Pronouncing Church Latin is very different from pronouncing American English, and on the whole, much simpler. The most important thing to remember about Ecclesiastical Latin is the vowels, which are described immediately below. (Spanish-speakers rejoice!)
A = ahh E = eh I = eee O = oh U = ooo Y = eee
Vowel groups (Diphthongs)
ae = eh au = ow (as in cow) eu = ow (as in cow) oe = eh
C = “kuh” before A, O, U “chuh” before E, I, AE, OE
G = “guh” before A, O, U “juh” before E, I, AE, OE
H = silent (except between vowels! Then like “k,” as in mihi—meekee, nihil—neekeel)
J = yuh
R = rolled like Spanish or nasal like French/German
S = sss (not z)
X = ks
Z = dz
cc = tch before e, i ch = kuh gn = nyuh ph = f th = t xc = ksh, before e, i, y
Consonant & vowel combinations
(This one is a little tricky!)
ti = ts before a vowel unless s, x, or t precedes it (For example, tentationem is tayhn-tahts-eee-oh-nehm but hostia is ohs-tee-ah)
Thank you for the guide. I am just wondering something about the pronunciation of “S”. Many guides say that it should be pronounced as “Z” between two vowels, however some also advise that it should remain a voiceless “S”, like it does here. Are there any official sources that indicate which is the most correct? Would appreciate some more info on this, if you can please assist.
One helpful resource for you might be “Latin pronounced for altar boys” by Rev. Edward J. Murphy, from 1915 https://archive.org/details/cu31924091180962/page/n8/mode/1up The title page says, “THE PRONUNCIATION URGED By POPE PIUS X” and the examples in the book of the “s” between vowels are also voiceless there.
Thank you for visiting the site, and I appreciate your comment. Best wishes for your Latin studies!
Is this the way latin hymns should be pronounced as well? In our church we occasionally sing the Santus, Angus Dei, and Salve Regina. Different cantors pronounce the words differently. Often their o sounds like aw, or their i sounds like lit. I’ve always sung it the way explained on this website.
Thank you for your comment! So glad you stopped by the site.
This guide shows the pronunciation featured in several sources, including the CMAA’s “Parish Book of Chant”. Yes, this is definitely a guide to pronunciation for sung liturgical Latin, and, yes, not everyone pronounces Latin according to these guidelines.