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The term Latin has been used to refer to various groups of people across various historical periods who have been, in some form or another, connected to ancient Rome and its ethnic, cultural, and/or religious legacy.

The term originally referred to the Latins, an ancient Italic tribe from Latium in the central Italian peninsula. Among them were the Romans, who united the Latins through conquest and built an empire which expanded not only to the entire Italian peninsula but to the rest of the Mediterranean region. Since then, "Latin" has been an ethnically-related or religious designation implying an ultimate origin from Roman civilization.[1]


Map of 5th century-BC Latium (Latium Vetus) and surrounding regions in central Italy that were eventually annexed by Rome to form "New Latium". The Alban Hills, a region of early Latin settlement (from c. 1000 BC) and the site of the Latiar, the most important Latin communal festival, are located under the "U" in LATIUM. The region's two main lakes, Nemi and Albanus, are visible under the "I". The leading Latin city-states of Rome, Tibur (Tivoli), Praeneste (Palestrina), Ardea and Gabii are shown.

The Latins were an ancient Italic people of the Latium region in central Italy (Latium Vetus, "Old Latium"), in the 1st millennium BC. Although they lived in independent city-states, they spoke a common language (Latin), held common religious beliefs, and extended common rights of residence and trade to one another.[2] Collectively, these Latin states were known as the Latin League.

A rupture between Rome, one of the Latin states, and the rest of the Latin League emerged as a result of the former's territorial ambitions. The Latin League fought against Rome in the Latin War (340-338 BC), which ended in a Roman victory. Consequently, some of the Latin states were incorporated within the Roman state, and their inhabitants were given full Roman citizenship. Others became Roman allies and enjoyed certain privileges.[3]

The Roman Empire would go on to dominate the Mediterranean region for the next several centuries, spreading the Latin language and Roman culture. The Latin-speaking Western Roman Empire ended in AD 476, while the Greek-speaking eastern half survived on until 1453.

Middle Ages[edit]

12th century depiction of Latin Crusaders

In the Eastern Roman Empire, and the broader Greek-Orthodox world, Latins was a synonym for all people who followed the Roman Catholicism[4] of Western Christianity,[5] regardless of ethnicity.[6] The term was related to the predominance of the Latin Church, which is the largest autonomous particular church within the broader Catholic Church, and took its name from its origins in the Latin-speaking world which had Rome as its center.[7]

Latin was generally a negative characterization, especially after the 1054 schism.[4] The term is still used by the Orthodox church communities, but only in a theological context. Nonetheless, it did not share this negative connotation in the West, where many self-identified with the term, such as Petrarch, when he states "Sumus enim non greci, non barbari, sed itali et latini." ("We are not Greeks or barbarians; we are Italians and Latins.").[8]

Latin peoples[edit]

The various Romance-speaking ethnic groups, usually those of Latin Europe and Latin America, have sometimes been collectively referred to as "Latin peoples".[9][10] Other synonymous terms are "Romance peoples"[11] or "Romanic peoples".[12] The designation has also specifically survived in the names of two Romance-speaking groups: the Ladin people (of northern Italy) and the Ladino people (of Central America).

Likewise, the Romance languages themselves are sometimes referred to as the Latin or Neo-Latin languages.[13][14]

The term Latin Europe is sometimes used in reference to European nations and regions inhabited by Romance-speaking people.[15][16][17]

Latin America is the region of the Americas that was colonized by Latin Europeans, and came to be called so in the 19th century.[18] The term is usually used to refer to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, namely Hispanic America and Brazil. Latin Americans are called latinoamericanos and latino-americanos in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively; the shortening of this term resulted in the name for Latinos,[19] who are themselves sometimes just called "Latin".[20][21][22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of LATIN". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2024-04-04.
  2. ^ "Ancient Rome - Latin League, Republic, Empire | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2024-04-04.
  3. ^ "Ancient Rome - Latin League, Republic, Empire | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2024-04-04.
  4. ^ a b George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State
  5. ^ "Distinguishing the terms: Latins and Romans". Orbis Latinus. Archived from the original on 2018-07-09.
  6. ^ "Distinguishing the terms: Latins and Romans". Orbilat.
  7. ^ "Why So Many Rites in the Church | EWTN". EWTN Global Catholic Television Network. Retrieved 2024-03-08.
  8. ^ "Invectiva contra eum qui maledixit Italiam - Wikisource". la.wikisource.org (in Latin). Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  9. ^ "Latin Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster". Merriam-Webster. 2023-06-10. Archived from the original on 2023-06-10. Retrieved 2024-03-08.
  10. ^ MultiCultural Review: Dedicated to a Better Understanding of Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Diversity. GP Subscription Publications. 2001. ISBN 978-0-8239-9700-8.
  11. ^ Dame, Frederick William (2001). "The Swiss Romance Peoples And Their Identity". History of Switzerland: Historical Switzerland from the Romans to Napoleon. E. Mellen Press. ISBN 978-0-7734-7386-7.
  12. ^ Pavlovic, Zoran (2006). "Romanic Peoples". Europe. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-0455-3.
  13. ^ "Latin Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster". web.archive.org. 2023-06-10. Retrieved 2024-03-08.
  14. ^ "Definition of NEO-LATIN". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2024-03-08.
  15. ^ Friedman, Lawrence; Perez-Perdomo, Rogelio (2003). Legal Culture in the Age of Globalization: Latin America and Latin Europe. Stanford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-8047-6695-9.
  16. ^ Iiams, Thomas M. (1971). "National Libraries of Latin Europe". American Libraries. 2 (10): 1081–1085. ISSN 0002-9769.
  17. ^ "The History of the Romanian Language". linguistics.byu.edu. Retrieved 2023-02-25.
  18. ^ Chasteen, John Charles (2001). Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. W. W. Norton. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-393-97613-7.
  19. ^ Gutiérrez, Ramón A.; Almaguer, Tomás (2016). The new Latino studies reader: a twenty-first-century perspective. Oakland (Calif.): University of California press. ISBN 978-0-520-28483-8.
  20. ^ "Definition of LATIN". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2024-03-10.
  21. ^ Fajkus, Michelle Margaret (2022-11-21). "10 Differences in Latin Culture Compared to U.S. Culture". Homeschool Spanish Academy. Retrieved 2024-03-10.
  22. ^ Horvath, Richard (2021-11-23). "10 things in Latin Culture that Will Influence a Workplace". English to Spanish Raleigh. Retrieved 2024-03-10.
  23. ^ highheelsandabackpack (2023-01-30). "Dating Latin Men - Everything you need to know". Retrieved 2024-03-10.

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