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40 English Word Roots From Latin and Greek

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 40 English word roots from Latin and Greek to help you improve your comprehension of English by providing a shortcut to learning.

Contents

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

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 40 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.

Why?

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.

Top 10 Suffixes You’ll See with Roots

Top Greek Suffixes 

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

Top Latin Suffixes 

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

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
semihalf
nonnot
prebefore
interbetween
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 takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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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.

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:

learn-english-with-videos

If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.

learn-english-with-subtitled-television-show-clips

FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:

learn-conversational-english-with-interactive-captioned-dialogue

FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

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FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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