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GCSE Latin: Memorising the Vocab List

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Learning the GCSE Latin vocab list is much easier than you might think! In this blog we share some Latin vocab memorisation tips from a tutor with years of Latin teaching experience.


GCSE Latin vocabulary

Memory tricks can take various forms, but the most common are:


1) Finding English derivations - for example, Latin 'ambulo' is linked to English 'ambulance', as an ambulance does the walking for you.


2) Finding Latin derivations - some Latin words are connected to other Latin words. For example, 'audeo' (I dare) is linked with 'audax' (daring).


3) Silly word play, rhymes, and mnemonics - for example, to remember Latin 'cibus' (meaning food), you could think of the sentence "cib-us some food!" (= 'give us some food!').


Let's put these methods into action by looking at how they may be applied to some key words from the Latin GCSE vocab list. This should help you come up with some ideas of your own for memorising the rest of the words.


Letter A

Latin

English

Memory Trick

alter

the other

Eng derivation: ALTERNATIVE (the OTHER option)

altus

high

Eng derivation: ALTITUDE (height)

ambulo

I walk

Eng derivation: AMBULANCE (helps you to WALK)

amicus

friend

Eng derivation: AMICABLE (FRIENDly)

animus

mind, spirit, soul

Eng derivation: ANIMATED (full of SPIRIT/SOUL)

annus

year

Eng derivation: ANNUAL (YEARly)

appropinquo

​I approach

Lat derivation: PROPE (near)

aqua

water

Eng derivation: AQUEDUCT (conveys WATER)

audax

bold, daring

Eng derivation: AUDACIOUS (DARing)

audeo

I dare

Lat derivation: AUDAX (bold, DARing)

audio

I hear

Eng derivation: AUDIBLE (able to be HEARd)

auxilium

help

Eng derivation: AUXILIARY (giving support/HELP)

Letter B

Latin

English

Memory Trick

bonus

good

Eng derivation: BONUS (reward for GOOD performance)

brevis

short, brief

Eng derivation: BREVITY (concise/SHORT speech)

Letter C

Latin

English

Memory Trick

​caelum

sky

Silly: CAE-LUM = SKY-LUM

captivus

captive, prisoner

Lat derivation: CAPIO (I capture) - so 'captivus' is literally 'someone captured'

caput

head

Eng derivation: DECAPITATE (to take off someone's HEAD)

celer

quick

Eng derivation: ACCELERATE (to get QUICKer)

cena

dinner

Silly: CENA have some DINNA? (= can I have some dinner?)

ceteri

the others, the rest

Eng/Lat derivation: ET CETERA (shortened to etc) literally means 'and THE REST'

cibus

food

Silly: CIB-US some food! (= give us some food!)

circum

around

Eng derivation: CIRCLE (something which is ROUND)

civis

citizen

Eng derivation: CIVILISED (behaving as a CITIZEN should)


Letter D

Latin

English

Memory Trick

debeo

I owe, ought

Eng derivation: DEBT (when you OWE money, and OUGHT to pay it back)

deinde

then, next

Silly: DEN-DE = THEN-DE

deleo

I destroy

Eng derivation: DELETE (DESTROYing what you typed)

dico

I say

Eng derivation: DICTIONARY (tells you what you can SAY)

dirus

terrible

Eng derivation: DIRE (= TERRIBLE)

diu

for a long time

Silly: DIU learn diu for a long time? (= Do you learn diu for a long time?)

donum

gift

Eng derivation: DONATION (a GIFT)

dormio

I sleep

Eng derivation: DORMITORY (somewhere you SLEEP)

duco

I lead

Lat derivation: DUX (leader)

dux

leader

Eng derivation: DUKE (someone who LEADS you)


Letter E

Latin

English

Memory Trick

e, ex

out of

Eng derivation: EXIT (going OUT OF)

ego

I, me

Eng derivation: EGOTISTICAL (obsessed with ME, ME, ME)

emo

I buy

Silly: I buy EMO clothes

epistula

letter

Eng derivation: EPISTOLARY (a writing genre where the piece takes the form of a LETTER)

equus

​horse

Eng derivation: EQUINE (HORSE-related)

exercitus

​army

Eng derivation: EXERCISE (something the ARMY must do)


Letter F

Latin

English

Memory Trick

facio

I make, do

Eng derivation: FACTORY (where things are MADE)

festino

I hurry

Silly: Let's HURRY to the FESTIval

flumen

river

Eng derivation: LOG FLUME (a RIVER ride)

Letter G

Latin

English

Memory Trick

​gens

family, race, tribe

Eng derivation: GENES (passed on by your FAMILY)

gladius

sword

Eng/Lat derivation: GLADIATOR (carries a SWORD)

gravis

heavy, serious

Eng derivation: GRAVITY (makes you HEAVY)


