Pronunciation Guide – Ecclesiastical Latin

Pronunciation Guide – Ecclesiastical Latin

Since English borrowed its alphabet from Latin, the pronunciation of individual Latin letters is close to that of English. The differences are mainly the vowels and a few consonants.


In singing, the distinction of long and short vowels is lost:

The distinction between a short or a long A in spoken Ecclesiastical Latin is how long the vowel is actually pronounced. The long A is simply held longer than a short A, Ahhhhhhh versus ah. 



In Singing: reduced long/short distinction

A as in father

A as in Dinah

A as in father

EH as in they

E as in met or pet

EH sound as in met, pet

I as in machine

I as in pit or hit

 I as in machine

O as in note

O as in ought

O tends toward the long as in note

U as in rude (oo sound)

U as in put

OO sound as in tutor, coo




Consonants are generally “hard” (examples: CH = K sound as in the English “ache”, R = slightly rolled or “flipped”; S is never “z”; Z = dz), BUT —

H = silent except the medial H in words like mihi, nihil, when it has a K or softened K sound

Some consonants take a hard sound before some vowels and a soft sound before other vowels:

These consonants are hard

before a, o, u, au

And these are soft consonants

before e, i, ae, oe,:

C = k sound as in cot

C = ch as in chain

CC = kk sound as in accord

CC = tch as in catchy

SC = sk as in tabasco

SC = sh as in sheep

XC = normal KS C as in ex con

KSH (common example: excelsis =ekshelsees

G = g as in go

G = soft g as in gentle


GN = “ni” as in onion, nyet (consonental ny sound)


TI – when followed by a third vowel becomes a “tsee” sound, as in tsetse fly

exception: pron. “tee” when preceded by S, T, or X

Sometimes one will see a “j” in Latin. Technically Latin has no letter J. It was introduced in the 13th century or thereabouts to differentiate between the vowel i and the consonant i. The consonantal i is like our y. “Major” in Latin is pronounced as MAH-yor. Until this last century, most printed Latin texts used the j to indicate the different sounds. Today the j’s are usually replaced with the more classical i’s.


ae – as “ay” in say

au – not a diphthong : ah-oo as in house

oe – as “ay” in say

eu – not a diphthon: pronounced eh-oo