The Legacy of the Roman Empire: Writing and Language
Required Reading (This is the transcript for the videos above)
Latin remains extremely influential. Several modern European languages developed from Latin, including Italian, Spanish, and French. English is a Germanic language, but it was strongly influenced by the French-speaking Normans, who conquered England in 1066 C.E. English has borrowed heavily from Latin, both directly and by way of French. In fact, we still use the Latin alphabet, although Latin has 23 letters and English has 26.
You can see the influence of Latin in many of the words we use today. For example, our calendar comes from the one adopted by the Roman ruler Julius Caesar. The names of several months come from Latin. August honors Caesar Augustus. September comes from Latin words meaning “the seventh month.” (The Roman year started in March, so September was the seventh month.) October means “the eighth month.” Can you guess the meanings of the words November and December? Latin also remains very important in the subjects of the law, medicine, and religion, as well.
Many English words start with Latin prefixes. A prefix is a word part placed at the beginning of a word that carries its own meaning. Attaching a prefix to a root word creates a new word with a new meaning. In fact, the word prefix was formed this way. It comes from pre- (“in front of”) and -fix (“fasten” or “attach”). The chart on this page shows other examples.
As you can see from the chart, other English words come from Latin root words. For instance, the words manual and manipulate are derived from the Latin word manus, meaning “hand.”
Even Latin proverbs are still in use. For example, look at the reverse side of a U.S. penny. There you’ll see the U.S. motto E pluribus unum (“Out of many, one”).
Finally, we still use Roman numerals. The Romans used a system of letters to write numbers. In the Roman numeral system, the letters I, V, X, L, C, D, and M represent 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000. You may have seen Roman numerals used on clocks, sundials, and the first pages of books. You might also spot Roman numerals on buildings and in some movie and television credits to show the year in which they were made.