Letter H

Latin

English

Memory Trick

habito

I live

Eng derivation: INHABIT (to LIVE in a place)

hortus

garden

Eng derivation: HORTICULTURE (GARDENing)

hostis

enemy

Eng derivation: HOSTILE (behaving like an ENEMY)


Letter I

Latin

English

Memory Trick

​iam

now, already

Silly: after getting ready to leave the house, I say to myself I AM NOW ALL READY (= iam: now, already)

ianua

door

​Eng derivation: JANUARY (a DOORway to a new year) or JANITOR (locks up the DOORs)

igitur

therefore

Silly: IGIT-UR = THERE-FUR


Letter L

​Latin

English

Memory Trick

liber

book

Eng derivation: LIBRARY (somewhere that has BOOKs)

​locus

place

Eng derivation: LOCATION (a PLACE)

loquor

I speak

Eng derivation: ELOQUENT (SPEAKing well)

Letter M

Latin

English

Memory Trick

magnus

big

Eng derivation: MAGNIFY (make BIGger)

miles

soldier

Eng derivation: MILITARY (related to SOLDIERS)

mox

soon

Silly: my MOCKS are SOON


Letter N

Latin

English

Memory Trick

nomen

name

Eng derivation: NOMINATE (identify someone by NAME)

novus

new

Eng derivation: NOVELTY (something NEW)

nox

night

Eng derivation: NOCTURNAL (NIGHT-related)


Letter O

Latin

English

Memory Trick

opprimo

I crush

Eng derivation: OPPRESSION (when people are CRUSHed)

​oro

I beg

Eng derivation: ORATORY (BEGging for people's attention in a speech)

ostendo

I show

Eng derivation: OSTENTATIOUS (SHOWing off)


Letter P

Latin

English

Memory Trick

​patior

I suffer

Eng derivation: PATIENT (a person SUFFERing from an illness; or a person SUFFERing someone else's nonsense)

pax

peace

Eng derivation: PACIFY (to make PEACE)

pello

I drive

Eng derivation: REPEL (to DRIVE back); EXPEL (to DRIVE out); PROPEL (to DRIVE forward)


Letter Q

Latin

English

Memory Trick

quantus?

how big?

Eng derivation: QUANTITY (HOW BIG the amount is)

quoque

also

Lat derivation: quoque ends in -QUE (meaning 'and')

quot?

how many?

Eng derivation: QUOTA (HOW MANY are allowed)


Letter R

Latin

English

Memory Trick

​relinquo

I leave behind

Eng derivation: RELINQUISH (to LEAVE BEHIND)

rex

king

Eng derivation: REGAL (KING-like)

rogo

I ask

Eng derivation: INTERROGATE (to ASK questions)


Letter S

Latin

English

Memory Trick

scelestus

wicked

Lat derivation: SCELUS = crime (so 'scelestus' is someone who may commit a crime)

scio

I know

Eng derivation: SCIENCE (the pursuit of KNOWledge)

sequor

I follow

Eng derivation: SEQUENCE (when one number FOLLOWS another); SEQUEL (when one book/film FOLLOWS another)


Letter T

Latin

English

Memory Trick

teneo

I hold

Eng derivation: TENACIOUS (HOLDING on to one's aims)

trado

I hand over

Eng derivation: TRADITION (something HANDED OVER from one generation to the next)

turba

crowd

Eng derivation: TURBULENCE (being thrown about, like in a CROWD)


Letter U

Latin

English

Memory Trick

ubi

​where

Silly: WHERE is my UBer?

umquam

ever

Lat derivation: opposite of 'nUMQUAM' (= nEVER)

urbs

city

Eng derivation: URBAN (CITY-related)


Letter V

Latin

English

Memory Trick

vendo

I sell

Eng derivation: VENDING MACHINE (SELLS you something)

verto

I turn

Eng derivation: VERTICAL (when something horizontal is TURNed around)

vinco

I conquer

Eng derivation: INVINCIBLE (unable to be CONQUERed)

Why don't you have a go at coming up with similar ideas for the rest of the vocab list? Post in the comments if you come up with any particularly good ones!

 

Joe

Blog Post Crafted by Joe Hytner


Joe Hytner owns and runs Titanium Tutors. He graduated from King’s College, Cambridge in 2009 with a degree in Classics and then trained as a teacher at Queens’ College, Cambridge, graduating in 2010. He has taught Latin and Ancient Greek in schools and at Cambridge University. Joe has read Harry Potter in Latin from cover to cover. He'd love to be a Gryffindor, but is probably a Hufflepuff as he works too hard.

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