Having read the recent meta discussion concerning the tag and remembering that we prefer to have our tags in Latin, I started to wonder how one might translate the word "vocabulary" in Latin. What would be a good translation and why? I want to translate it in the context of tagging on this site. That is, if someone wants to learn Latin vocabulary, how could they describe their desire in Latin using a word or phrase that means "vocabulary"?

The obvious choice is vocabularium and it would make sense as a derivative, but it's not in Lewis and Short. A similar word, glossarium, can be found, but it seems to have an unsuitable nuance: glossa means "an obsolete or foreign word that requires explanation". My current preference is vocabularium (cf. vocabulum in L&S), but I'm not at all convinced that this is the optimal choice.

3 Answers 3


I think the tag should remain in English for clarity's sake. Phrases like copiae verborum means more "one's personal vocabulary" rather than a discussion of, dare I say, specific words. "Vocabulary" for our sense, for the tag's sense, isn't really that.

Were we to go ahead and have a Latin word for it, index verborum would be understood. Other Romans chose Greek words, like glossarium (Gell. 18.7), thesaurus (Plin. praef. § 17), or onomasticon. I think glossarium or onomasticon would work best, with the former having a nice visual metaphor: as glossaries were used to "translate" obscure Latin words, so we here explain Latin words that a user might not understand.

  • Interesting that the only single-word choices come from Greek. @JoonasIlmavirta, this connects with our discussion about choosing between Greek words and Latin words.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 19:48
  • @ktm5124 I'm not 100% sure, but I think tagging people who haven't responded yet aren't pinged.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 23:30
  • Ah, good to know.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 23:47
  • 1
    This answer best addresses the specific question about the tag, so I will accept this one. I too now find it best not to translate the tag to Latin. If someone creates such tags, they should be synonymized and we should leave vocabulary as the main tag name. The others are useful, too. (I didn't see @ktm5124's ping.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 19:38

The word 'vocabulary' is derived from vocabulum, meaning a word specific to some particular thing, as distinct from verbum, which is the word in general, and dictum, the spoken word.

Cicero (de Oratore 3.XXXI.125) clearly uses copia verborum to mean 'vocabulary':

rerum copia verborum copiam gignit.

  • 3
    Thanks! Copia verborum might indeed work. There is a broad problem that no Latin word seems to mean exactly "word", but they all have other tones (modern or ancient): verbum (also "verb"), vox (also "voice"), dictum/scriptum (only refers to one medium), vocabulum (as you mention). There is a danger of confusion if used on this site (the tag is not only for verbs), but in other contexts copia verborum is now my first option.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 11:52

I think the simplest choice is just the neuter plural verba. There's no reason to stick too closely to the English vocabulary and look for a singular noun with a collective meaning, which doesn't seem to exist in Latin. Questions tagged with are those that are about (specific) words, as distinct from grammar etc., so in the context of the site, if you're asking such a question, you are asking about verba.

  • 2
    I suspect doing that would lead to confusion if "verbs" ever became a tag: Aristoteles orationis duas partes esse dicit, vocabula et verba, ut homo et equus, et legit et currit... This is one of the many problems in using the long dormant Latin for tags.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 4:05
  • 1
    @cmw We already have the tag verbs. But I would not translate that as verba either to avoid confusion.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 12:54

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