50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language Техника

The table on this page lists over 100 root words. It gives their
meanings, examples of English words made from them, and the pages
on EnglishHints where you can study and practice them.

This table also serves as
an index to the pages where you can learn English words from Latin and Greek
roots.

More than 80 of these roots are from Latin. (Many are from Latin via
French— the biggest source of English words after Old English).

The root words that
come from Greek have an asterisk (*) in front of them. (Many Latin words also
originally came from Greek. These are the ones that came more directly, or kept
their Greek form.)

These seven Latin roots are the origins of a large number of
English words. Most of their derivatives below are very common in academic writing. (Many of these words are also
on study lists for the TOEFL and other tests.)

Studying these words will help you understand how prefixes and suffixes change the meaning and use of words. These word-building skills will also make it easier to guess the meaning of other words you read.

Take a quick look at these lists. If you think you know them,
try the matching practice at the bottom first, then study any that you aren’t
sure about.

Some of the words — most from ducere, in fact— are not easy to guess from their
roots. These words are so useful I included them anyway on the page (not in the practice)— with explanations.

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

Most of the words we use today are derived from Latin. So, why not understand how certain English words came about? Penlighten gives you information on the most commonly used roots, prefixes, and suffixes, and also chooses to give you their meanings for a better understanding. Have a read!

Long Live Latin!

Latin has given birth to many languages. The commonly used English words are mostly taken from Latin, almost 60% of the words. The use is made in all vast topics such as science, law, medicine, etc. Almost 80% of the scholarly English words are taken from Latin. Also, Latin is frequently used to write State or university mottos.

English is a language that draws its influence from so many languages with Latin being one of the most important contributors, as we said above. There is a deep, rich history explaining how it has influenced English. It all started in between the 6th and 7th century when the Christian missionaries got Latin religious terms to Britain. Also, Catholic monks wrote sacred text copies in Latin. Eventually, what happened was that, whenever they didn’t get a word in Old English, they would substitute it by Latin words. Such was the role of Latin in developing the foundation of the English language. Also, the influence of Latin, so to say, is lexical in nature, meaning most of the words are coined from Latin roots.

LATIN ROOTS

Latin was the language spoken by the ancient Romans. As the Romans conquered most of Europe, the Latin language spread throughout the region. Over time, the Latin spoken in different areas developed into separate languages, including Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. These languages are considered “sisters,” as they all descended from Latin, their “mother” language.

In 1066 England was conquered by William, duke of Normandy, which is in northern France. For several hundred years after the Norman invasion, French was the language of court and polite society in England. It was during this period that many French words were borrowed into English. Linguists estimate that some 60% of our common everyday vocabulary today comes from French. Thus many Latin words came into English indirectly through French.

Many Latin words came into English directly, though, too. Monks from Rome brought religious vocabulary as well as Christianity to England beginning in the 6th century. From the Middle Ages onward many scientific, scholarly, and legal terms were borrowed from Latin.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, dictionary writers and grammarians generally felt that English was an imperfect language whereas Latin was perfect. In order to improve the language, they deliberately made up a lot of English words from Latin words. For example, fraternity, from Latin fraternitas, was thought to be better than the native English word brotherhood.

Words and word roots may also combine with suffixes. Here are examples of some important English suffixes that come from Latin:

marekuliasz // Shutterstock

Anyone who has ever studied a stack of GRE vocabulary words or invested in a word-a-day calendar to try to expand their lexicon can attest to the fact that the English language is incredibly expansive. Data has shown that the average adult knows somewhere around 40,000 words in total, and that includes active (i.e., regularly used) and passive (i.e., familiar, but not utilized) vocabulary. Put that number up against the more than one million total words in the English language, and it becomes clear that the percentage of terms in English speakers’ everyday rotation is only a small fraction of the English language as a whole.

Looking at the sheer volume of the English vocabulary, one thing that helps make sense of the words is the notable patterns that emerge in light of its etymological roots; particularly, its Latin roots. Though Latin itself has often been referred to as a dead language, it is very much alive in the 80% of English terms that are borrowed directly from the ancient language and the over 60% of English words that have roots in Latin and Greek. In the same way that a new reader may try to sound out a word phonetically, looking at English through the lens of Latin etymology allows us to obtain a new grasp on the language, such that we can more actively deduce the meanings of unfamiliar words.

