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Vulgar Latin (s) (noun)
1. The common speech of the ancient Romans, which is distinguished from standard literary Latin and is the ancestor of the Romance languages.
2. The form of Latin that was the commonly spoken language of the western Roman Empire.

Written materials in Latin almost always make use of Classical Latin forms; hence, written documentation of Vulgar Latin is uncommon.

Modern knowledge of the language is based on statements of Roman grammarians concerning "improper" usages, and on a certain number of inscriptions and early manuscripts, "lapses" in the writings of educated authors, some lists of "incorrect" forms and glossaries of Classical forms, and occasional texts written by or for people of little education.

Romance languages consists of groups of related languages derived from Latin, with nearly 920 million native speakers. The major Romance languages are French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian are national languages. French is probably the most internationally significant, but Spanish, the official language of nineteen American countries and Spain and Equatorial Guinea, has the most speakers.

Among the more important Romance languages are Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese, Occitan, Rhaeto-Romanic, Romanian, and Spanish.

The spread of some Romance languages to other parts of the world, especially the Western Hemisphere, included the colonizing and empire-building of the mother countries of these languages, notably Spain, Portugal, and France.

All of the Romance languages are descended from Latin and they are called "Romance languages" because their parent tongue, Latin, was the language of the Romans: however, the variety of Latin that was their common ancestor was not classical Latin but the spoken or popular language of everyday usage, which is believed to have differed greatly from classical Latin by the time of the Roman Empire.

This vernacular, known as Vulgar Latin, was spread by soldiers and colonists throughout the Roman Empire. It superseded the native tongues of certain conquered European people, although it was also influenced by their local speech practices and by the linguistic characteristics of colonists and later of invaders.

Later, European colonial and commercial contacts spread them to the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

—Compiled primarily from information located at

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, "Vulgar Latin"; April 25, 2010.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, "Romance languages"; April 25, 2010.
This entry is located in the following unit: vulg- (page 2)
(from Proto-Germanic -iskaz, Vulgar Latin -iscus, Italian -esco, and then French -esque: a suffix forming adjuectives and indicating "resemblance, style, manner, or distinctive character, etc., of")