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Latins referred originally to an Italic tribe in ancient central Italy. As Roman power spread Latin culture, Latins came to mean anyone who lives in a Latinized culture and speaks Latin or a Romance language (see Latin peoples).

The original Latins were an Italic tribe inhabiting central Italy, in present-day Lazio. Through the conquests of their most populous city-state, Rome, the Latins culturally "Romanized" or "Latinized" the rest of Italy, and the word Latin ceased to mean a particular ethnicity, acquiring a more cultural sense. As the Roman Empire spread to include areas that are now Spain, Portugal, France, and Romania, these joined Italy in becoming "Latin," as the languages spoken in these countries derive primarily from the Latin Language. In the late 15th–16th centuries, a millennium after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Portugal, Spain, and France began to create world empires. In consequence, by the mid-19th century, the former American colonies of these nations became known as Latin America and this region's inhabitants as Latin Americans.

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