How well do you actually know Latin?


By: Torrance Gray

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

What are you calling a dead language? More than a million people worldwide read, write and even speak Latin for work, school, or just plain fun! Join in with our quiz!

Latin got its start in the Italian region of __________.

You know you're really a Latin student when you accidentally refer to the Romans as "the Latins." (Trust us, it will happen). But it's not entirely wrong: Latium, in which present-day Rome stands, was home to a people who were, in fact, called the Latins.


Languages descended from Latin are called the ________ languages.

"Romance" is derived from the word "Roman," and doesn't refer to love or attraction. Though many people find Romance languages, like French and Italian, kind of sexy!


True or false: English is directly descended from Latin.

English is descended from Latin through the French language. This is because of the Norman invasion in 1054 -- the interlopers from Normandy, a region of France, brought their Latinate language with them, and it influenced the native Celtic-Saxon tongues spoken on the British Isles.


"Cicero" is actually a Latin word meaning what?

That's right: One of Rome's most famous orators was named "Chickpea." He wasn't alone, though: Many of the ancient Romans went by simple, homely first names.


Newcomers to Latin often think "bellum" has to do with beauty. What does it actually mean?

That's right: "Vita bellum est" doesn't mean "life is beautiful." It means, "Life is a war."


Speaking of beauty, which word means "beautiful" in Latin?

"Pulchra" admittedly has a harsh, throat-clearing sound compared to the modern Italian "bella." That's probably why our English word "pulchritude" for "attractiveness" has fallen out of favor.


What is the Latin word for "the"?

Latin does not have articles like "a" and "the." These meanings are built into the context of the sentence.


What is the best definition for the Latin word "ipsum"?

"Ipse, ipsa, ipsum" is a way of underlining what you're saying; it always follows a name or personal pronoun. In other words, "Ego ipse" is like saying "I myself" in English.


"Laetus/laeta" is one of the most versatile adjectives in Latin. Which of the following is NOT one of its meanings?

"Laetus" covers a spectrum of loosely-related states: happy, lucky, fertile, plump, or stupid. Fortunately, the Romans didn't seem to share our modern prejudice about blondes being stupid ... or having more fun.


What is the Latin word for "yes"?

Agreement and disagreement are built into the context of a sentence. "Non" comes close to "no", but it usually means "not" and precedes another word. "Certe," or "certainly" is very close to "yes," but not an exact translation.


The English word "placebo" is literally the Latin word for what?

Yes, "placebo" is the first-person, future-tense form of the verb "to please." English made it the name for an inert non-medicine which might make a patient feel better.


Which of the following professional fields does NOT use a number of Latin terms?

A culinary student would want to know French, not Latin. Sidebar: Tattoo artists would do well to have a grounding in Latin -- many customers come in wanting a phrase tattooed on their body in Latin, but don't actually know the language well enough to get it right.


Which word would you NOT expect to find in a passage about war?

"Exercitus" is "army," "miles" is "solider," and "proelium" is "battle." "Silva" is "forest," not typically associated with battle -- though some of the Romans' battles with Germanic foes took place, disastrously, in dense German woods.


The word "caelum" means what?

"Caelum" is a neuter noun meaning "sky" or "heaven." In one of its more famous uses, Jerome wrote: "In principio, Deus creavit caelum et terram," which probably needs no translation.


True or false: Latin only uses masculine or feminine nouns for things that have a discernible gender.

There's little rhyme or reason to why some nouns have the gender they do. Is "mensa" (table) feminine because more women than men used to set and clear the table? It's a mystery.


The constellation Sagittarius gets its name from the word meaning _______.

"Sagitta" means arrow. Sagittarius, the archer, is a constellation that corresponds to the ninth sign in Greek astrology.


The English word "white" translates as which Latin term?

"Candidus" is a bright white, like fresh snow. "Albus" is what we think of as "off white" or "winter white" (if you're a fashionista).


Moderate-to-advanced Latin students are often assigned the "Bellum Gallicum." Who wrote it?

This was Caesar's account of the military campaigns in Gaul (modern-day France and Belgium). The full name of the text is "Commentarii de Bello Gallico."


Non-Latin-speakers often assume the word for death is "mortis." What is the correct nominative form?

