Latin Influence   

The Use of Latin in Records 

Latin has been used in official documents for centuries, either in notarial or church records. Because Latin has been the official language of the Catholic Church since its beginning, and because priests were used to reading and writing in Latin, it is common to see the influence of Latin in their writings in different languages.

There are many aspects of the text of old Portuguese handwritten parish records that show the influence of Latin. Sometimes, scribes would include specific ecclesiastical phrases relative to sacraments directly in Latin, such as:

  • sub conditione (conditionally)
  • inter missarum solemnia (during the solemn mass)
  • in faciae ecclesiae (in front of the church)

Other phrases are included to explain the authority by which the priest is acting in performing the sacrament, such as:

  • ex licentia parochi (by license of the parish priest)
  • cum venia parochi (with permission of the parish priest)
  • coram testibus (In the presence of witnesses)
  • cum licentia in scriptis (with a license in writing)

One of the most commonly included phrases used in parish records is ut supra (as above) which is usually used referring to the date already mentioned above in the record.

Regarding notarial records, most wills start with the Latin phrase In Dei Nomine, Amen or In Nomini Domini, Amen(In the name of the Lord, Amen).

Online translators, like, are helpful for understanding Latin phrases:
See the Latin Documents page for more information on Latin Language and Latin Records.​​ Also, see's page Latin Genealogical Word List for a comprehensive Latin word list (including numbers and dates) and see the UK's National Archives website for additional help with Latin practice and additional help with Latin Palaeography.

The Influence of Latin on Spelling

Some names that in Portuguese are written with one vowel could appear spelled with two vowels because of Latin influence, for example, Augustin for Agustin.​

Sometimes, it is common to find Portuguese words including additional consonants at the end of syllables that occur in the Latin spelling of the word, such as c and p - for example, baptismo for batismo and sancto for santo.

Document Spelling Current Spelling Samples from Document
sancto Domingo santo Domingo
baptizey​ batizei Capture.PNG

The interchangeable use of y, j, and i, or u and v, are very common in earlier records - for example, estreyto for estreito and uinho for vinho.

Document Spelling Current Spelling Samples from Document
estreyto estreito Image 2.PNG
uinho vinho image 3.PNG

A very common case of Latin influence is the addition of the letter h in consonant groups such as th, chjhph. In all of these cases, with the exception of ph, adding the h does not change the pronunciation of the letters since, in Portuguese, the letter h is silent. Thus, Catarina, Catharina, Chatarina, and Chatharina would be pronounced the same.

The case of the use of ph, however, is a little different in the sense that it is used as a unit with a phonetic value equal to that of the letter f; thus, the names Phelipe and Felipe would be pronounced the same.

The effect of Latin can also be found in the use of old Latin abbreviation practices in Portuguese handwriting. Among the most common Latin abbreviations are those used to replace syllables like com-, con-, pro-, per-, ver-, vir-, ser-, and many others by utilizing certain symbols. In Portuguese records, words such as compadreprovedorpessoasverdadevirtudesserviço could appeared spelled with those symbols. Here is a list of abbreviations.

Abbreviation Symbols Meaning
com-, con-, cum-, cun-
ver-, vir-


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