Bloomsbury (2022) p/b 147pp £9.99 (ISBN 9781350320758)

Based on the lists of prescribed vocabulary for OCR and Eduqas GCSE exams, this is a welcome addition to Bloomsbury’s GCSE Latin texts, carefully designed to expand learners’ vocabulary. The main body of the volume offers a lexicon containing 355 of the 440 Latin words on the Eduqas list and 364 of the OCR 450. The other 85 (Eduqas) and 86 (OCR) words—those that are deemed not to ‘lend themselves to derivatives’—are presented in two appendices. For example, neco appears in both appendices, but not in the main lexicon, although the derivatives internecine and pernicious might have qualified it. Asterisks are used to indicate whether a word appears only in the lists of OCR*** or Eduqas* or both**. Where there is variation of detail an explanatory footnote is added (e.g. on pes, the meaning ‘paw’ only appears on the Eduqas list).

The derivatives chosen for the lexicon entries include both obvious (insulate etc.) and some not so common (dormy, a golfing term, is the prime example). Dormy is not only not widely known but also of uncertain origin, not definitely derived from dormio as listed—a reminder that etymology can be a perilous subject but also a good springboard for discussion. Words, which have reached us via other languages, have often changed forms in radical ways (e.g. joy from gaudium) and some brief introduction to the history of the routes travelled by Latin to reach English might have been helpful.

For a book principally, if not wholly, aimed at GCSE Latin classes, there must be some consideration of how it is designed to be used. Its three aims are stated in the preface: a revision aid, a ‘secret weapon’ for word games and crossword enthusiasts, and its ‘overriding aim’ to provide enjoyment. Most Classics teachers already use etymology to help develop students’ range of vocabulary. M. has not attempted to give comprehensive lists of derivatives; and to encourage student contributions spaces are provided by blank lines for handwritten entries. This is a bold move that makes the book most suitable for use by a single student building up a personalised list. As such it should help provide enjoyment in the process of vocabulary building. But for a departmental budget, £9.99 per annum per new GCSE student might be a financial outlay too far. This may be a buy-your-own book.

Other features to support the use of the lexicon appear in the introduction. These include principal parts of verbs and a section on cases where Latin origins are given along with the function of the case. A list of derivatives of grammatical terms (e.g. ‘passive’ from patior I suffer, endure) is helpful for the beginner. Before the lexicon proper, there is a four-page ‘Glossary’ of ‘Latin words and phrases in common usage’ and from this are also listed separately four common abbreviations and a verb (e.g. vide [why not q.v.?], N.B., cf., etc.). Some of this may seem to be padding, but it does conveniently bring together useful aspects of vocabulary acquisition. The text is accompanied by attractive b/w illustrations which can be used to enliven discussion and help to make memorable the words they illustrate. And M.’s enthusiasm is conspicuous throughout.

Alan Beale