AMITIAE - Thursday 20 March 2014

Lingua Latina: There are apps for it of course - Latin Lexicon Dictionary and Latin 700 Quiz

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

A few days ago, I was chatting to a smart student from Kasetsart University in Bangkok. We were discussing word derivations. He asked me about a way to find out the sources of words. We had been discussing the point that many English words have Latin roots; and Germanic and French of course. Where could he start with a dictionary that would help with finding out Latin derivations?

I already have a reasonable English dictionary downloaded from the iTunes App Store that gives me enough information to help me in this way. As he pointed out, however, my native language is English. I also studied Latin at Illinois State University under the excellent Carl Springer (now at Carbondale), eventually taking 19 credit hours. My Latin is a little rusty now, but I am reasonably quick off the draw.

A search in the App Store had mixed results. As well as a couple of language apps, I was also offered a number that were connected to Latin music. I finally decided on two that might help: Latin Lexicon Dictionary 1.1 and Latin 700 Quiz. Both were priced at $0.99.

Latin Lexicon Dictionary

The basis of this app appears to be a fairly strong search engine coupled with a database of some 17,000 Latin words. While the app is likely to be useful for someone with a little Latin ability, it might take some guesswork for someone with more limited skills to come up with the right answers.

To check, I tried a few test words. For example, farm gave me no results. Nor did agriculture. However, when I deleted part of the word, arriving at agric gave me a list of several Latin words. Tapping the first of these agricola which I knew was Farmer, a panel appeared with a considerable amount of useful information, starting with etymology - giving me more root words - and then inflection, which every student who ever learned Latin would be familiar with.

Latin Latin

Another root that I find useful in teaching is from the Latin cedo - to cease. From that, in English, we have the word-ending -cide as in pesticide, insecticide, sororicide, fratricide and suicide (and several others). The word cide was not found (although sui - self - was). I did enter cede which we also have in English and that gave me a couple of Latin suggestions. I did also use cedo and a panel with generous amount of data was revealed on the verb.

Latin Latin

I tried a number of other words with mixed success, depending on how close the English input was to a possible Latin word. For a learner, there might be some trial and error here. Nevertheless, for a student learning Latin, or an older person interested in refreshing what had been forgotten (like myself), this makes an interesting download.

Latin 700 Quiz

The app, Latin 700 Quiz, has a series of learning modules that help a learner in the study of Latin. However, with the output requiring some knowledge before answering most of the questions, this is not for a student with a zero level of Latin.

Latin Latin

The app is split into several sections:

  • Select a learning module
    • Latin
    • Numbers
    • My custom learning module
  • Multiple Choice Quiz
  • Flashcards
  • Glossary
  • Make Custom Flashcards and Quiz
  • Latin Language News
  • Options
    • Switch questions and answers
    • Clear Custom Content
    • Email report
    • Better Answer
    • Contact us
    • 1200 paralegal Terms App (iTunes store)
  • About

I tried the Latin learning module and was able to answer correctly the first half dozen or so questions: a word with four options. However, the Numbers section was confusing, as in some cases the four answers given did not match the test word. For example, viginti unus had choices of 8, 12, 2 and 4. The correct answer is 21.

There was a similar problem with the Multiple choice quiz with some answers not matching the options available. When the learning module was numbers, the multiple choice questions were also numbers. Selecting Latin as the learning module, changed these to vocabulary items. The same was so of the really useful Flashcards.

The Glossary listed about 700 English words with the Latin equivalents alongside, so was another useful aspect of the app. A Glossary button was available at the top of the flashcard screens and other learning modules, along with Flashcards, Quiz and Home buttons for quicker navigation.

Latin Latin

A feature perhaps more useful for a teacher than a student was the section marked Make Custom Flashcards and Quiz. A panel with a number of open boxes was displayed allowing the user to enter data depending on requirements. This relative openness makes this rather flexible.

Latin Language news opens a browser page at which looks like a wiki page for Latin and is "an international organization dedicated to the study and restoration of ancient Roman culture". While I examined the English section, there are also pages in other languages.

The app has a lot of content and several ways in which this can be used as a teaching/learning tool. Apart from the problem with numbers, the rest of the app makes a lot of sense and would be useful for someone trying to learn the rudiments of the language.


Neither of the apps fits the bill of my student friend's needs, although both go part of the way. Perhaps there are no easy answers. Of the two apps I preferred the Latin Lexicon Dictionary 1.1 because I already have the knowledge that can make better use of its considerable content.

Apart from those number peculiarities, Latin 700 Quiz also has a lot to be said for it as this is the type of learning tool that reinforces content as part of a learning process.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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