Old English latin "in Latin," from Latin Latinus "Latin, Roman, in Latin," literally "belonging to Latium," the region of Italy around Rome, a name of uncertain origin. Possibly from PIE root *stela- "to spread, extend," with a sense of "flat country" (as opposed to the mountainous district of the Sabines), or from a prehistoric non-IE language. Old folk etymology connected it with Latin latere "to lie hidden," and a fable of Saturn.
The Latin word also is the source of Spanish and Italian ladino, Dutch latijn, German latein, Irish Gaelic laidionn (n.), Polish lacina, Russian latuinŭ. The more common form in Old English was læden (see Latin (n.)).
In reference to the Roman Catholic Church, 1550s. Used as a designation for "people whose languages descend from Latin" (1856), hence Latin America (1862). The Latin Quarter (French Quartier latin) of Paris, on the south (left) bank of the Seine, was the site of university buildings in the Middle Ages, hence it was the place where Latin was spoken. The surname Latimer means "interpreter," literally "a speaker of Latin."