World class dictionaries
The main dictionary was created by William A. Whitaker. Blitz Latin uses a modified version of his ‘Words 1.97F’. The basic dictionary comprises over 35,000 Latin stems. It has been enhanced through:
Neo Latin from ‘Calepinus Novus’, courtesy of Guy Licoppe of Belgium. This has added some 2,500 modern Latin stems. Thus the Latin for words such as ‘car’ and ‘aeroplane’ can now be translated.
Ecclesiastical and Vatican Latin words that are not found in general purpose dictionaries. There are 2,000 of these which should be of particular value to those researching Latin documents from the Vatican, a prime repository of thousands of medieval and post-medieval Latin texts.
The medieval dictionary This is separate from the main dictionary and is available to licensed Blitz Latin users. This has been constructed specifically for Blitz Latin and contains some 4,000 of the most common stems found only in medieval Latin.
The dictionary is used by Blitz Latin to provide automatic translation but can also be used as dictionary to look up individual words. It may be searched by stem-name and has advantages over a paper dictionary. For example the letters ‘u’ and ‘v’, and also ‘i’ and ‘j’, are virtually interchangeable in Latin (‘v’ and ‘i’ are easier to carve on inscriptions). All internal processing is carried out on the assumption that ‘v’ and ‘j’ are really ‘u’ and ‘i’ respectively. The user may select either when typing in Latin text; Blitz Latin will make an automatic conversion. More on MEDIEVAL LATIN.
The botanical dictionary This is separate and substantial database of modern Botanical Latin (over 4,000 dedicated new words). The new database is a stand-alone item, supplied as a separate data file, and is available only to those who pay for the licence. It has its own manual.
Click on the headings below for more detail.
Flexible translation to improve accuracy
You can select ‘Sentence’ translation to show the best translation or you can select ‘Detailed’ translation to show the options examined by Blitz Latin before settling on the final version. This shows which stems and inflections were eliminated and why. You may wish to make manual adjustments on the basis of this information. You can single click on individual words and see alternative meanings, or double click or highlight a word to translate with all the words possible stem alternatives, inflections, meanings and grammatical states.
Easy Latin setting for student texts
The huge dictionary of Blitz Latin is very beneficial when translating real Latin texts, since classical and medieval writers tended to use the whole range of their vocabularies to express themselves. The importance of having a sufficient dictionary for real, ambiguous Latin texts can scarcely be exaggerated. However, a giant vocabulary can sometimes complicate the translation of the simpler Latin texts used for teaching purposes. Teachers and students using such texts should toggle ON the menu option EDIT/EASY LATIN (or press Ctrl+L). The default is OFF. There are three effects: The preferred age is immediately switched to ‘CLASSICAL LATIN’. All less common words, defined as those with a frequency of ‘D’ or higher, will be deleted from consideration during translation. Note that the rarer words will still be seen when you click on a Latin word in one of the windows, or when viewing in non-translation mode (translation toggle off), or when viewing the dictionary. If no common word is found in the dictionary for a Latin word, then all the less common Latin words will be considered instead. For example, improbatio is very rare, but if you type in rex habet improbationem, improbatio will still be translated since it is a classical word and there is no more common alternative. However, if improbatio were a medieval word only, it would not be used either.
Stems and inflections
Latin words comprise for the most part a stem and an inflection. For example, the noun ‘dominus’ contains the stem ‘domin’, which tells us the translation of the word (owner or lord), and the inflection ‘-us’, which tells us how the word is to be used. In this case, as a nominative (subject) noun which will control a verb. Blitz Latin will represent this as ‘domin.us’. Owing to the problems presented by incorrect use of Latin stems by some, especially medieval, Latin authors, Blitz Latin offers the facility to search for stems in the electronic dictionary.
Proper names require very careful handling in a translator. ‘Aper’ was a 3rd Century AD praetorian prefect. If one searches the dictionary without regard to case, Aper is incorrectly translated as ‘boar’. Therefore the dictionary must be case-sensitive to prevent such mishaps in edited texts. Complications arise with words which may or may not be capitalised, depending on the writer. A good example is the stem ‘Roman’, which may or may not be capitalised. Both types are given in the Blitz Latin dictionary. A leading capital letter denotes a proper name – unless it is the first word of the sentence. Blitz Latin assumes that the first word is intended to be of lower case (as it should be in Latin) but, if the first word has the first letter capitalised, it still checks for proper names in the dictionary before searching again with the first letter made lower case. Thus, if the example ‘Aper’ appears as the first word of a sentence, it will usually be correctly translated as ‘Aper’, not ‘boar’.