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— Meaning in English: Yearly

The Latin root “ann”—which means “yearly”—can be found in countless words that reference events and occurrences that happen on a yearly basis. For example, an anniversary celebration marks the passing of another year of a relationship, a business, or a birthday. Then there are yearly events that are characterized as annual, such as award ceremonies (e.g., the Academy Awards), sporting events (e.g., Super Bowl), and holidays (e.g., Halloween).

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EpicStockMedia // Shutterstock

— Meaning in English: Water, sea

Whether it’s being used in reference to a color such as aqua, a blueish-green hue, or to describe sea life, i.e., aquatic, the Latin root “aqu” is familiar in its relationship to water and large bodies of water. The mainstream familiarity of the Latin root was on full display in the 2006 coming-of-age film “Aquamarine,” where the titular character is a mermaid washed ashore.

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adriaticfoto // Shutterstock

— Meaning in English: Hearing, listening, sound

Those who prefer the convenience of listening to their books rather than reading them may recognize this Latin root from the name of Audible, Amazon’s audiobook and entertainment platform. The root also makes an appearance in the English terms audience, as in a group of people gathered together to listen to or receive a performance, and auditorium, the room in which said audience sits to listen.

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Evgeny Bakharev // Shutterstock

— Meaning in English: Good

Derived from a Latin term meaning “well,” bene is most commonly used as a prefix in the English language. The word benign means harmless or favorable, and in pathology is used to describe a condition that is not life-threatening. A benefit is something that is considered favorable or advantageous, and the term can also be used to describe a charitable event. A benefactor gives help to a person or a cause. Perhaps the most famous example of a benefactor is Miss Havisham from “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.

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— Meaning in English: Two

The Latin prefix “bi” means two, as does the closely related, Greek-derived prefix “di.” A bifurcation describes the act of something splitting off into two distinct branches. In anatomy, the bicep is a muscle of the arm that runs between the shoulder and the elbow, so-named because it splits off into two branches where the muscle connects at the scapula. The word bicep translates to “two-headed muscle of the arm.”

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Yulia Grigoryeva // Shutterstock

— Meaning in English: Book

The Latin root “bibl” may sooner remind college students of having to create bibliographies—detailed lists of the books and sources referenced in academic work—than anything else. However, the root’s connection to the English language has a far deeper history: “bibl” is also the root for the name of the Bible, the collection of Judeo-Christian texts and scripture.

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— Meaning in English: Hundred

The term “cent” likely conjures up thoughts of money—i.e., dollars and cents—before anything else, but that ties back perfectly to the Latin root from which the term comes. One cent is 1/100th of a dollar. Pennies aside, the Latin root also makes an appearance in terms like “century” and “centennial,” which pertain to 100-year timespans and a hundredth anniversary, respectively.

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Hurst Photo // Shutterstock

— Meaning in English: Around

The Latin root “circum”—meaning “around”—appears in terms like “circumnavigate,” which is the act of traveling all the way around something. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan is remembered for successfully circumnavigating the globe in the early 16th century. This root also appears in terms like “circumvent,” which describes the act of getting around a problem, and “circumstance,” which pairs this root with another Latin root—“stance,” meaning “stand”—to reference a situation that focuses on a core cause.

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— Meaning in English: Citizen

“Civility” is characterized by respect towards others, and “civics,” which refers to the infrastructure in place that is intended to facilitate civility, are both rooted in the Latin “civ,” meaning “citizen.” The root also makes an appearance in the name of the Honda Civic, a car that––as the brand puts it––is meant to improve the lives of citizens.

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— Meaning in English: Clear

The term “clarity”—which comes from the Latin root “clar,” meaning “clear”—is the property of being both pure and clean, as well as being lucid and coherent. The root has seen a variety of modern uses alluding to its Latin translation, including the brand Clarisonic, a beauty company that develops products meant to provide clearer-looking skin, and Claritin, an allergy medication that promises clarity and relief from chronic allergies.

