Latinisation (literature)

Latinisation (literature)

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Latinisation is the practice of rendering a non-Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 name (or word) in a Latin style. It is commonly met with for historical personal name
Personal name
A personal name is the proper name identifying an individual person, and today usually comprises a given name bestowed at birth or at a young age plus a surname. It is nearly universal for a human to have a name; except in rare cases, for example feral children growing up in isolation, or infants...

s, with toponyms, or for the standard binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages...

 of the life sciences. It goes further than Romanisation, which is the writing of a word in the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 that is in another script (e.g. Cyrillic).

In the case of personal names it may be done so as to more closely emulate Latin authors, or to present a more impressive image. It is carried out by transforming the name into Latin sounds (e.g. Geber
Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān, often known simply as Geber, was a prominent polymath: a chemist and alchemist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geologist, philosopher, physicist, and pharmacist and physician. Born and educated in Tus, he later traveled to Kufa...

for Jabir), by translating a name with a specific meaning into Latin (e.g. Venator for Cacciatore), or choosing a new name based on some attribute of the person (e.g. Noviomagus for Daniel Santbech
Daniel Santbech
Daniel Santbech was a Dutch mathematician and astronomer. He adopted the Latinized name of Noviomagus, possibly suggesting that he came from the town of Nijmegen, called Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum by the Romans....

, possibly from the Latin name for the town of Nijmegen). Humanist names, i.e. pen name
Pen name
A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...

s assumed by Renaissance humanists, were very largely Latinised names, though in some cases (e.g. Melanchthon) they invoked Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

. The Latinisation in humanist names may consist of translation from vernacular European languages, involving a playful element of punning. Such names could be a cover for humble social origins.

Latinisation is also common for place names, as a result of many early text books mentioning the places being written in Latin. Because of this, the English language often use Latinised forms of foreign place names instead of Anglicised forms or the original names.

Examples of Latinised names for countries or regions are:
  • Estonia
    Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

     (Estonian name Eesti, German/Scandinavian name Estland, i.e. "land of the Aesti
    The Aesti were a people described by the Roman historian Tacitus in his treatise Germania . According to this account, the Aestii lived on the shore of the Suebian Sea , eastward of the Suiones and westward of the Sitones. They were a population of Suebia...

  • Livonia
    Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

     (German/Scandinavian name Livland, i.e. "land of the Liv
    Livonian people
    The Livonians or Livs are the indigenous inhabitants of Livonia, a large part of what is today northwestern Latvia and southwestern Estonia. They spoke the Uralic Livonian language, a language which is closely related to Estonian and Finnish...

    s" - the local tribe)
  • Ingria
    Ingria is a historical region in the eastern Baltic, now part of Russia, comprising the southern bank of the river Neva, between the Gulf of Finland, the Narva River, Lake Peipus in the west, and Lake Ladoga and the western bank of the Volkhov river in the east...

     (Finnish Inkerinmaa, German/Scandinavian "Ingermanland", i.e. "land of the Ingermans
    The Izhorians , along with the Votes are an indigenous people of Ingria. Small numbers can still be found in the Western part of Ingria, between the Narva and Neva rivers in northwestern Russia.- History :The history of the Izhorians is bound to the history of Ingria...

     - the local tribe)

Latinisation is a common practice for scientific names. For example, Livistona, the name of a palm, is a Latinisation of "Livingstone".

Historical background

Until modern times it was common in most cultures to translate names into the language being used with little regard for the culture from which the name came. During the age of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, translation of names into Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 (in the West) or Greek
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 (in the East) was common. During the Medieval Period, following the collapse of the Empire in Western Europe, the main bastion of scholarship was the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, for whom Latin was the primary written language. Medieval priests, in fact, were almost exclusively the only scholars and scientists in Europe and, as such, Latin became firmly established as the scholarly language for the West. Though during modern times Europe has largely abandoned Latin as a scholarly language, a variety of fields still use Latin terminology as the norm and, 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 naming in many scholarly fields has gained worldwide acceptance, at least when European languages are being used for communication.

See also

  • List of Latinised names
  • Romanization
    In linguistics, romanization or latinization is the representation of a written word or spoken speech with the Roman script, or a system for doing so, where the original word or language uses a different writing system . Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing written...

    , expression of a language in Latin (or Roman) letters