During the Middle Ages, it was adapted to the Romance languages, the direct descendants of Latin, as well as to the Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, and some Slavic languages, and finally to most of the languages of Europe.
The Roman alphabet, also called the Latin alphabet, is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today. It evolved from the western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, and was initially developed by the ancient Romans to write the Latin language.
With the age of colonialism and Christian proselytism, the Latin alphabet was spread overseas, and applied to Amerindian, Indigenous Australian, Austronesian, East Asian, and African languages. More recently, western linguists have also tended to prefer the Latin alphabet or the International Phonetic Alphabet (itself largely based on the Latin alphabet) when transcribing or devising written standards for non-European languages, such as the African reference alphabet.
In modern usage, the term "Latin alphabet" is used for any straightforward derivation of the alphabet first used to write Latin. These variants may discard letters from the classical Roman script (like the Rotokas alphabet) or add new letters to it (like the Danish and Norwegian alphabet). Letter shapes have changed over the centuries, including the creation of entirely new lower case forms.
It is generally held that the Latins adopted the western variant of the Greek alphabet in the 7th century BC from Cumae, a Greek colony in southern Italy, making the early Latin alphabet one among several Old Italic alphabets emerging at the time.
Roman legend credited the introduction to one Evander, son of the Sibyl, supposedly 60 years before the Trojan war, but there is no historically sound basis to this tale. From the Cumae alphabet, the Etruscan alphabet was derived and the Latins finally adopted 21 of the original 26 Etruscan letters.
The original Latin alphabet was:
A B C D E F Z H I K L M N O P Q R S T V X
K was marginalized in favour of C, which now stood for both /g/ and /k/. Probably during the 3rd century BC, the Z was dropped and a new letter G was placed in its position, according to Plutarch, by a mythical character, Spurius Carvilius Ruga, so that now C = /k/, G = /g/.
An attempt by the emperor Claudius to introduce three additional letters was short-lived, but after the conquest of Greece in the first century BC the letters Y and Z were, respectively, adopted and readopted from the Greek alphabet and placed at the end. Now the new Latin alphabet contained 23 letters.
Notice the absence of some letters like j. The Romans used i in place of j. For example, an English sentence that features j like "Justice will bring about peace," would be rendered in Latin as "Erit opus iustitiae pax."
The Latin names of some of the letters are disputed. In general, however, the Romans did not use the traditional (Semitic-derived) names as in Greek: the names of the stop consonant letters were formed by adding /eː/ to the sound (except for C, K, and Q which needed different vowels to distinguish them) and the names of the continuants consisted either of the bare sound, or the sound preceded by /e/. The letter Y when introduced was probably called hy /hyː/ as in Greek (the name upsilon being not yet in use) but was changed to i Graeca ("Greek i") as Latin speakers had difficulty distinguishing /i/ and /y/ . Z was given its Greek name, zeta. For the Latin sounds represented by the various letters see Latin spelling and pronunciation; for the names of the letters in English see English alphabet.
Roman cursive script, also called majuscule cursive and capitalis cursive, was the everyday form of handwriting used for writing letters, by merchants writing business accounts, by schoolchildren learning the Roman alphabet, and even emperors issuing commands. A more formal style of writing was based on Roman square capitals, but cursive was used for quicker, informal writing. It was most commonly used from about the 1st century BC to the 3rd century, but it probably existed earlier than that.