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— Meaning in English: Believe

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— Meaning in English: Say/speak

The Latin root “dict” appears in words like dictate, meaning to read something aloud; dictation, the act of speaking aloud with the intention of having your words recorded or transcribed; and predict, the act of stating something that will happen before it actually happens. Of all the instances in which “dict” appears in the English language, though, one of the most important may be the dictionary, which offers a comprehensive guide to all of the officially-recognized words in the English language. Some of the most respected and trusted dictionaries in the U.S. include the Oxford English Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster.

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— Meaning in English: Out

The Latin root “ex” means “out,” while related roots, including “exter” and “extrem,” offer additional variations of the same translation. The word extreme, for example, may refer to something that falls out of a normal expected range, as was the case with weather extremities, including record rainfall and high/low daily temperatures across the U.S. in 2019, which broke more than 120,000 records across the country.

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— Meaning in English: Break

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— Meaning in English: Between

The premise of the film “Interstellar” starring Matthew McConaughey is that a NASA physicist travels the universe via a wormhole in a quest to find a new home for mankind. The plot––and the flick’s title––reference the Latin root “inter,” meaning “between,” as McConaughey’s character essentially travels between cosmic stars. This root also appears in terms like international, which may refer to travel or political relations between nations, and interpersonal, which may refer to communication happening between different people (as opposed to intrapersonal, which uses the Latin root meaning “within”).

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— Meaning in English: Law

Legal systems are intended to act as a source of order and justice in society, and it turns out that a lot of the legal terminology that we’re familiar with today stems from the Latin “jur”—as well as the related roots “jus” and “judic”—meaning “law.” This includes the word jury, as in the body of citizens meant to come to a verdict in legal cases; judicial, as in something pertaining to the court or judge; and justice, as in fairness.

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— Meaning in English: Not tense

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— Meaning in English: Free

Liberty—which is defined as freedom from oppression in regards to one’s belief systems and way of life—is a fundamental tenet on which democracy is built. As for the Latin word “liber,” this is a fundamental root from which the term “liberty” stems. Further examples of “liber” in mainstream English language include the words liberate and liberation.

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— Meaning in English: Light

This Latin root meaning “light” appears in a number of common English words including luminous, which means that something is bright and shining. However, the Latin root has seen several linguistic iterations that go beyond these everyday terms as well, including brand names such as Luminary, a podcast streaming platform that may be considered to be bringing new and creative ideas “to light,” and fictional terms such as “lumos maxima,” the incantation used in the “Harry Potter” universe to generate a bright flash of light.

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— Meaning in English: Big, great

The Latin root “magn,” meaning “big” or “great,” can be used either in reference to something physically large in size or something that big in its presence, such that it’s striking. In regular use today, the root appears in words like magnificent, which simply refers to something that’s amazing or awe-inspiring, and magnitude, which is used to characterize the large size or impact of something (e.g., a 3.2 magnitude earthquake).

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Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney

— Meaning in English: Bad

“Mal” is a Latin root meaning “bad,” and appears in such English terms as malicious, which is defined as having the intention to cause harm, as well as malevolent, which combines this root with another Latin root “volent,” which means “wishing.” Mal is defined as wishing evil or ill will upon another. Perhaps one of the most common pop culture affiliations with the root is “Maleficent,” the Disney film starring Angelina Jolie as the villainous fairy known for cursing Sleeping Beauty.

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— Meaning in English: Wander

This Latin root is perhaps most prevalent in its connection to current events. Namely, “migr”—meaning “wander”—appears in the terms immigration and migrant, both of which have become majorly familiar in the collective consciousness as a result of such issues as the European migrant crisis as well as the U.S. border crisis and questions surrounding the country’s immigration policies.

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— Meaning in English: Many

There are a multitude of examples in the English language of the Latin root “multi,” meaning “many,” in use (with multitude being one of them). The root is perhaps most notable for its role in arithmetic, as it occurs in multiplication, which is a mathematical process for growing a number in size and count. The root also appears in the title of the 1996 comedy “Multiplicity,” which stars Michael Keaton as a man who clones himself numerous times to manage the demands of his day-to-day life.

