Judging by number of words, how much translation from Latin to English grow in size? Naturally, this would depend on the text (and the translator), but I imagine there might be some form of range or average that can be stated.

I have attempted to answer this myself, but I'm not sure it's working. For instance, the Latin version of Cicero's Academica has roughly 23,500 words, whereas the English version (without including introduction and etc) gives me proximus 200,000 words. For Cicero's de Provinciis Consularibus the Latin version has 5,992 words, and the English version has 10,740 words. Those are massive differences (proximus 900% versus 50% growth).

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    A very interesting question, but I'd add a caveat. When doing comparisons like this, please check that the English version contains the same text as the Latin original. If it also has an introduction, references, and an extensive critical commentary, that will multiply the length.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 10:03
  • @JoonasIlmavirta I removed that bit of course (although I cannot be sure I did it correctly).
    – luchonacho
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 11:59
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    It's not classical Latin, but take a look at this analysis of the many translations of Augustine's Confessions – it includes a side-by-side comparison of a passage, showing that the length in the English translation is highly dependent on the translator's style. Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 13:51
  • Even at a basic level, it should be expected to grow by quite a bit if we're only looking at words, but problems arise if we look at actual length: "I have" is twice the number of words as habeo but only a single character longer (including the space); we have has the same number of characters as habemus.
    – cmw
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


It may be apposite to say that, for five modern works of varying styles translated into Latin, I turned a total of 295,700 words of English into 212,300 of Latin. This represents a surprisingly consistent diminution to some 72% overall, with a range of 70.8 to 72.3%. This would correspond to an increase of 40%, if instead the Latin had been converted into English; and although a sample consisting of a single translator can hardly have much statistical significance, it ought at least to suggest that a large expansion is to be expected when translating from Latin to English, as @Luchonacho has seen.

As Nathaniel's comment on the original question points out, much depends on the translator's style. For what it's worth, and to indicate the levels of variability that can occur in general, here is a list given to me some years ago by an agency which was sourcing translations from English into European languages for compliance with EU regulations on instruction manuals:

Percentage expansion/contraction of word counts from English into : Finnish, -25 to -30; Danish, -10 to -15; Norwegian, -5 to -10; Czech, Swedish, +10; Croatian, +15; Italian, +10 to+25; French, +15 to +20; Portuguese, Spanish, +15 to +30; Polish, +20 to +30; German, +25 to +35.

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    Thanks! Do you have a reference for your figures?
    – luchonacho
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 6:02
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    @luchonacho I didn't enquire as to the original source of statistics, but presumed at the time that they were reliable enough to provide a basis for estimating translation and printing costs. The figures were supplied by a professional translation agency ca. 1992, and proved accurate in practice; for example, the text portions of versions in Finnish (the shortest) had about half the number of words of those in German.
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 9:16

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