Intelligent guesses at unknown words
When Blitz Latin cannot find a word in its dictionary it will make the following substitutions in an attempt to synthesise the correct word. Slurs. Many Latin writers, especially medieval writers, ‘slurred’ the beginning of many words. Blitz Latin corrects these slurs automatically when found. The list of slur corrections is too long to be given here, but typical examples include: (‘Þ’ means ‘corrected to’) inm- Þ imm-. im- Þ imm-. irr- Þ inr-. inp- Þ imp-.
Single word translation
This is a very useful tool to experienced translators to help out with particular words, and also to less experienced users to aid getting the right word when Blitz Latin has initially provided an inappropriate word in the automatic translation.
Very useful if the text contains words that would ‘corrupt’ the translation. For example if the letters ‘a’ or ‘e’ are included, perhaps as bullet points, they could be translated as prepositions with misleading effects on the translation.
There is a flexible system where Blitz Latin rearranges the words to an appropriate order using its built in intelligence, howver this can be overruled and one of three settings enforced: Subject/Verb/Object, Verb after Nominative, and no re-ordering. Sometimes the automatic or a forced re-ordering will spoil the translation if Blitz Latin has misinterpreted a grammatical construction. In that case no reordering is particularly useful.
Sometimes when translating specific documents such as medical or ecclesiastical works, words will have a different meaning to their ‘classical era’ equivalents. This option can provide better translations.
Medieval Latin used classical Latin and its own new additions to the vocabulary. Modern (neo-)Latin uses the words of classical and medieval Latin as well as its own new additions. Classical Latin, however, does not require any vocabulary from later ages, and use of such words by Blitz Latin may actually confuse the translator. For example the word ‘virum’ has all the classical meanings, but can also mean ‘virus’ in NeoLatin. To improve the translation you can select ‘classical only’, ‘classical with the extended medieval dictionary’ or ‘all eras’ including modern.
Medieval words pose something of a dilemma to the dictionary compiler. On the one hand the scribe may have mis-spelled existing words. On the other hand, in the days before dictionaries, two unconnected scribes may have constructed the same compound Latin word but used it for different purposes. There is also the practical problem that many medieval English terms have fallen out of modern common English usage; for example ‘socage’. Indeed, the large majority of the new medieval Latin words derive from medieval law or ecclesiastical use. Where possible we have provided an additional expanded meaning for obscure medieval English terms, but the user of Blitz Latin who is not a native English speaker may well need to refer to a very detailed English dictionary as well.
Phonetics Medieval writers often spelled phonetically, due to poor communications and a lack of printed Latin dictionaries. Some medieval writers (eg St. Gregory of Tours, 6th Century AD) not only spelled-as-they-spoke, but spoke with accents, altering vowels on the stressed syllable. Blitz Latin now contains code to change these words too. A tilde (~) is now placed before words translated by phonetic search to mark uncertainty of translation.
Echoes of the way the ordinary Romans actually spoke Latin can be found in their printed plays, such as those of Plautus (ca. 250-184 BC). A particular feature of Plautus’ Latin is his habit of eliding a ‘word’ followed by ‘est’ to give ‘wordst’; for example, factum + est = factumst. Less regular are words ending in –s, such as opus + est = opust. The early writer Terence (born ca. 170 BC) made similar elisions in works such as Hecyra, and furthermore truncated words ending in –is, -os and –us to give respectively –i’, -o’ and –u’. A good example from Terence is the short phrase: agendi tempu’ mihi datumst. The option converts all endings where ‘x’ is equal to ‘m, a, e, i, o’ to give ‘-x’ + ‘est’, and endings where ‘x’ is equal to ‘u’ are converted to ‘-xs’ + ‘est’.
Where the translation encounters the second or third person construction it will assume this continues in the absence of any strong grammatical content to the contrary. This has shown to provide better results.
This describes place ‘where?’ and is partially handled in Blitz Latin for nouns of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd declensions. The answer given will always be interpreted as ‘at’ somewhere, such as ‘at Rome’. The original Roman usage was mostly confined to the names of towns and small islands, with a smattering of other examples such as domi (‘at home’).
See the TRANSLATION TIPS menu for additional information on how to improve the accuracy of translation.