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— Meaning in English: Say no

The Latin root “neg” appears in English words that are defined by a lack of positive or affirmative response. For example, the word negate means that something is being nullified or shut down, or, it’s being “said no to,” essentially. Negativity, a quality often associated with pessimism and naysaying, is another example of the root in action.

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When something is described as nonsensical, it means that it doesn’t make sense. When something or someone is characterized as noncommittal, it means that they won’t commit. These words—along with others that include “non” as a prefix—pull from the Latin root’s definition meaning “not.” It’s important to keep in mind that the line between “non” and “un” can get a little troublesome when navigating common vocabulary. For example, while unprofessional refers to behavior that isn’t professional, nonprofessional refers to lines of work that don’t require professional training.

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— Meaning in English: New

The allure of novels comes from their imaginative stories that can take readers away from the ordinary and mundane. A novel concept or innovative idea is characterized by offering something fresh and new, which all ties back to the Latin root “nov.”

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— Meaning in English: Egg

While there are some English words beginning with “ov” that don’t tie back to this Latin root such as “oven,” which actually comes from Germanic origins, there are others that reference the root’s original definition: “egg.” Examples include oval, as in the egg-like shape, and ovary, as in the female reproductive organ that produces eggs.

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— Meaning in English: Before

“Pre” is a Latin-derived prefix that clarifies chronological order by signifying that something came before something else. For example, predict means that you talk about something happening before it actually happens. The word preliminary is another example and means that something occurs prior to something else in preparation for the main event. Of course, “pre” also occurs in the word prefix itself, which by definition is a grammatical add-on to the beginning of a word—i.e., it comes “before” the original word—that changes its meaning.

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— Meaning in English: First

In addition to words that reflect this root’s origins in its most literal sense such as primary, primordial, and primitive, there are also words derived from this Latin root that more loosely means best-in-class, or top-tier. One such example is the word prime, most commonly used in reference to Amazon Prime, the membership service that provides expedited shipping and a catalog of member-only streaming content for Amazon customers.

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— Meaning in English: Nearness

When one makes an approximation of something, they’re making an educated guess about the count, measurement, or quantity of something based on information that allows them to come close—though maybe not exact—to the correct value. This word, along with others like proximity or proximal, comes from the Latin root “proxim,” meaning nearness.

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— Meaning in English: Seek

A Latin root that means “to seek” or “to look for,” “ques” appears in a number of words that English speakers use on a daily basis. Besides the very literal quest, which basically refers to a long search for something, there are also the terms question and request, both of which attempt to elicit some kind of response, information, or action.

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— Meaning in English: Again, backward

This Latin root is one that could refer to something happening over and over again, as is the case with such words as repeat or recur. It may also, however, be used to reference something that moves backward by being withdrawn, as is the case with the words renege and revert.

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— Meaning in English: Backward, behind

Retro has been a standalone word since the mid-1970s when it started getting used in reference to fashion nostalgia. Before that, though, the word existed in the Latin vocabulary as a prefix meaning “backward” or “behind.” Of all the words that include the prefix—e.g., retrogress, retroactive, retrospective—one of the most familiar nowadays may be retrograde, as in Mercury Retrograde (when Mercury appears to be moving backward in its orbit).

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— Meaning in English: Healthy

This Latin root appears throughout the English language in a few different ways. For starters, it has a very literal and practical application in words like sanitize and sanitary, which simply refer to the eradication of bacteria so as to make something healthier and safer. However, the same root also occurs in the term sanity—and the opposite, insanity—which refers to mental health.

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— Meaning in English: Know

The Latin root “sci” (meaning “know”) has a few different roles in English. For one, it can refer to the actual act of knowing things, as is the case with terms like omniscience (meaning all-knowing), conscience (knowing right from wrong), and prescience (knowing things before they happen). Beyond that, “sci” also ties into the accumulation of knowledge, as it is a key root in the term science and is thus connected to all scientific branches (formal, natural, and social sciences).

