, Dan H. (August 1974). "Orthography of Names and Epithets:
Latinization of Personal Names". Taxon. International Association for
Plant Taxonomy (IAPT). 23 (4): 549–561. doi:10.2307/1218779.