The nominative form of "death" -- meaning "death" as the thing itself or the subject of a sentence -- is "mors." English speakers are far more familiar with "mortis," meaning "of death," because it comes up in medical terminology, e.g. "rigor mortis."


Which of the following is NOT a form you'd pass through in declining a noun?

The five forms in declension are nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative. Subjunctive is a "mood," a verb form indicating possibility or uncertainty.


If a Latin verb is "defective," what does that mean?

The Latin word "aio," meaning "I affirm," is defective. It's only seen in present and imperfect tenses. "Nihil," though a noun, is similar: It means "nothing," and has only that one form (though in modern times, it's also shortened to "nil.")


What is the Latin word for "no one"?

People seem to like this simple Latin word. Jules Verne named a character "Captain Nemo" in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," and then, of course, there's the famous Disney animated movie.


What does the Latin word "necessarius" mean?

The Romans seem to be making a point here. As an adjective, it means "unavoidable," and as a noun, "family member." For good or ill, there's no getting away from family!


What does the word "pecunia" mean?

"Pecunia, pecuniae," means "money or property". It's easy to mistake for the verb "pecco, peccare," meaning "sin or mistake."


In which series of books would you find the slogan, "Nunquam titillandus draco dormiens"?

The phrase means "Never tickle a sleeping dragon." And contrary to some quibbles, it IS grammatically correct: "draco" is nominative because it's the subject of the sentence. The literal translation is, "A sleeping dragon should never be tickled."


What is the Latin pronoun meaning "I"?

You can be forgiven for thinking there isn't one. Usually, the word "I" is just built into the noun, as in "Non habeo canem," or "I don't have a dog." When you use the pronoun "ego", you're emphasizing yourself. That is, "Ego non habeo canem" would suggest, "It is *I* who doesn't have a dog."


"Frango, frangere" means what in Latin?

We wonder about this every time we go to Chicago and have the famous "Frango mints." As truffles, they certainly don't break easily.


"Femina" is the easily recognized word for woman. What's the less-common one?

"Mulier" could easily be mistaken for a verb. If you know some Spanish, though, you can remember it through its connection to the word "mujer."


What is the Latin noun for "work"?

Both "labor. laboris" and "opus, operis" mean "work," but of different kinds. "Labor" is drudgery, like cleaning out the garage. "Opus" is work with meaning and satisfaction, like writing a screenplay. This is where we get the term "magnum opus."


The Latin word for what is always plural?

"Darkness" is a non-count noun to begin with, but Latin always makes it plural, "tenebrae." Students remember this by likening it to the English word "shadows."


Which Latin phrase became a rallying cry for Facebook in its competition with Google Plus?

Cato the Elder used to end speeches by saying, "Censeo Carthago delenda est," or "It is my opinion Carthage must be destroyed." In a 2016 Vanity Fair article, a former Facebook employee wrote about how Mark Zuckerberg, and then Facebook engineers, adopted the phrase with respect to rival Google Plus.


Which suffix gives a word the meaning "little" or "cute"?

This suffix gives English the word "homunculus," meaning "little man." Gardeners will also recognize "gladiolus," meaning "little sword," for the flower with sword-shaped leaves.


If you are using the vocative mood, what are you most likely doing?

The vocative case, for addressing someone directly, changes the form of a masculine name. That is, "Julius" would be "Juli" in direct address. The most famous example of this was Julius Caesar's last words to Brutus: "Et tu, Brute?"


Which of these is the classic Latin-language textbook?

Millions of students have learned the basics from Wheelock's Latin Grammar. In the English-speaking world, that is, Wheelock's being an English-language text.


Which Latin professor with a "comic" name wrote "The Everything Learning Latin Book"?

Okay, this final question is mainly our way of acknowledging that while Wheelock's might be the classic, we learned our Latin from Prior's text -- and, more important, consulted it regularly in creating this quiz for you! We hope you've enjoyed it. Diem bonum habete!


How many declensions does Latin have?

Latin has five declensions. The first is primarily feminine nouns, and the second primarily masculine. Confusingly, the smallest declension, the fifth, contains one of the most commonly-used words: "res," meaning "thing."


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