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— Meaning in English: Write

While a young child’s doodles on a piece of paper might be dismissed as nothing but a little scribble, it turns out that scribble has some roots in the Latin language. The root “scrib” actually means “write,” and appears in such terms as transcribe, the act of copying down words from a recording or dictation, and describe, the act of writing down (or saying) what something looks, feels, tastes, sounds, or smells like.

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— Meaning in English: Half

The Latin root “semi” (meaning “half”) is central to a lot of the traditions that we consider to be commonplace. For example, there’s the idea of a semi-final, where two sports teams face off in a match directly before the final and only one—such as half of the two teams—moves on to the final. A lot of brands, most notably, Victoria’s Secret, are also known for having semi-annual sales: one at the start of the year in January and one around the half-way mark in June.

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— Meaning in English: Feel

The Latin root “senti,” which is also close to the root “sens,” means “feel”—which is evident when looking at the English terms that have stemmed from the original root. The root is at the heart of our sensory system, which allows us to feel and experience things through our different senses. The classic book “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen interestingly juxtaposes two words that stem from this same Latin root in its title; here, sense is the ability to act with sound judgment and without being overly emotional, while sensibility refers to the ability to act from the heart or with feelings as a guide.

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— Meaning in English: Group

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— Meaning in English: Alone

While social networks bring people together—even if only virtually—togetherness isn’t always the name of the game. “Sol,” the Latin root for “alone,” is also a big player in the English language, and is used in words that refer to loneliness or lack of connection. For example, solitude and isolation are two words that pull from the root, as is the name for Solitaire, the computer card game meant to be played solo.

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— Meaning in English: Under

When The Beatles released “Yellow Submarine,” they may not have realized that they were incorporating some Latin-based lyrics in their hit song. “Sub” is the Latin root meaning “under,” and beyond showing up in the name of the underwater warship, the root also occurs in terms like submerge, which is the act of putting something underwater. The New York City subway system also employs the Latin root for the name of its network of underground trains and tracks.

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— Meaning in English: Rise

Not to be confused with the root for surgery, which comes from the Greek words meaning “hand work,” the Latin “surg” means “rise.” For example, there’s been a “resurgence”: This combines the Latin root “re” with “surg”. Anyone who has attempted to call an Uber during rush hour or an “extreme” (if we’re using Latin) rainstorm is also likely familiar with the phenomenon of surge pricing, where rates increase as a result of heightened demand.

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Min C. Chiu // Shutterstock

— Meaning in English: Time

Musicians understand that tempo is the speed of a song’s underlying beat, and thus that the tempo helps determine the timing of a piece of music. For those less musically-inclined, however, this Latin root may feel more familiar in words like temporary, meaning something that only lasts for a given period of time, and contemporary, meaning that something is of the current time.

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— Meaning in English: Witness

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— Meaning in English: Across

English terms that include the root “trans” are generally referring to something that has traversed a physical or imaginary border in some way. For example, the first trans-Atlantic flight was completed in 1919 by Charles Lindbergh when he spent 34 hours traveling from New York to Paris. A common use of the root is also in reference to transgender individuals, whose gender identity does not align with their birth sex.

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— Meaning in English: Empty

The Latin root “vac” appears in several highly-used English words, including what may be a collective favorite: “vacation.” Unlike certain terms that have a more literal tie to this root’s definition––e.g., “vacancy” means there are empty rooms in a space, “vacate” means emptying out a space, etc.––“vacation” is more of a loose derivative of the root, alluding to an empty schedule.

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Of the Latin roots on this list, “vag” is one of the more unique in that it has a few different derivative words that reflect the term in unique ways. For example, while vagabond is a pretty literal extension of the Latin root, one of the other common derivative words—vague—reflects the meaning of the Latin root in a less direct way (i.e., it alludes to ideological “wandering” from the main topic).

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— Meaning in English: True

“Ver” is one of the more common Latin roots to appear in the English language. There are some terms that include the root—verdict and veracity—that may be less frequently utilized in everyday jargon, but that’s hardly the case with one of the most popular words that stems from this root: very. Whenever something is described as very soft, for example, the intention of the speaker is to communicate that something is “truly” soft.

