Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. It gained wide usage as the formal language of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. An inflectional and synthetic language, Latin relies little on word order, conveying meaning through a system of affixes attached to word stems. The Latin alphabet, derived from the Greek, remains the most widely used alphabet in the world.
Although now widely considered an extinct language with very few fluent speakers and no native ones, Latin has had a major influence on many languages that are still thriving, and continues to see wide use in areas such as academia. All Romance languages are descended from Vulgar Latin, and many words adapted from Latin are found in other modern languages, including English. Moreover, in the Western world, Latin was the lingua franca, the learned language for scientific and political affairs, for more than a thousand years, eventually being replaced by French in the 18th century. Ecclesiastical Latin remains the formal language of the Roman Catholic Church to this day, and thus the official language of the Vatican. The Church used Latin as its primary liturgical language until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Latin is also still used—drawing heavily on Greek roots—to furnish the names used in the scientific classification of living things. The modern study of Latin, along with Greek, is part of the Classics.