Latin-Based Words for Colors and Other Things

These words were borrowed from Latin and have become common in English

Double rainbow over the Colosseum at the entrance to the Roman Forum, Via Sacra, Piazza Del Colosseo, Rome, Italy
Double rainbow over the Colosseum at the entrance to the Roman Forum, Via Sacra, Piazza Del Colosseo, Rome, Italy. David Clapp / Getty Images

English has a lot of words of Latin origin. In fact, 60 percent of the English language comes from Latin. Here are some Latin words—in this case, adjectives—for colors:

  • prasinus, -a, - um: green
  • purpureus, -a, -um: purple (purple)
  • caeruleus, -a, -um: blue (cerulean)
  • lividus, -a, -um: black and blue (livid)
  • niger: black (denigrate)
  • ater, atra, atrum: black (dark) (atrabilious)
  • fuscus, -a, -um: dark (obfuscate)
  • ravus, -a, -um: gray
  • canus, -a, -um: gray or white (hair)
  • albus, -a, -um: white (alb)
  • flavus, -a, -um: yellow (pale) (riboflavin)
  • fulvus, -a, -um: golden yellow
  • croceus, -a, -um: saffron (crocus)
  • ruber, rubra, rubrum: red (rubella)
  • roseus, -a, -um: rose-red (rose)

Other Latin Words Imported into English

Some Latin words are changed to make them more like English words, often by changing the ending (e.g., "office" from the Latin "officium"), but other Latin words are kept intact in English. Of these words, some are unfamiliar and are generally italicized or placed in quotation marks to show that they are foreign, but others are used with nothing to set them apart as imported. You may not even be aware that they are from Latin. Here are some such words:

Latin Word

Definition

English Derivatives

villa

villa, house

villa, village, villager

alta

tall, high, deep

altitude, altimeter, alto

antiqua

antique, old

antique, antiquity, ancient

longa

long

longitude, longevity, long

magna

large, great

magnify, magnificent, magnitude

pictura

picture

picture, picturesque, pictorial

nova

new

novice, novel, novelty, nova, Nova Scotia

terra

land, earth

terrier, terrace, terrestrial, terrain

prima

first

prime, primary, primitive, primeval

sub

under

subway, subterranean, suburban

corna

horn

cornucopia, cornet, clavicorn

est

is

estate, establish, essence

habere

have

have, habit, habitual

casa

small house

casino

via

street

via

parva

small

parval, parvanimity

lata

wide, broad

latitude, lateral, latitudinal

bona

good

bonus, bonanza, bona fide

copia

plenty

copious, cornucopia, copiously

fama

fame

fame, famous, infamous

provincia

province

province, provincial, provincialism

multa

many

multitude, multiple, multiplex

nominare

to name

nominate, nominal, name, nominative

postea

later

postlude, postgraduate, posthumous

non

not

nonfction, nonmetal, nonexistent

in

in

in

aqua

water

aquatics, aquarium, aqueduct, aqueous

agricola

farmer

agriculture

bestia

beast

bestial, bestiality

figura

figure, shape

figure, figurine, figment, figurative

flamma

flame

flame, flamboyant, flambeau

herba

herb

herb, herbivorous, herbage

insula

island

insular, insulate, insularity

lingua

language

language, lingual, linguistics

nauta

sailor

nautical, nautilus

pirata

pirate

pirate, piratical

schola

school

scholar, school, scholastic

alba

white

albino, albinism albumen

amica

friendly

amicable, amicability, amity

beata

happy

beatific, beatify, beatitude

maritima

sea

maritime

mea

me

me, my

mira

strange

miracle, miraculous, mirage

nota

noted

noted, note, notice, notable, noticeable

obscura

dark

obscure, obscured, obscurity

periculosa

dangerous

perilous, peril

propinqua

near to

propinquity

pulchra

beautiful

pulchritude

quieta

quiet

quiet, quietude, disquiet

circum

around

circumstance, circumnavigate, circumspect 

filia

daughter

filly, filial

folium

leaf

foliage, foliaceous, foliar

aureus

golden

aurorial, aurorean, aurous

plumbeus

leaden

plumbing, plumbous, plumbic, plumbeous

mutare

to change

mutation, commute, transmute

vulnerare

to wound

vulnerable, invulnerable, vulnerary

vitare

to avoid

inevitable, inevitably, inevitability

morbus

disease

morbid, morbidity, morbific

populus

people

populous, population, popular

radius

ray

radius, radial, radiation

arma

arms (weapons)

arms, armed, armament, army

saxum

rock

saxatile, saxicoline, saxifrage

evocare

call forth

evoke, evocable, evocator

femina

woman

feminine, effeminate, femme

densa

thick

dense, densely, density

territa

frightened

terrified, terrific

Translating Latin Into English

Whether you want to translate a short English phrase into Latin or a Latin phrase into English, you can't just plug the words into a dictionary and expect an accurate result. You can't with most modern languages, either, but the lack of a one-to-one correspondence is even greater between Latin and English.