If you’re looking to improve your vocabulary, you should consider becoming familiar with Latin and Greek word roots. It may seem counterintuitive to look to another language when trying to better understand your own, but Latin and Greek roots have had a large impact on the English language. As many as 60- 70% of English words have some Latin or Greek influence, and many of those words that people consider difficult find their roots in these languages. Whether you’re studying for the ACT, SAT, GRE, or other test or just want to improve your own understanding of the English language, learning Latin and Greek roots can benefit you for a lifetime.
How Do Word Roots Work?
Every word has a root. This part contains the key to a word’s meaning. Take the word happy for example. This word only contains the root which means full of joy. There’s nothing more to the meaning of the word in this form.
Some words, however, have extra parts. We call these prefixes (attached before the root) and suffixes (attached behind the root). Based on the additional meanings of the prefixes and suffixes, the meaning of the final word will be shaped to mean something new.
Take the word autobiography for example. The root is bio meaning life. You may have noticed that many words that have bio in them have something to do with life or living beings – biology, biography, biome, biopic. When the suffix graph, meaning to write is added to it, it means a story about someone or something’s life. Other words that have graph as a root have to do with writing or drawing – graph, graphite, graphic, autograph. Add on the prefix, and the meaning changes again. Auto means by one’s self. Altogether, an autobiography is a story about a person’s life, written by the person him/herself.
|auto||self||automobile, autobiography, automatic|
|bio||life||biology, biome, biography|
|geo||earth||geology, geography, geometry|
|graph||to write||autograph, graph, graphite|
|hydr||water||hydrate, hydraulic, hydrant|
|log(y)||word/study of||astrology, theology, meteorology|
|path||to feel||pathology, empathetic, apathy|
|phil||to love||philanthropic, bibliophile|
|phon||sound||phone, polyphonic, symphony|
|syn/sym||together||synergy, symbiotic, sympathize|
|aqua||water||aquatic, aquarium, aqueous|
|audi||to hear||audible, auditory, auditorium|
|bene||good||benefactor, benevolent, benign|
|brev||short||brevity, abbreviate, brief|
|circ||around||circumnavigate, circuitous, circle|
|dict||to say||dictionary, dictate, edict|
|doc||to teach||document, doctor, doctrine|
|duc||to lead||induce, reduce, induct|
|gen||to birth||generation, generate, gene|
|hab||to live||habitat, inhabit, habitable|
|jur/jus/jud||law||jury, justice, judicial|
|lev||to lift||levitate, levity, elevator|
|log/logue||thought||dialogue, prologue, epilogue|
|luc/lum||light||luminous, lucid, elucidate|
|manu||hand||manual, manicure, manipulate|
|mis/mit||to send||transmit, missile, mission|
|omni||all||omnibus, omniscient, omnipresent|
|pac||peace||pact, pacifist, pacify|
|port||to carry||port, transport, portable|
|qui/quit||silence/quiet||quiet, quiescent, tranquil|
|scrib/script||to write||manuscript, scribble, scripture|
|sens||to feel||sense, sensible, sensitive|
|terr||earth||terrain, terraform, terra forma|
|tim||to fear||timid, intimidate, timorous|
|vac||empty||vacuum, vacuous, vacate|
|vid/vis||to see||vivid, visible, video|
|tele||far||telescope, telephone, telepathy|
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