Appendix:Latin pronunciation

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
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See also Wiktionary:About Latin and Category:Latin language.

The tables below show the IPA equivalents for Latin sounds.


Classical Latin had both long and short vowels. For all vowel pairs besides /a aː/ (the most open), the short versions are reconstructed as being more phonetically open in most contexts than their long counterparts, which resulted later in the merging of short i and u with long ē and ō in the Italo-Western Romance languages (such as Italian) after the loss of phonemic vowel length.

Symbols used in Wiktionary entries[edit]

Classical Latin monophthongs
Letter Environment IPA
Phonemic notation Phonetic notation used on Wiktionary
a in all cases /a/ [a]
ā in all cases /aː/ [aː]
e in most cases /e/ [ɛ]
before a vowel [e]
ē in all cases /eː/ [eː]
i in most cases /i/ [ɪ]
before a vowel [i]
ī in all cases /iː/ [iː]
o in all cases /o/ [ɔ]
ō in all cases /oː/ [oː]
u in most cases /u/ [ʊ]
before a vowel [u]
ū in all cases /uː/ [uː]
y in most cases /y/ [ʏ]
before a vowel [y]
ȳ in all cases /yː/ [yː]
Classical Latin diphthongs
Letters IPA
ae /ae̯/
au /au̯/
ei /ei̯/
eu /eu̯/
oe /oe̯/
ui /ui̯/

Note the inverted breve, which indicates that the vowel does not form a separate syllable.

Comments on vowel qualities and quantities[edit]

Per Allen, the long mid vowels ē ō /eː oː/ were phonetically high-mid [eː oː] and the short mid vowels e o /e o/ were in most circumstances open-mid [ɛ ɔ].[1] Allen argues that /e/ likely had a closer allophone when followed by a vowel (transcribed in Wiktionary entries by [e]), and an opener allophone when followed by the consonant /r/ (not marked in Wiktionary entries; Allen says "the degree of opening is unknown" and suggests that "there is no point in attempting to reproduce it").[1]

The long close vowels ī ū /iː uː/ were phonetically fully close [iː uː]. The short close vowels i u /i u/ were per Allen near-close [ɪ ʊ], except for when followed by a vowel (as in diēs, duo), where they likely had closer allophones (transcribed on Wiktionary by [i u]). Some evidence suggests that /i/ before /ɡn/ [ŋn] may have been raised to [i] or both raised and lengthened to /iː/;[1] for this reason, this sequence is sometimes written as īgn in dictionaries or linguistic works. But since /iɡn/ with short /i/ represents both the length expected from the etymology, and the length implied by various inherited Romance descendants such as degno, seña, this sequence is written on Wiktionary as ign /iɡn/ [ɪŋn].

The close vowel pair y ȳ was not part of the native Latin sound system; the letter was adopted to represent the value of Attic Greek υ (/y yː/) in words borrowed from Greek.[1] Formerly, υ was adapted as u /u/ (as in bursa from βύρσα (búrsa)), a replacement that in some cases continued to be used.[1] In the Classical period, words spelled with y ȳ were likely pronounced by educated Latin speakers with the value of the Greek vowel or an approximation of it, meaning long ȳ was phonetically [yː] and short y was phonetically either [y] or possibly [ʏ].[1]

I vs J[edit]

In Latin, the letter written as I in ancient times was either a vowel or a consonant, or rarely a sequence of consonant and vowel, depending on position and the word, the vowel being most common. The two forms had different pronunciation and different metrical treatment in poetry.

An early modern typographical convention (originating in medieval scripts) is to write J for the consonant form and leave I for the vowel. This is applied both to ordinary words and proper nouns. A similar modern convention exists in writing the vowel V as U (see U and V for more). But while U is very commonly written, the use of J is more variable.

Generally speaking, modern Latin-English dictionaries always use I; however, in the 19th and early 20th centuries the use of J was more widespread (for example, the substantial 1879 dictionary of Lewis and Short). Reprints of classical works on the other hand sometimes write J and sometimes write I. Ecclesiastical works use J more commonly than scholarly classical works, but not to the exclusion of I.

The exclusive use of I never results in ambiguity about the identity of a word, as there are no words that are distinguished solely by the use of I versus J (unlike U versus V; see below).


As a vowel,

  • (Classical): IPA: short /i/, long /iː/

As a consonant,

  • (Classical): /j/, but doubled /jj/ when between vowels

As a consonant–vowel sequence

  • (Classical): /jji/ after a vowel (e.g. reicit), /ji/ after a consonant (e.g. subicio)

U vs V[edit]

In Latin, the letter written as V in ancient times represented either a vowel or a consonant depending on its position and the word. These two forms had distinct pronunciations and different metrical treatment in poetry.

A modern typographical convention is to write U for the vowel and leave V as the consonant. Generally speaking dictionaries write U this way and the majority of reprints of classical texts adapt them and show U too. The use of V for the vowel in new works is usually a deliberately classical style or appearance, and that includes for example in inscriptions on new monuments and the like.

Note that there are words where V and U contrast: servit is the third-person singular present of serviō, pronounced /ˈser.wit/ in two syllables; while seruit is the third-person singular perfect of serō, pronounced /ˈ in three syllables.


As consonant,

  • (Classical): IPA: /w/, (in Greek loanwords between vowels) /ww/

As vowel,

  • (Classical): IPA: short /u/, long /uː/


  • Consonants: b (ps, pt) k d f g (ŋ) h j k l m n p kw r s t w ks z kʰ pʰ tʰ

Allophones of /r/[edit]

Latin has one rhotic consonant, which is transcribed as /r/ in the phonemic transcription used on Wiktionary. The phoneme /r/ likely had multiple phonetic realizations (allophones) in Classical Latin.

An alveolar trill [r] was likely a common realization in at least the following two contexts: at the start of a word after a pause, or when the consonant was geminated (doubled) as /r.r/ [rː], such as in the word terra. Most sources describe the trill [r] as the primary pronunciation of Classical Latin /r/.

A alveolar tap (or flap) [ɾ] was likely a possible allophone of singleton (non-geminate) /r/ in some cases, especially in word-medial intervocalic position. A minority of sources describe the tap [ɾ] as the primary pronunciation of Classical Latin /r/.

There is disagreement about the overall frequency of tap versus trill realizations of /r/. Various contextual factors may have influenced which allophone was used, such as the identity of the surrounding sounds, the position of word and morpheme boundaries, prosody, speech rate, or speech style. Aside from trills and taps, other sounds such as fricatives may have been used as allophonic pronunciations of the phoneme /r/.

Because of the uncertain distribution of the trill and tap realizations of /r/, and because the IPA recognizes [r] as a valid broad transcription of the tap [ɾ], the phonetic transcriptions in Wiktionary entries do not differentiate between the possible allophones of Latin /r/, and use only the transcription [r].

Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation[edit]

In most Latin lemma entries, Wiktionary provides an Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation reflecting the “Italianate” standard adopted in most of the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century. The Italianate pronunciation is derived from modern Italian, and thus includes Italianisms not known in Classical Latin such as /t͡ʃ/ for C before E or I: see Italian phonology.

Pronunciation format[edit]

Some example entries for Latin pronunciation given in IPA.

  • Other: ˈ ˌ ː .

IPA resources[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Allen, W. Sidney (1978) Vox Latina, 2nd edition