Latin: The Language of Ancient Rome

Latin: The Language of Ancient Rome
Lou Hoover: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Three Hours


In 1907, Lou Hoover was a student of geology and also fluent in German and Latin. One day she found a rare book on mining, Agricola de re Metallica and she decided to translate the German version into English.  She and her husband Herbert, the future president, worked on the translation when relaxing in the evenings.  The project took five years and as a result, the Hoovers were awarded the first gold medal for distinguished service by the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America. 


In this lesson students will learn about the Latin language and Ancient Rome.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet


Notify the students that they are going on a journey through time to Ancient Rome.
Because students are going on a trip to Ancient Rome they will need a translation dictionary.
This activity provides an opportunity for the students to develop an understanding  about where some of today's words originally came from.

The teacher will need a list of Latin words and their meanings. If you are not fluent in Latin, you can find a list at teaching guides. Print this list (adding more of your own words if you know some) so that you can use it in the classroom, and so that the students can have access to it.

This activity can be carried out as a whole class or in groups.

WHOLE CLASS - If working as a whole class, each student will make one or two pages for the dictionary. The teacher will need to organize which pages are made by each student, so that there is no duplication of pages. When all of the pages have been made, they can then be put together to make one large dictionary.

GROUPS - If working in groups, each group can make their own dictionary, working out which words to include, and organizing who will make each page. Each group will therefore need a copy of the Latin Words list.

Each page should have the Latin word at the top (in red), the English translation at the bottom (in blue) and a picture in the middle.

Extending the Lesson:

The lesson extension is the trip to Ancient Rome.  Have students explore The Romans a webquest on Ancient Rome created by the BBC

Sources & Resources:

Latin to English Words
Ancient Rome Lesson Plans
Rice University: History of Latin
Orbis Latinus: History of Latin
Middlebury College: Latin Resources
BBC: Ancient Rome
   Adkins, Lesley and Adkins, Roy A.   Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 
   Carcopino, Jerome.  Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940. 
   Cullen, John T.  A Walk in Ancient Rome. New York: I Books, 2005. 
   Glay, Marcel Le, Voisin, Jean-Louis, Bohec, Yann Le, and Nevill, Antonia.  History of Rome.  Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1991.  
   Green, John and Kaufman, William.  Life in Ancient Rome.  New York: Dover Publication, 1997.  
   Janson, Tore.  Speak: A Short History of Languages.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. 
   Janson, Tore, Sorenson, Merethe Damsgaard, and Vincent, Nigel.  A Natural History of Latin.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 
   Keller, Andrew.  Learn to Read Latin: Textbook and Workbook Set. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.  
   Shelton, Jo-Ann.  As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Credits: This lesson was inspired by lesson plans from This lesson was adapted  by Debra L. Clark, Kent State University