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Thesaurus linguae Latinae (TLL)


Treasury of Ancient Latin

The Thesaurus linguae Latinae is the most authoritative dictionary of ancient Latin. It is the only lexicon to cover all surviving Latin texts from the earliest times down to AD 600. Therefore it not only takes account of classical Latin but also treats in detail the special features of the language of late antiquity and Christian texts. As well as literary works, it examines medical and legal manuals, inscriptions, graffiti and many other types of text.

The reliability and scholarly standards of the Thesaurus were impossible to achieve with a mere revision of the tried and tested dictionaries of the past. For centuries, Latin dictionaries were mainly seen as tools for improving the active mastery of the language. This meant that they were based on the most highly regarded stylistic models, above all, on Cicero. To correct this one-sided presentation of the language, a new beginning was needed.

‘Probably the most scholarly dictionary in the world is the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae.’
Encyclopaedia Britannica s. v. ‘Dictionary’

The foundation of the work is the archive of dictionary slips. The archive is exhaustive for all surviving Latin texts down to the second century of the Christian era. For the later period a selection of examples was made by specialists; this sensible restriction limited the overall quantity of material, which otherwise, by its sheer volume, would have made the work impossible. Each passage containing a particular word is examined with regard to meaning, spelling, prosody and so on, and groups of similar examples are then formed. These groups are presented, not in lists arranged according to possible translations of the Latin words, but in a hierarchical scheme, with definitions and explanations in Latin, illustrating the development of the various senses. In this way the history of each word is described. The fact that the relevant context is normally quoted allows the user to check the results. Since 2002 the Thesaurus has also existed in digital form.

As an institution the Thesaurus is an internationally recognised centre of expertise for ancient Latin. Its resources are made available to researchers from all over the world, and young scholars sent to work on the dictionary by some of the 30 academies involved in the project – both in Germany and abroad – receive a valuable post-university training here.


The International Commission for the Thesaurus linguae Latinae consists of the eight German Academies and one learned society from each of the countries involved. The names of the current delegates can be found here.

Australia: The Australasian Society for Classical Studies


Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften


The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium

Bolivia Sociedad Boliviana de Estudios Clásicos
Brazil Sociedade Brasileira de Estudos Clássicos
Canada: The Classical Association of Canada


Hrvatska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti

Czech Republic:

Filosofický ústva Akademie věd České republiky


Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab


Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia


Suomen Tiedeseura – Finska Vetenskaps-Societeten


Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres


Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen


Akademie der Wissenschaften in Hamburg


Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz


Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften


Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften


Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften


Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste


Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig

Great Britain:

The British Academy


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia


Royal Irish Academy


Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei


The Japan Academy

Lithuania: Lietuvos Klasikų Asociacija


OnderzoeksInstituut Klassieke Oudheid Studiën


Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi


Polska Akademia Umiejętności

Portugal Centro de Estudos Clássicos


Slovenska Akademija Znanosti in Umetnosti

South Africa: The Classical Association of South Africa


Real Academia Española


Kungliga Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien


Schweizerische Vereinigung für Altertumswissenschaft


Society for Classical Studies


Pontificia Academia Latinitatis


Fédération Internationale des Associations d’Études Classiques

The Thesaurus is member of the Zentrum historische Sprachwissenschaften in collaboration with the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich.


The Federal Republic of Germany and the Free State of Bavaria within the framework of a funding programme established jointly by the German Academies. In addition there are contributions from the members of the International Commission for the Thesaurus linguae Latinae as well as from other benefactors.