Latin Adjectives in Current Use

We can attribute a healthy portion of the English language to our ancestors who spoke Latin. In fact, there are still many Latin adjectives in current use. Learning to recognize adjectives formed from Latin can add color to your writing and are also good for SAT prep.

So, let’s highlight some of the most interesting Latin adjectives that are still being used today, with a quick look at adjectives themselves first.

Latin words under a magnifying glass Latin words under a magnifying glass

Well-Known Latin Adjectives in Current Use

More than half of the words in the English language are nouns. Adjectives make up about one-quarter of the words, and verbs make up around one-seventh. The rest of the language includes everything else: conjunctions, prepositions, interjections, etc.

Some Latin adjectives in current use are so common, we forget they’re actually Latin words at all. For example:

  • Extra - is actually a Latin preposition that means “outside” or “in addition.” In English, extra functions as an adjective (or an adverb or a noun) but maintains a similar meaning. Anything extra is “in addition to.”
  • Sinister - means “adverse,” or “wrong” in Latin. In English, we use the word in the same way, denoting “harm” or “evil.”

Examples of Latin Adjectives

Here are 10 more examples of Latin adjectives in current use today:

  • Ad hoc - means “to this” in Latin. In English, we use it as an adjective (or adverb) to indicate something is being done for a particular purpose, or only as necessary.
  • Alter - means “the other” or “one of two” in Latin. In English, we sometimes say someone has an alter ego.
  • Aqua - means “water” in Latin. In English, it also denotes a light, bluish-green color.
  • Bona fide - means “good faith” in Latin. In English, we’ve shifted the meaning slightly to mean “real” or “genuine.”
  • Emeritus - refers to a person who has retired or been discharged from a position but still retains the title. In Latin, the word means “having fully earned.” It’s properly used to honor a person’s title in English, too. You'll find used a lot for college professors' titles.
  • Gratis - means you are getting something for free. In Latin, gratis is the plural of the word gratia, which means “favor” or “kindness.”
  • In prompt - means “readiness” in Latin. In English, impromptu has a similar meaning. It alludes to something spontaneous.
  • Magnum - means “great” in Latin. In English, we use this word to refer to a large bottle of wine or champagne.
  • Major - is the comparative form of the Latin irregular adjective magnus. In English, we use major to denote anything that’s “substantial or important.”
  • Verbatim - is derived from the Latin word verbum. This means “word.” To no surprise, when we use the word verbatim as an adjective (or an adverb), we’re alluding to something that has been relayed exactly the same way as the original.

What Is an Adjective?

An adjective describes a noun or a pronoun, providing the reader with more information. Let’s take a closer look at some of the different kinds of adjectives:

  • Possessive Adjectives - show who the noun belongs to.
    For example: Is that your cellphone?
    Here, the adjective "your" modifies the noun “cellphone.” Other examples include: my, his, her, our, their, and its.
  • Demonstrative Adjectives - indicate or emphasize a noun.
    For example: That silly cat fell into the tub again.
    Here, the adjective that modifies “silly cat.” Other demonstrative adjectives include: this, these, what, and those.
  • Interrogative Adjectives - modify nouns or noun phrases and ask a question.
    For example: What game are you going to see?
    Here, the adjective what modifies the noun “game.” Another popular interrogative adjective is which.
  • Indefinite Adjectives - indicate an inexact quality or quantity.
    For example: All dogs go to heaven.
    Here, "all" modifies “dogs.” Other indefinite adjectives are: many, any, few, and all.

Expand Your Vocabulary

Language instructors often tell students, if they can master one of the romance languages, they can master them all. And, many of the romance languages are based upon Latin. It seems reasonable, then, that some of the English language would also borrow from the Latin language.

When you’re ready to expand beyond Latin adjectives, take a look at common Latin words and phrases we use in English.

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