Sheet Music Plus
Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Latin: Standard Latin pronunciation according to Roman usage

Below is the Latin pronunciation guide according to Roman usage. In my
opinion, it really is the only legitimate way to pronounce Latin.

Latin Pronunciation guide

(NOTE: the following is taken from the Liber Usualis and will be the
basis for all Latin pronunciation in Exultate.)

Vowels and Dipthongs:

A pronounced as in the word Father, never as in the word can.
E pronounced as in the word red, met, get, never as in the word Ray.
I pronounced as ee in Feet, never as i in milk or tin.
O pronounced as in blow, never as aw in saw.
U pronounced as oo in moon, never as u in custom.
Y pronounced and treated as the Latin I.

As a general rule, when two vowels come together each keeps its own
sound and constitutes a separate syllable.

This applies to ou, ai and ei (dei = deh-ee)

AE and OE are pronounced as one sound like the letter E

on October 21, 2002 10:00pm
"O pronounced as in blow, never as aw in saw."

Harold Copeman "Singing in Latin" ISBN 0-9515798-0-0 (1990)
states on page 22 for Liber Usualis:

O. as in 'for', never as in 'go'

Any comments?


on August 18, 2009 12:12am
One must remember that Copeman is an Englishman and "O as in 'for'" has a different pronunciation than in American....there is no pronounced R at the end of that word, but the R also takes out the diphthong (that you would get in "go") and opens the vowel.  Therefore, O in Italianate Latin is an open O as in "caught" or "dog".  It would be represented in IPA as a backwards c symbol.  The ancient Romans also distinguished between open and closed vowels for each vowel which are referred to as "short" or "long".  The Italianate pronunciation of Latin condenses the vowels into an easier system.  I'm doing a thesis and recital on the various regional pronunciations of Ecclesiastical Latin in Los Angeles area in CA on 11/7/09.  We will be singing works in Italian, Germanic, English, and French Latins.

When we say "Roman" usage, this is confusing b/c are we talking about Classical Rome/Classical Latin or Church Latin?  It is better to say "Classical Latin" for the pronunciation of ancient/classical Rome and "Italianate Latin" for the Latin used by most choirs today.  Although Classical Latin belongs to the Roman empire, it was really Vulgar Latin which was spoken by the people which pronunciation is not really known; and the Classical (whose pronunciation we do know) was probably more of a literary than spoken language which the upper class forged (with heavy borrowing from Classical Greek syntax and rules, etc.). 

"Ecclesiastical Latin" refers to a set of vocabulary developed for used by the Church - it does NOT refer to pronunciation.  In fact, Ecclesiastical Latin had various pronunciations depending on region of the empire and century.  Furthermore, when those conquered by Rome (Celts/Gallics, French, etc.) were imposed the Vulgar Latin language, they definitely pronounced it according to their own language rules and pronunciations.  Now, we don't know what the Vulgar sounded like, but we do know how the regional pronunciations sounded.  So to say that the Italianate is the only or proper way is wrong since it also is an evolution of the Vulgar.
In 1903, Pope St. Pius X mandated that all Catholics use the Italianate pronunciation.  His reasoning is that it was closest to the Classical (again, which was used for literary rather than speaking purposes...remember that the Mass texts and Bible were translated into/written in Vulgar Latin); and also in order to keep the Classical (Vulgar?) word stress which Gregorian Chant is based on (in French Latin, the last syllable is emphasized - not the ante/penultimate).  This caught on in the Anglican Church soon and in the choral world after many years (the bishops in Germany only threw in the towel in 1972).
Any more questions, just ask me...!
on November 15, 2004 10:00pm
Yes, if I may..."O" prounanced as in SAW, NEVER as in BLOW
on December 4, 2007 10:00pm
How does one pronounce Quo-ni-um' ?
on December 15, 2007 10:00pm
I would not try to force Latin to fit the English mold.

Pronounce it the way "o" sounds in Italian or Spanish--languages derived from Latin. Think of the beginning of the "go" vowel in English without the "oo" that it glides into.

Depending on the speaker's (or singer's) variety of English, "aw" might be nearly indistinguishable from "ah." You don't want to say "Deo" and have the listener hear it as "dea."

For other speakers, "aw" is a diphthong sounding "ah-oo," almost like Latin "au"

on September 6, 2008 10:00pm
In Roman usage, the v was pronounced as our w today.
Also, the diphthong ae is pronounced like a long i (as in like).
The pronunciation of other vowels depends on the whether or not a macron is present.

on September 14, 2008 10:00pm
Latin vowels are open vowels. Never have a closed "o" or "e" as in Italian. A good key word for Latin "o" is the open o sound in the word "Chord". If one tries to pronounce the English word "chord" with a closed "o" sound as in the word "noble" it would sound odd. Therefore the open "o" in "chord" is a better guide to use rather than the "aw" in "saw", which gives too many confusing variations from "ah" in "Father" to "o" in "hot".

Also, if "H" is always supposed to be silent, how is the phrase AD HOC COMMITTEE pronounced? (awed awk???)

I think a better rule is "H" is pronounced when used at the beginning of the Latin word...Homo Sapiens; Hodie, etc . . .
on December 4, 2008 10:00pm
Jesse your examples of Homo Sapiens etc are Americanized pronunciations of the words and not as suggested by Mr. Rossin the Roman usage.
on December 16, 2008 10:00pm
So, is the "h" in hodie sounded or not? I've heard it argued both ways.
on December 19, 2008 10:00pm
Not sounded.