The Latin Language/Pronunciation

If you wish to delve deeply into the subject of Latin pronunciation, see Wikipedia.

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How to pronounce Latin: two major pronunciations


There are currently two main ways to pronounce Latin. These are:

  • Classical Latin, spoken roughly between 25 BC and 200 AD,
  • Ecclesiastical Roman Latin, as used by the Church of Rome.

Classical Latin is the reconstructed pronunciation of the upper class of ancient Rome. Ecclesiastical pronunciation is the received pronunciation in use in the Catholic Church of Rome. There are other pronunciations that are less common now. The Roman use was urged as a standard in the Catholic Church in the 20th century, whereas classical was adopted by many schools in the same period.

Warning: In the following tables, the "Sounds like" column presents an English word that contains the sound we are trying to demonstrate. However, due to the immense number of regional variations of English, it is not likely that the sound you make when pronouncing the word will match the sound anyone else makes. Also, we don't expect you to be familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet, so we will not use that notation. Instead, we will provide one or more audio samples demonstrating the sound.



There are two types of vowels in Latin: long and short. Forget everything you know about English long and short vowels. Long and short for Latin vowels simply means the length of time that the vowel is held for. A long Latin vowel is indicated by a macron, which is a line over the vowel, as in these: ā, ē, ī, ō, ū, ȳ. Some books (and Vicipaedia) use an accent mark, as in á, é, í, ó, ú, ý. These marks were typically not written in Latin, but they are in this book as an aid to pronunciation. When you read actual Latin, you will find that they are only written when there would be confusion between words if the mark were not there.

In most English and American books you will find a table that looks different from this one.

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



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   listen   listen
proximitās   listen   listen
perpendiculum   listen   listen
dīvīnitās   listen   listen
Hēraclītus   listen   listen
mīrāculum   listen   listen
amygdalum   listen   listen
ūmidus   listen   listen
pila   listen   listen
pīla   listen   listen
papȳrus   listen   listen
potēns   listen   listen
pōtus   listen   listen
locus   listen   listen
lōcustā   listen   listen



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   listen Pronounce as ē   listen
au automaton how   listen how   listen
eu[6] Eurōpa Pronounce as eū   listen Pronounce as eū   listen
oe oeconōmia foil   listen Pronounce as ē   listen
ua, ue, ui, uo after q or ng aequilībrium kw + vowel   listen kw + vowel   listen

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.



Once again, 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
Februārius   listen   listen
cooperātor   listen   listen
aestuārium   listen   listen
praedictum   listen   listen
āëroplānum   listen   listen
nautilus   listen   listen
neuter   listen   listen
Euboea   listen   listen
strēnuitās   listen   listen
quiētūdo   listen   listen
rēliquiae   listen   listen



Try to pronounce these words before listening to them.

Consonant Latin example Classical[7] Ecclesiastical[8]
Sounds like Listen Sounds like Listen
b barbaria bob   listen bob   listen
c followed by e, i, ae, oe, y caelestis cat   listen chat   listen
c otherwise cattus cat   listen cat   listen
d dīrēctus dad   listen dad   listen
f fānāticus fun   listen fun   listen
g followed by e, i, ae, oe, y genus gag   listen gerbil   listen
g otherwise gubernātor gag   listen gag   listen
h herba honey   listen honor[9]   listen
i at beginning of word, j[10] Jēsūs yes   listen yes   listen
k Kalendae keep   listen keep   listen
l littera loll   listen loll   listen
m maximus mom   listen mom   listen
n numerus nun   listen nun   listen
p populus pop   listen pop   listen
q quantum quiet   listen quiet   listen
r[11] religiō roar   listen roar   listen
s miser sassy   listen sassy   listen
t followed by i and another vowel and preceded by any letter other than s, t, x differentia tatter   listen tsetse   listen
t otherwise toga tatter   listen tatter   listen
v[12] vīvārium wow   listen vine   listen
x in words beginning with ex followed by a vowel, h, or s exhālō axe   listen eggs   listen
x otherwise extrā axe   listen axe   listen
z zōdiacus adze   listen adze   listen

Consonant combinations


Just as with vowels, most consonant combinations are pronounced no differently than the consonants in isolation. When there are two of the same consonant put together, such as mm or tt, it is almost as if you need to pronounce both consonants without a break, the result being that the sound is held longer than usual. However, there are several combinations which have special pronunciation. Once again, try to pronounce the word before listening to it.