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— Meaning in English: See, visual

While videotapes might have become obsolete, this Latin root, meaning “see,” is still kept alive in plenty of other key terms in the English language. One of the biggest, of course, is video, and though people’s sources of video entertainment have changed over the years, their affinity for it certainly has it. According to recent data, people watch an average of 16 hours of online video per week.

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— Meaning in English: One

This root, meaning “one,” is incredibly prevalent throughout the English language. It appears in a wide range of words, including unicorn (a one-horned mythical horse), unity (one entity), uniform (one outfit), unicycle (one-wheeled bike), and unibrow (one eyebrow).

Practice These Word Roots— & More

Practice some of the English words from these roots at Match These Words from Latin Roots and 50 Latin Word Roots Practice. (This is a gap-fill practice. There’s some explanation for a few words that are hard to understand to understand from the root alone.)

To keep this list from being too long, I skipped many common roots you might already know. See if you can think of any words from the Latin root bases lun- (moon), manu- (hand), sol- (sun), stella- (star). There are also many common words from Greek roots.

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There are more Latin word roots, as well as more explanations and practice, at

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

So many English words come from the Latin root ponere (pon- or pos-). For example: «The opposing team imposed their will. They really exposed our weakness!»

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

More English roots— from Latin verbs of motion: attract (pull towards), & retract from the Latin root meaning ‘pull;’  compel, compulsive, expel, & repulsive from the root for ‘driven’— and more.

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

Find the pages to study or practice over 100 root words on EnglishHints. This reference table gives meanings, examples, & links.

You can review words from 10 of these roots with a fairly easy word search puzzle. (Check its answers here.)

If you’re interested in teaching roots, check out the inexpensive lessons and practice activities on Root, Prefix, and Suffix Worksheets.

Didn’t find what you
needed? Explain what you want in the search box below.
(For example, cognates, past tense practice, or ‘get along with.’) Click to see the related pages on EnglishHints.

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

T-V

Negatives from facere: disaffected (affected negatively), unaffected (not affected at all), declassify, defective, unedifying, ineffective, inefficient, unidentified, unjustified, imperfection, unspecific, unverified.

Ducere— to Lead

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

Also: conductor, deductible, deductive (reasoning), induction, inductive, production,
productive, reduction, reproducible, reproduction, reproductive.

How to Decode New
English Words

The root words table below can help you decode English
words you don’t know. (To decode can mean to translate a secret code into
ordinary speech. It also means to look at the pieces of a word to figure out
its possible meaning.)

To decode an English word, drop its prefixes and suffixes
to find its root. (Take away the prefixes above and any others you recognize.
Also remove word endings like -ing, -tion, -ly, -ment, or –ness.) So the root of ‘demobilize’ is ‘mobil(e),’ and the root of ‘extractible’ is ‘tract.’

Then check this table to find the root word’s meaning and pages to practice it and learn
other, related words. (Many of those pages also explain meanings that have
moved away from the root meaning over time.)

How to Use This Page

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

The headings give each Latin verb in italic type and its English meaning.

Beneath each root are some English words derived from it, with their parts of speech and meanings.

After these, there’s a short list of similar words with related meanings.

Then there is a matching game using some of each root’s easier forms.

If you are looking for a larger list of Latin roots of common English words, see 50 Word Roots from Latin. Studying bth pages can really increase your English vocabulary.

Vertere-
to turn

Also: adversity, conversely, conversion, convertible, diverse,
diversify, diversity, divert, extroversion, extroverted, introversion, introverted, inverse, inversely, inversion, irreversible, perversely, perversion,
pervert, reversible, reversion, subversion, subversive, versatility, version,
versus.

Root Words, Meanings,Examples, & Practice Pages

* Remember, you can find the practice page names and links on the pink page abbreviations’ list just above the table.

F — L

Go to the list of abbreviations and page links if you want to practice any root.

Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes  has links to all the root words’ explanation and
practice pages. It also links to prefix and suffix lists. If you would like to
study the roots that contribute the most to English, start with:

So many English words come from the Latin root ponere (pon- or pos-) For example: The opposing team imposed their will until they exposed their weakness.

