Humanities › English Boost Your English Vocabulary With These 50 Greek and Latin Root Words How to identify root words in everyday language Share Flipboard Email Print Some of the most common Latin and Greek word roots. ThoughtCo. English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated November 21, 2019 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. In some cases, root words might be slightly transformed en route to becoming part of words that we're familiar with. In the above example, "vowel" is a word that's clearly related to the voc root and its family of derivative words, and yet the "c" in "voc" is not present. There are several reasons for this sort of pattern, and the changes often depend on what language each individual word comes from, but it serves as a reminder that not every word with the same root will look exactly the same. 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." Because several modern languages share some of the same ancestor languages, it's not entirely uncommon for several related languages to share root words. For instance, the Latin root voc, described above, is shared by several Romance languages. Connections between languages can be found in the shared roots between them, although one always has to be wary of false cognates - that is, words that sound like they have the same roots (and thus related meanings) but actually don't. Greek Root Words The table below defines and illustrates 25 of the most common Greek roots. Root Meaning Examples anti against antibacterial, antidote, antithesis ast(er) star asteroid, astronomy, astronaut aqu water aquarium, aquatic, aqualung auto self automatic, automate, autobiograph biblio book bibliography, bibliophile bio life biography, biology, biodegradable chrome color monochromatic, phytochrome chrono time chronic, synchronize, chronicle doc teach document, docile, doctrinal dyna power dynasty, dynamic, dynamite geo earth geography, geology, geometry gno to know agnostic, acknowledge graph write autograph, graphic, demographic hydr water dehydrate, hydrant, hydropower kinesis movement kinetic, photokinesis logos word, study astrology, biology, theologian narc sleep narcotic, narcolepsy path feel empathy, pathetic, apathy phil love philosophy, bibliophile, philanthropy phon sound microphone, phonograph, telephone photo light photograph, photocopy, photon schem plan scheme, schematic syn together, with synthetic, photosynthesis tele far telescope, telepathy, television tropos turning heliotrope, tropical Latin Root Words The table below defines and illustrates 25 of the most common Latin roots. Root Meaning Examples ab to move away abstract, abstain, aversion acer, acri bitter acrid, acrimony, exacerbate audi hear audible, audience, auditorium bene good benefit, benign, benefactor brev short abbreviate, brief circ round circus, circulate dict say dictate, edict, dictionary duc lead, make deduce, produce, educate fund bottom founder, foundation, funding gen to birth gene, generate, generous hab to have ability, exhibit, inhabit jur law jury, justice, justify lev to lift levitate, elevate, leverage log, logue thought logic, apologize, analogy luc, lum light lucid, illuminate, translucent manu hand manual, manicure, manipulate mis, mit send missile, transmit, permit omni all omnivorous, omnipotent, omniscent pac peace pacify, pacific, pacifist port carry export, import, important quit silent, restive tranquil, requiem, acquit scrib, script to write script, proscribe, describe sens to feel sensitive, sentient, resent terr earth terrain, territory, extraterrestrial tim to fear timid, timorous vac empty vacuum, vacate, evacuate vid, vis to see video, 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. In addition, a handful of root words can stand on their own as whole words in and of themselves. This list includes words such as photo, kinesis, chrome, port, and script. Words like this tend to have related meanings on their own, then can also act as roots for longer, more complex words. Sources Bryant, Alice, and Robbins, Jill. "Grow Your Vocabulary by Learning Root Words." VOANews.com, 28 November 2017.Grammarly staff. "Why You Should Learn Roots." Grammarly.com, 6 February 2016.McCammon, Ellen. "50 GRE Words You Should Know." PrepScholar.com, 8 February 2017. Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Nordquist, Richard. "Boost Your English Vocabulary With These 50 Greek and Latin Root Words." ThoughtCo, Jan. 26, 2021, thoughtco.com/common-word-roots-in-english-1692793. Nordquist, Richard. (2021, January 26). Boost Your English Vocabulary With These 50 Greek and Latin Root Words. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/common-word-roots-in-english-1692793 Nordquist, Richard. "Boost Your English Vocabulary With These 50 Greek and Latin Root Words." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/common-word-roots-in-english-1692793 (accessed January 27, 2021). copy citation Root Words in English 4 Great Reasons to Learn Greek and Latin Root Words Greek and Latin Roots Cognate: Definition and Examples Understanding the Latin Root "Ambul" Words From Psychology That Are Based on Greek or Latin Roots What Is a Synonym? Definition and Examples What is Vocabulary in Grammar? 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