Lingua Ignota

Lingua Ignota is the earliest known constructed language, dating from the twelfth cenutry and designed by St Hildergard of Bingen.

The language was described in Lingua Ignota per simplicem hominem Hildegardem prolata and contained in a manuscript called the Riesencodex (giant codex). It can be found in a book by Friedrich Wuhekn Emu Roth (see resources), which gives a list of words in Lingua Ignota along with their Latin equivalent.

I have always had an interest in Latin, of which Lingua Ignota appars to be a partial relexification (i.e. Latin grammar with a new vocabulary), which coupled with the worst end of August in living memory inspired me to (start) making my own translation.

Many of the words have more than one potential meaning, and the translation chosen is just a best guess.

For example, vir commonly means 'man' but also has the meaning age (generation of men). 'Man' was chosen as the section concerns gods, man and angels. Similarly, patriarcha has patriach as a primary meaning (according to Lewis & Short) but chief bishop would seem more apt.

It goes without saying that I am no scholar nor academic. The original Latin is included from the Codex (so you can make your own mind up as to the meaning) along with my best guess at the English meaning.

Corrections and suggestions are welcome on my Blog.

Work in progress!!

This is very much a work in progress as can be seen from all the ?? used to denote words which I have not yet translated ...

And by the way, I realise that not all the Latin is actually Latin!

Gods, Angels and men Learn

Parts of the body Learn

Notes on the translations

Some of the Latin words used in the text differ in spelling from later Latin - or at least Latin that I am familiar with.

cecus becomes caecus 'blind'.

idropicus is probably hydropicus 'person with edema'. Interestingly, there was a Latin adjective hydropicus, a, um 'dropsical' and from there the noun idropicus (or adjective used as a noun). cinninus becomes cincinnus 'lock of hair'.
calvicium becomes calvitium 'baldness'.

Imperfect translations

I'm not entirely happy with the following translations - which I will revisit in the future.

nutricus (nurse).

Untranslated words

These (and others) are as yet untranslated, and marked with '??'. I will look again as the evenings draw in ...

blesus, Keliz
scrabo, Hilzin
cerivella, Zirinfchol
sceidela, Scaia
extrex, Amzil
nulla, Giua
cesaries, Criberanz

The only existing text!

O orzchis Ecclesia, armis divinis praecincta, et hyacinto ornata, tu es caldemia stigmatum loifolum et urbs scienciarum. O, o tu es etiam crizanta in alto sono, et es chorzta gemma.

As I enjoy parsing Latin, this is my attempt (along with my reasoning).


Litterae ignotae

St Hildergard designed a special script litterae ignotae for the language. Luckily the Riesencodex doesn't use the script making the process of translation easier.


The Riesencodex (giant codex) can be found in a book written by Friedrich Wuhekn Emu Roth and published in 1880. More specifically: Die Geschichtsquellen des Niedenheingaus, vol. 4, in Die Geschichtsquellen aus Nassau, ed. F.W.E. Roth (Wiesbaden: Limbarth, 1880), pp457—465.

It can be found here.

The wiki entry gives some background about Lingua Ignota.

Language family