Due to its use in writing Germanic, Romance and other languages first in Europe and then in other parts of the world and due to its use in Romanizing writing of other languages, it has become widespread (see Latin script). It is also used officially in China (separate from its ideographic writing) and has been adopted by Baltic and some Slavic states.
The Latin alphabet evolved from the visually similar Etruscan alphabet, which evolved from the Cumaean Greek version of the Greek alphabet, which was itself descended from the Phoenician alphabet, which in turn derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Etruscans, who ruled early Rome, adopted the Cumaean Greek alphabet, which was modified over time to become the Etruscan alphabet, which was in turn adopted and further modified by the Romans to produce the Latin alphabet.
During the Middle Ages, the Latin alphabet was used (sometimes with modifications) for writing Romance languages, which are direct descendants of Latin, as well as Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and some Slavic languages. With the age of colonialism and Christian evangelism, the Latin script spread beyond Europe, coming into use for writing indigenous American, Australian, Austronesian, Austroasiatic and African languages. More recently, linguists have also tended to prefer the Latin script or the International Phonetic Alphabet (itself largely based on the Latin script) when transcribing or creating written standards for non-European languages, such as the African reference alphabet.
The term Latin alphabet may refer to either the alphabet used to write Latin (as described in this article) or other alphabets based on the Latin script, which is the basic set of letters common to the various alphabets descended from the classical Latin alphabet, such as the English alphabet. These Latin-script alphabets may discard letters, like the Rotokas alphabet or add new letters, like the Danish and Norwegian alphabets. Letter shapes have evolved over the centuries, including the development in Medieval Latin of lower-case, forms which did not exist in the Classical period alphabet. English is the only major modern European language requiring no diacritics for native words (although a diaeresis may be used in words such as "coöperation").