Consonant combination Latin example Classical[13] Ecclesiastical[14]
Sounds like Listen Sounds like Listen
cc before e, i, ae, oe, y ecce kk   listen ch   listen
ch chorda kk   listen kk   listen
gn magnus ng-n   listen ny   listen
ph philosophia p-h   listen f   listen
sc before e, i, ae, oe, y scientia sk   listen sh   listen
th theātrum t   listen t   listen



In Latin, the stress on a word is placed on only one of two syllables: the one before the last syllable (the penultimate syllable, or penult), or the one before that (the antepenultimate syllable, or antepenult). The rules for stress are very simple:

  • If the vowel in the penult is long or a diphthong, the stress goes on the penult.
  • If the vowel in the penult is followed by x, z, or any two consonants, with the exception of a stop consonant (b, c, d, g, p, t) followed by a liquid consonant (l, r), the stress goes on the penult.

The letters x and z are treated like two consonants because they sound like two consonants: ks and dz. So the second rule condenses to any vowel followed by two consonants, except a stop-liquid combination. Note that a combination of two of the same consonant is still two consonants.

Here are some examples. We will mark the stressed syllable over its vowel with an accent mark.

•pa Eu•rṓ•pa fi•gū́•ra per•sṓ•na pan•thḗ•ra hal•lū•ci•nā́•tus
me••ri•a •mi•lis pa•ra•dóx•us fun•dā•mén•tum ū•ni•cór•nis cál•ci•trō



Here are some readings to practice pronunciation and word stress on. If you're just starting out, you might want to practice pronunciation first, and after a few repetitions when you're certain you have the pronunciation down, work on stress.

Gallia est omnes dīvīsa in partēs trēs; quārum ūnam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquītānī, tertiam qui ipsōrum linguā Celtae, nostrā Gallī appellantur. Hī omnēs linguā, īnstitūtīs, lēgibus inter sē differunt. Gallōs ab Aquītānīs Garumna flūmen, ā Belgīs Mātrona et Sēquana dīvidit.[15]

Listen:   Classical   Ecclesiastical

Languēbam: sed tū comitātus prōtinus ad mē

venistī centum, Symmache, discipulīs.

Centum mē tetigēre manūs Aquilōne gelātae:

nōn habuī febrem, Symmache, nunc habeō.[16]
Listen:   Classical   Ecclesiastical


  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.
  7. Wheelock, p. xlii
  8. de Angelis, pp. 13-21
  9. h is always silent except in the words mihi and nihil, where it is pronounced as k.
  10. There was no letter J in the old Latin alphabet; instead the letter I was used. In fact, J was not even formally considered a separate letter from I in English until 1828 (Sacks, pp. 186, 196). In this book, we will not use J, and so we will use Iēsūs and not Jēsūs. Vicipaedia also does not use J.
  11. Use the alveolar trill (hear this on Wikipedia), and not the retroflex approximant (hear this on Wikipedia).
  12. As with J, the letter V was not considered distinct from U in English until 1828 (Sacks, p. 327). We will use V throughout this book. Vicipaedia also uses V.
  13. Wheelock, p. xlii
  14. de Angelis, pp. 13-21
  15. Caesar, De Bello Gallico (On the Gallic War). Gaul is all divided into three parts; of which the Belgians inhabit one, the Aquitani the other, those who are called in their own language Celts, in ours Gauls, the third. All these differ between themselves in language, institutions, laws. The river Garumna divides the Gauls from the Aquitani, the Matrona and Sequana (divides them) from the Belgians. By the time you complete a formal course in Latin, you may end up getting sick of De Bello Gallico.
  16. Martial, book V, epigram IX. I was languishing: but you, Symmachus, came to me on the spot accompanied by a hundred students. A hundred hands frozen by the North wind handled me: I didn't have a fever, Symmachus, but I do now. This is one of Martial's notable epigrams: it is safe to repeat in mixed company.


  • Allen, William S. (1989). Vox Latina: A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521379369.
  • Collins, John F. (1985). A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin. The Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 0813206677.
  • de Angelis, Michael (1937). The Correct Pronunciation of Latin According to Roman Usage. St. Gregory Guild.
  • Sacks, David (2003). Letter Perfect. Random House. ISBN 0767911733.
  • Traupman, John C. (2007). The New College Latin and English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Bantam Books. ISBN 9780553590128.
  • Wheelock, Frederic M. (2005). Wheelock's Latin (6th ed.). Harper Collins. ISBN 0060783710.