Our Latin Kin

Not all relations between Latin and English counterparts may be described as derivation. There are a few genuine parallels that stem from a more distant common relation (proto-Indo-European). With these words, Latin is less a mother or grandmother, and more of a cousin.

As we can imagine, this kind of relationship features more striking variations in phonetic form than direct derivation. As Latin and (what A&G call) Primitive Germanic began to undergo separate consonantal and vowel shifts, their PIE derivations took on similar yet distinct forms, which eventually conformed to distinct phonological rules in each family of languages.

(*ph₂tḗr) —> pater / father

(*bʰer) —> ferō / bear, frater / brother

(*dwṓu) —> duo / two, (dēns) dentis / tooth

(*h₁rew) —> ruber / red

(*h₂wḗh) —> ventus / wind

(*sneygʷʰ) —> nive / snow

(*ǵʰans) —> ānser / goose

For those interested, you’ll find a larger list in A&G (19). There are some general phonological rules we see emerging: the aspirated b of PIE becomes Lain f/b and English f/b/v, the aspirated d of PIE becomes Latin f/b/d but in English only d, etc.

The Essential AG: 18, 19

Redeeming Words for Whitaker’s

I may have been too harsh on Whitaker, in an earlier post, where I defined his dictionary as inferior alternative to Wiktionary. I still believe Wiktionary is the top Latin dictionary online, but here are a few redeeming qualities that Whitaker revealed upon closer inspections.

What I said:


What I found:

First, there are two online interfaces:

If you type a word into this interface, a new tab pops up, and you need to return to this page in order to search a new entry. It’s incredibly (ok, mildly) annoying. However, if you click the title, which is actually a link, you get this:

Which allows you to switch between Latin to English and English to Latin with a single click, and operates in one window with a search bar on the entry page so you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth.


There’s also the extra-web application, Latin WORDS (available for all platforms), which has the same features.

I’m not a fan of the extra window, but this interface is incredibly straightforward, and supposedly “more powerful” than the online resource. I’m doubtful, since the website would receive constant updates, but for my purposes it’s fine.

Whitaker’s still lacks (a) etymologies, (b) related terms, (c) conjugations and declensions, and (d) derived terms, but these features secure its position as a reliable English-to-Latin Thesaurus, and not ‘what we’re stuck with’ in the absence of something better.

However, a Wikisaurus is in the works, and when it arrives (if it’s a multi-lingual thesaurus, which is still be debated)–bye-bye Whitaker’s.