English Roots: 30 Word Roots From Latin and Greek To Boost Your English Vocabulary

How do you feel about shortcuts?

By learning short and simple pieces of English words, also known as word roots, you can unlock an understanding of thousands of words and boost your English vocabulary!

In this post, we’re going to share 30 English word roots from Latin and Greek to help you improve your comprehension of English by providing a shortcut to learning.


What is a Root?

First, we should talk about what “root” means.

A root is the basic unit of a word.

Linguists, scientists who study language, refer to the root as the base or foundation of a word. If you really think about it, the name “root” makes sense. A real, literal root is the base of a tree, connecting the tree to the ground. The root of a word connects that word to some meaning.

To learn about other parts of words and their relationships with roots, check out this informative page

30 Common English Word Roots from Greek and Latin

If you aren’t sure that you want to memorize hundreds of roots, then memorize just these 30 roots. These are some of the most useful and common roots that you’ll learn!

You’ll see these popping up everywhere in words you both know and don’t know. If you wouldn’t have had any idea what they meant before you had learned the roots, then you’ll see the value of learning roots. 

Roots of Greek Origin

Greek RootMeaningExample
PsychMindPsychology (the study of the mind)
PhilLoveCinephile (movie lover)
MegaGreat, largeMegaphone (a large device which makes your voice louder)
MonoSingleMonochromatic (having only one color)
ChronTimeChronological (organized by time of occurrence)
BioLifeBiology (the study of living things)
TheoGodTheology (the study of religion)
PhoneSoundTelephone (a device used to talk with other people)
AutoSelfAutomatic (happens on its own)
PolyManyPolyglot (person who can speak many languages)
DerSkinDermatology (science relating to skin)
TeleFarTelescope (a tool used to study things that are further away)
HydroWaterHydrology (the study of the movement of water on the planet)
HemiHalfHemisphere (the upper and lower half of the planet)
MicroSmallMicroscope (a tool used to study small things)
Ant/AntiAgainst, oppositeAnti-war (a person or movement that is against war and conflict)
DemPeopleDemography (the study of populations over time)
PathFeelingSympathy (feeling of understanding or pity)
KiloThousandKilogram (one thousand grams)
NeuroNerveNeurosurgeon (a medical professional specialized in the nervous system)

Roots of Latin Origin

Latin RootMeaningExample
StrucBuildStructure (parts or pieces built into something complex)
VacEmptyVacuous (having an empty mind, not thinking)
VerTrueVeritable (real, true, authentic)
Scrib/ScripWritePrescription (a written note signed by a doctor which provides instructions for medicine or treatment)
LucLightLucid (bright, clear)
MalBadMalevolent (wanting to do bad or evil things)
MarSeaMarina (a port or harbor for boats and ships)
Manu/ManiHandManicure (a treatment to make your hands look clean, neat and polished)
MinSmallMiniscule (very small in size)
FortStrongFortitude (strength)
MortDeathMortician (someone who prepares dead bodies to be buried)
Nas/NatBirthNascent (coming into existence, something just recently created)
TransAcrossTransatlantic (something which crosses the Atlantic Ocean)
Voc/VosVoiceVociferous (loud, someone who speaks loudly or talks a lot)
AquaWaterAquarium (a tank of water where fish are kept as pets)
BeneGoodBenevolent (wanting good things for people, generous, kind)
OmniAllOmniscient (knowing everything)
Sens/SentFeelSentimental (emotional, attaching emotional value to things)
TerrEarthTerrarium (a container for land animals kept as pets, often containing rocks, dirt or sand)
Vid/VisSeeVisible (able to be seen)

How to Use Roots to Form and Understand English Words

Now that you have a list of great roots to memorize, you’ll need a list of the most common prefixes and suffixes to go with it.


Prefixes and suffixes are two things that can be attached to roots to form words.

Suffixes can be attached at the ends of roots to change either the definition or the part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) of the word. So, suffixes can change verbs into nouns, nouns into adjectives and so on.

To create words you put a root together with either a suffix or prefix. Examples:

photo (root for light) + graph (suffix for written) = photograph (light that is written)

re (prefix for again) + flect (root for bend) = reflect (to bend again)

Now you might think these are funny ways to define the words “photograph” and “reflect.” This is because using Latin to define words means that you’re using very direct, literal translations.

However funny these translations might sound, there’s always a clue there that shows what the true meaning is in English.

The Top 10 Suffixes You’ll See with Roots

Top Greek Suffixes 

Greek SuffixMeaning
phobe/phobiafear, fearing
logystudy of
ismact, practice or result of
metera measurement
nomysystematized knowledge of

Top Latin Suffixes 

Latin SuffixMeaning
ableis, can be
actstate, quality
cidal/cidekiller, a killing

The Top 10 Prefixes You’ll See with Roots

Top Greek Prefixes

Greek PrefixMeaning
amphiboth, about, around
androman, male
antiagainst, opposed
monoone, single, alone

Top Latin Prefixes

Latin PrefixMeaning
adto, attached to
cowith, together

As you can see, learning roots, suffixes and prefixes is a quick shortcut to learn and understand words in English.

Immersing yourself in the language and seeing how it’s used by native speakers is a great way to learn vocabulary and see word roots. There are many great TV shows in English that you could watch, or you could even try a language-learning program like FluentU.

FluentU features an array of bite-sized authentic English videos, like inspiring talks and movie trailers, each with interactive subtitles that you can hover over to see more information about the words used. The subtitles will help you identify new vocabulary that you can add to your personalized flashcard decks to practice.

By immersing yourself in native media, not only will you be able to expand your vocabulary by identifying roots and common trends, but you’ll also get to see them used in context! 

The Matching Game for Practicing English Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes

As you know, practice makes perfect, and this also applies when learning roots, suffixes and prefixes.

Play this with a partner to see who can win the most points!

a. Make flashcards of the roots, suffixes and prefixes you want to memorize. You’ll also need a dictionary.

b. Mix up the flashcards into two groups, keeping suffixes and prefixes together in one group with the roots in another separate group.

c. Place the two groups in two separate piles face down in their separate groups. You’ll now have all the roots on the right side and prefixes/suffixes on the left side.

d. Pick a card from each group and turn both cards face up.

e. Form a word and write down what you think the definition should be according to the meaning of the root and the suffix or prefix you chose. Also write down whether you believe it is or isn’t a real word in the English language.

f. Once you’ve made your two guesses, look the word up in the dictionary to see if it really exists. If it does and the meaning you guessed is correct, then two points for you! If it’s not a real word, but you got the root and prefix/suffix meanings correct, then one point for you.


So there you have it, folks.

You’ve got a great guide to English word roots and how to use them!

Get out there and see how much English you understand now.

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