Italian vs Latin – Core Similarities and Differences


Latin is the mother tongue of the Romance languages. That means Italian is descended from Latin.

Romance languages are also similar to each other. This is because they all came from the same source: Latin. However, Italian is also unique in many ways.

In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between Italian and Latin. We’ll also look at how Italian has been influenced by other languages over the centuries.

Similarities between Italian and Latin

Italian is closely related to Latin. In fact, many words in Italian are similar to Latin words. For example, the Italian translation of the word “hand” is manus, which is very similar to the Latin word “mano”.

Some other examples of similar words between Italian and Latin include:

  • Land (Italian terra, Latin terra)
  • War (Italian guerra, Latin guerra)
  • Book (Italian libro, Latin liber)
  • Fire (Italian fuoco, Latin focus)
  • Door (Italian porta, Latin porta)
  • River (Italian fiume, Latin flumen)
  • Head (Italian capo, Latin caput)
  • Fruit (Italian frutto, Latin fructus)
  • City (Italian città, Latin civitas)

Differences between Italian and Latin

It might not be very accurate to think that the Italian language is very close to Latin.

Italian has changed drastically over the course of 15 or 16 centuries since it took off among the various dialects that emerged around the city of Rome.

But it does share many cognates with Latin, and indeed the whole thing is based on the same ancestral roots.

Most notably, it still retains the distinction between “short and long vowels,” something that most other Romance languages no longer have.

Italian also still maintains many translational quirks from Latin, such as the word “bene” meaning “well” rather than “good” or “rightly.”

It is hard to know where Italian ends and Latin begins. Italian was born out of the amalgamation of Vulgar Latin and Latin, and consequently, it shares a lot more in common with Latin than it does with the other Romance languages. However, Italian doesn’t really resemble Latin outside of basic grammar and vocabulary.

Italian dialects

Italy is a country with a rich history and culture. It’s also a country with a lot of regional diversity. This is reflected in the many different dialects of Italian that are spoken throughout the country. If you’re planning a trip to Italy, it’s helpful to know a few of the most common dialects you might encounter. Below is a brief overview of five of the most common Italian dialects.

  • Neapolitan – Variants of this dialect are spoken across much of Southern Italy. Because of a one-time Spanish influence, there are lots of Spanish loan words in English that might be familiar to some travelers.
  • Sicilian – This is spoken, among various dialects, on the island of Sardinia. There’s also a variant called “Ciaccio” in Southern Calabria.
  • Friulian – This Italian variant is spoken in Friuli in northeastern Italy.
  • Algherese (Alguerese) – It is a Catalan variant spoken in the city of Alghero
  • Sardinian – This dialect is spoken across most of central and southern Sardinia.