Skip to content

Latin vs Greek (Which One Should You Learn)

Latin vs Greek

Did you know that rich Romans liked to eat exotic food, such as stork, roast parrot, and even flamingo! Or that the ancient Greeks often ate dinner while lying on their sides (which the Romans copied as well)? I mean, talk about fun times.

50 percent of all English words are derived from Latin and a whopping 80–90 percent of all polysyllabic words? Polysyllabic words are words that have two or more syllables.

What is the reason you are drawn to these old languages? Are you studying law or sciences? Are you into headache-giving challenges? Whatever it is that brought you here, I hope that this post will give you enough reasons to study either language.

Because I can’t decide for you, I’ll give you my top reasons why you should learn each of the languages so you can decide for yourself.

First, let’s start with differences between Latin and Greek.

5 Main Differences Between Latin And Greek

1. Alphabet (Latin vs Greek Alphabet)

The word “alphabet” is actually formed of “alpha” and “beta”. They are the first two letters in Greek alphabet.

The Greek alphabet actually arose from the Phoenician script and it was in turn the basis of many writing systems such as the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many others.

As you can see, Latin alphabet was influenced by the Greek script.

2. Use

The Greek language is alive and well and spoken by many people today while Latin is extinct but still widely in use in religious purposes, scientific naming, and mottos of organizations.

3. Origins

Greek has been spoken in the Balkan peninsula since around the 3rd millennium BC, or possibly earlier making Greek the world’s oldest recorded living language.

The earliest known form of Latin is Old Latin, which was spoken from the Roman Kingdom to the later part of the Roman Republic period.

4. Official Language

Despite having no native speakers, Latin is still used for a variety of purposes in the contemporary world. The largest organization that retains Latin in official use is the Catholic Church. While the Greek is the official language of Greece and Cyprus (alongside Turkish) and is spoken by at least 13 million people.

5. Popularity

Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Catalan, Romansh, and other Romance languages are direct descendants of Latin.

Should I learn Latin or Greek (Is it worth learning ancient Greek or Latin)

Is it worth learning ancient Greek or Latin?

The short answer is yes. If you choose any of the two languages as your next pursuit, you will gain great knowledge and surely respect by other people. How many people do you know that really know how to speak (and not just read) Latin or Greek?

Which one should you choose, Latin or ancient Greek? I personally would opt-in for Latin. If you’ve already studied it in high school (as I have) it will be easier to pick it up.

If you’re starting from scratch; the choice again is Latin. It just has more things going for it than (ancient) Greek.

Tell me in the poll at the end of the post which language do you prefer after reading the pros for each one.

5 Reasons Why You Should Learn Latin

1. It’s base for science names

Latin provides the root words for the specialized vocabularies of not some but all of the modern sciences. All the new science terms come from the ancient classical languages, Latin and Greek. Latin and Greek are like a big quarry where scientists go to dig out new words. Even the word computer comes from the Latin word computo, meaning to count, to sum up.

Also, the whole classification system of all living things, plants and animals, is based on Latin and Greek.

2. Latin is the language of law, government, logic, and theology

The Romans excelled in law and government, and it is from them that we derive our legal and political language and in fact, all legal terms are Latin.

3. It’s a dead language

Why is this a pro? Well, because Latin is considered a dead language, it cannot be altered and new words cannot be added to the Latin vocabulary which subsequently makes it easier to learn.

4. Latin is a base for 5 other popular languages

If you want to learn a new language, Latin is the best preparation. This is especially true if you want to learn a romance language.

The most prominent romance languages are Romanian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

Here’s an example: The word for grass in Latin is herba. In French it’s herbe, in Spanish it’s hierba, in Italian it’s erba, in Portuguese it’s erva, and in Romanian it’s iarbã. You see how similar they all are.

If you learn Latin language first, you’ll be flying through the other romance languages.

5. Most of English words are derived from it

In fact, there are also many Latin derivatives not only in English but also in German, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish.

4 Reasons Why You Should Learn (Ancient) Greek

1. It’s alive!

Unlike Latin, Greek is still alive and well and is spoken by around 13 million people, mostly Greeks of course. You can actually use the knowledge of the Greek language to talk to other (non-scholar) people.

As for ancient Greek; it will be a great base to learn the modern version of the language.

2. You know a bit of Greek already

Many, many words have origin in Greek language so it won’t come as a surprise if you see a familiar word or words.

3. Greece is beautiful

You can visit this amazingly beautiful country and speak to locals in their own language. How cool is that!

Or if you’re studying the classical Greek language, you can read the old books and texts in their original form and even help translate them into your own language!

4. It’s base for science names

See number 1 for Latin. It’s far easier to learn science names if you already know much of Latin or Greek.

Ancient Greek vs Modern Greek

Have you ever heard the saying it’s all Greek to me? Well, Greek, in its modern form, is the official language of Greece, where it is spoken by almost the entire population. Ancient Greek is much different than the modern version.

Greek has been spoken in the Balkan peninsula since around the 3rd millennium BC or even earlier. But it’s also often stated that the historical changes have been relatively slight compared with some other languages.

Still, the changes are big enough so that someone who knows modern Greek would not understand ancient Greek. Or would only understand some words in a sentence.

As the professor in the video above emphasizes;

Focus on whatever Greek you need to know either ancient or modern without any expectation that by learning one you will easily understand the other.

Which one do you prefer?