Caroline Mackenzie A Latin Lexicon: An Illustrated Compendium of Latin Words and English Derivatives

A Latin Lexicon: An Illustrated Compendium of Latin Words and English Derivatives 2020 by Caroline K. Mackenzie (Author), Amanda Short (Illustrator) ‎ Archaeopress Hardcover pages 142 ‎ 978-1789697629 £18.00

A Latin Lexicon

A Latin Lexicon: An Illustrated Compendium of Latin Words and English Derivatives   2020 by Caroline K. Mackenzie (Author), Amanda Short (Illustrator) ? Archaeopress Hardcover  pages 142 ? 978-1789697629  £18.00

This is a handsomely produced book, with hard covers, widely spaced text for ease of reference, and it is illustrated throughout.  The book is designed for amateurs of Latin who are interested in English derivations and word building.  It is limited to the OCR word list for GCSE Latin with an entry for each word.  (GCSE is an examination taken by 16-year-olds in England and Wales and so is likely to be an entry point for many Latin learners.)  If they would like to continue to remember and use the Latin they learn at school this is the book for them to refer to, when they wish to check on a meaning or a spelling of an English word derived form a Latin word on this basic list.  Crosswords and Scrabble are mentioned on the back cover and devotees of these word games may well find some help and inspiration among its pages.  Learners of English will also find it useful to trace an English word which may share a common derivation in the learner’s own language. 

After some introduction, a reference section on basic grammar and a useful list of Latin phrases used in English often in abbreviated forms (e.g., i.e., p.m.) we have the lexicon itself from a, ab to vulnus.  Each word has its grammatical form defined and a range of English meanings given; this is followed by a series of derivations.  For example, celer is defined as an adjective meaning quick, fast and the derivations given are “accelerate, acceleration, accelerator, accelerometer, celerity”.  The entries are all set out in this way, often with a number of connected words in the English derivations, verb, noun and adjective all from the same original root. Sometimes they stretch as far as obscurer words such as accelerometer.  The author states that this is to show how ubiquitous (vide: ubi) Latin derivations are, but they can be occasionally baffling (unitard? sequacious? iracundulous?).  They are obscure but I suppose their inclusion does show that with a little thought their meaning can be inferred from the Latin original root. 

There will always be points of difference and words that some will think should have been included.  For instance, solipsist could go in under ipse as it is a common term in philosophy, and equinox could be included under nox as it is a useful marker of the passing of the year (no place for solstice either).  For uses of Latin terms in contemporary speech, I noticed that an explanation of c.v. is included but not of et al.  This is quite common now for multiple authored papers in journals, and is even creeping into general usage, as is per se which has no entry either.  Some reference to the current use of trans and its opposite cis might have been useful as this is often a puzzling new usage to many. 

This book’s strengths are its presentation: simple, attractive, easy to use, and full of information and interest.  Many learners of Latin and English, young and old, beginners or advanced, with first or second language English, will find plenty to inform, confirm and explore further into the delights of languages.


John Bulwer