Why Are Latin Phrases on U.S. Currency?

The most notable Latin phrase in U.S. currency is “E Pluribus Unum,” which translates to “out of one, many.” This phrase undoubtedly refers to America’s founding as colonies coming together to form the first states of this nation. While the specific reasons for the use of Latin in U.S. currency are open to debate, there are clear reasons why Latin has continued to be used despite being categorized as a dead language.

Latin has had a profound influence across many areas of Western society and culture, serving as a common thread linking generations together. For example, the Catholic Church has long used Latin in its practices and theological writings, which has influenced religious adherents worldwide and helped preserve the language's importance. Similarly, in the world of classical music, Latin texts, particularly in sacred music like masses and requiems, have been set to music by countless composers, fostering familiarity with the language. As a lingua franca, Latin was the shared language of educated discourse throughout Europe for centuries, facilitating communication and scholarship across different vernacular languages. This role extended into academia, where Latin was used in scholarly works, university mottoes, and degree names, thereby establishing it as a symbol of intellectual prestige. These influences have played a significant role in shaping Western thought, contributing to the endurance of Latin in our modern world.

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