Boost Your English Vocabulary With These 50 Greek and Latin Root Words

Illustrated depiction of common Greek and Latin word roots


In English grammar, a root is a word or portion of a word from which other words grow, usually through the addition of prefixes and suffixes. By learning root words, you can decipher unfamiliar words, expand your vocabulary, and become a better English speaker. 

The Roots of Words

Most words in the English language are based on words from ancient Greek and Latin. The root of the word "vocabulary," for example, is ​voc, a Latin root meaning "word" or "name." This root also appears in such words as "advocacy," "convocation," "evocative," "vocal," and "vowel." By dissecting words such as these, etymologists can study how a word has evolved over time and tell us about the cultures they came from.

Root words are also useful for creating new words, especially in technology and medicine, where new innovations occur frequently. Think of the Greek root word tele, which means "far," and inventions that traverse long distances, such as the telegraph, telephone, and television. The word "technology" itself is a combination of two other Greek root words, techne, meaning "skill" or "art," and logos, or "study."

Greek Root Words

The table below defines and illustrates 25 of the most common Greek roots.

antiagainstantibacterial, antidote, antithesis
ast(er)starasteroid, astronomy, astronaut
aquwateraquarium, aquatic, aqualung

automatic, automate, autobiograph

bibliobookbibliography, bibliophile
biolifebiography, biology, biodegradable
chromecolormonochromatic, phytochrome
chronotimechronic, synchronize, chronicle
docteachdocument, docile, doctrinal
dynapowerdynasty, dynamic, dynamite
geoearthgeography, geology, geometry
gnoto knowagnostic, acknowledge
graphwriteautograph, graphic, demographic
hydrwaterdehydrate, hydrant, hydropower
kinesismovementkinetic, photokinesis
logosword, studyastrology, biology, theologian
narcsleepnarcotic, narcolepsy
pathfeelempathy, pathetic, apathy
phillovephilosophy, bibliophile, philanthropy
phonsoundmicrophone, phonograph, telephone 
photolightphotograph, photocopy, photon
schemplanscheme, schematic
syntogether, withsynthetic, photosynthesis
telefartelescope, telepathy, television
troposturningheliotrope, tropical

Latin Root Words

The table below defines and illustrates 25 of the most common Latin roots.

abto move awayabstract, abstain, aversion
acer, acribitteracrid, acrimony, exacerbate
audihearaudible, audience, auditorium
benegoodbenefit, benign, benefactor
brevshortabbreviate, brief
circroundcircus, circulate
dictsaydictate, edict, dictionary
duclead, makededuce, produce, educate
fundbottomfounder, foundation, funding
gento birthgene, generate, generous
habto haveability, exhibit, inhabit
jurlawjury, justice, justify
levto liftlevitate, elevate, leverage
log, loguethoughtlogic, apologize, analogy
luc, lumlightlucid, illuminate, translucent
manuhandmanual, manicure, manipulate
mis, mitsendmissile, transmit, permit
omniallomnivorous, omnipotent, omniscent
pacpeacepacify, pacific, pacifist
portcarryexport, import, important
quitsilent, restivetranquil, requiem, acquit
scrib, scriptto writescript, proscribe, describe
sensto feelsensitive, sentient, resent
terrearthterrain, territory, extraterrestrial
timto feartimid, timorous
vacemptyvacuum, vacate, evacuate
vid, visto seevideo, vivid, invisible


​Understanding the meanings of the common word roots can help us deduce the meanings of new words that we encounter. But be careful: root words can have more than one meaning as well as various shades of meaning. In addition, words that look similar may derive from different roots.