A List of 30 Common Word Roots in English

Expand Your Vocabulary by Studying Greek and Latin Word Roots

telescope root words
The root word tele means "far" or "far off." It appears in words such as telescope, television, and telephone. stevecoleimages / Getty Images
The root is the heart of the word, the element from which other words may be constructed. ... What are the roots of these words: running, unlivable, happiness? Did you say run, live, and happy? These roots are called free morphemes. When you strip off the affixes, what is left (with slight spelling modifications) are words that can exist on their own.*

In English grammar, a root is a word or word part from which other words grow, usually through the addition of prefixes and suffixes.

The root of the word vocabulary, for example, is voc, a Latin root meaning "word" or "name." This root also appears in the words advocacy, convocation, evocative, vocal, vociferous, and vowel.

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 and various shades of meaning. In addition, words that look similar may derive from different roots. So when you meet up with a new word, be sure to rely on a dictionary to check its definition.

The table below defines and illustrates 30 of the most common Greek and Latin roots. (The letter in parentheses indicates whether the root word is Greek (G) or Latin (L).)
 

Word Roots in English

ROOTMEANINGEXAMPLES
-ast(er)-(G)starasteroid, astronomy, astronaut, asterisk
-audi- (L)hearaudible, audience, auditory, auditorium 
-auto- (G)selfautomatic, automate, autobiography, autograph
-bene- (L)goodbenefit, benign, benefactor, benevolent
-bio- (G)lifebiography, biology, biodegradable, symbiotic
-chrono- (G)timechronic, synchronize, chronicle, chronology
-dict- (L)saydictate, diction, edict, dictionary, addict
-duc- (L)lead, makededuce, produce, educator, conducive
-gen- (L)give birthgene, generate, generous, generation
-geo- (G)earthgeography, geology, geometry, geopolitics
-graph- (G)writeautograph, graphic, epigraph, demographic 
-jur-, -jus- (L)lawjury, justice, adjure, conjurer, justification
-log-, -logue- (L)thoughtlogic, obloquy, apology, dialogue, analogy
-luc-, -lum- (L)lightlucid, translucent, illuminate, elucidate
-man(u)- (L)handmanual, manure, manicure, manipulate
-mand-, -mend- (L)orderdemand, recommend, remand, mandatory
-mis-, -mit- (L)sendmissile, transmission, emit, submit, permit
-omni- (L)allomnivorous, omnipotence, omniscient
-path- (G)feelempathy, pathetic, apathy, pathos, antipathy
-phil- (G)lovephilosophy, bibliophile, philanthropy
-phon- (G)soundphonics, telephone, euphony, microphone
-photo- (G)lightphotograph, photon, photocopy, photogenic
-port- (L)carryexport, portable, rapport, deport, important
-qui(t)- (L)quiet, restacquit, tranquil, requiem, quiescent
-scrib-, -script- (L)writeascribe, script, describe, transcribe, proscribe
-sens-, -sent- (L)feelresent, sensitive, sentence, sentient
-tele- (G)far offtelecast, telephone, telekinesis, telepathy
-terr- (L)earthterrain, territory, extraterrestrial, terrace
-vac- (L)emptyevacuate, vacate, vacancy, vacuous
-vid-, -vis- (L)seevisible, video, envisage, invisible, revision


* Hallie Kay Yopp et al., Vocabulary Instruction for Academic Success. Shell Education, 2008)

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Nordquist, Richard. "A List of 30 Common Word Roots in English." ThoughtCo, Sep. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/common-word-roots-in-english-1692793. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, September 25). A List of 30 Common Word Roots in English. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/common-word-roots-in-english-1692793 Nordquist, Richard. "A List of 30 Common Word Roots in English." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/common-word-roots-in-english-1692793 (accessed December 12, 2017).