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

Learn and practice the Greek roots most commonly used in English (from tele: far and graph: writing to psych: soul and logy: study of).

Venire- to come

Also: convene, eventual, intervention, invention, preventable, prevention.

Cedere- to Go, Depart, or Yield

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

Also important (from the above): accessibility,
concession, exceed, exceedingly, excess, inaccessible, intercession, intercessor, precedent, procedural, proceed, process, procession, recede, recessive, reprocess, success, successful, succession, unprocessed, unsuccessful.

Root Form & Spelling Differences

You might notice that some roots have several forms. I’ve tried to put the variant English forms in parentheses when they are quite different.

For example, the Latin root videre, to see, has English derivatives like ‘video’ and ‘evidence.’  But it also has ‘visual’ and ‘invisible’—from another form (the past participle) of videre. So after videre I added (vis).

Claudere (to close) is the root of include, inclusive, exclude and exclusive. I added (clus) after the verb name so you can see the second common base form. Pellere— to drive— often has a base form (puls). It’s the root of impel, impulse, repel, and repulsive, among others.

Vowels also often change. Au turns to u in claudere, above. Ae changes to e (or i) in aequare (equal, equity, and iniquity) or quaerere (quest,  inquire, and inquisitive.)

Tenere-
to hold

Also: abstinence, container, containment, contentment, contents, detainee, detention,  maintenance, obtain, retain, retainer, sustainability,
tenacious, unsustainable, untenable

M-P

Also: convoke, evocative, provocative, provocation,
revocable, revocation, vocabulary, vocally, vocation.

A — D

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

English Words from Other Latin Roots

Now use what you have learned about prefixes and suffixes. Try to guess the meanings of the English examples given after each of these Latin word roots. (Can you think of others?)

R-S

The forms of some of the English words are quite
different from their Latin roots. (We get both ‘success’ and ‘succeed’ from cedere, ‘deduct’ and ‘deduce’ from ducere, etc.)

This
is partly because some Latin forms are very different from the verb infinitives. (Latin infinitives include cedere, ducere, etc.) Latin noun or past participle forms are especially likely to be different.

For example, the past participle of vertere
is versus, and we get English
words from both forms. Other differences are due to changes over time from
Latin to French and then into English.

(Abbreviations for parts of speech: v.= verb, n.= noun, adj.= adjective, adv.=
adverb, prep.= preposition.)

H-L

The great majority of words in an English dictionary have Latin word roots. (Many came into English from Old French.) That’s especially true of words used in academic or professional writing.

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

Learning the most common word roots (and a few prefixes and suffixes)  will help you recognize or at least guess at thousands of these
academic words.

This will help you do well on tests, in
college courses, and in business. You will also find English reading
more enjoyable. It’s a fascinating study!

The list below includes over 50 Latin word roots, each with a few
examples of the English words that come from it.

I chose them for two reasons. They’re the base for important English vocabulary AND their English meanings are still close to the root meanings. (Why study roots if the words derived from them no longer have similar meanings?)

Look at the prefixes and
suffixes attached to each word root, and see if you can guess the
English meanings. I also included several negative forms. If no negative is given, you can make almost any other adjective negative with ‘un-.’ (For a detailed explanation and more examples, see Negative Prefix List.)

The list begins with a demonstration of how prefixes can be added to a word root to change its meaning. I used the root ‘mittere,’ since it takes so many prefixes.

How Root Words Can
Help You Learn English

50 Latin roots that will help you understand the English language

Recognizing word roots can increase your reading
comprehension as well as your vocabulary.

I started the roots and prefix section of EnglishHints after noticing
how much important vocabulary comes
from a fairly small group of Latin roots.

(They dominate the Academic Word List
and lists of frequent TOEFL words. Many are quite common in non-academic writing
as well.)

If you know prefixes and a root’s meaning, you can often
guess unknown English words that come from that root.

A few of the most common prefixes
and their meanings are listed below, to help you figure out word meanings.

You
can also check the List of Prefixes for a more complete list. (Greek and Latin Prefixes has a reverse list alphabetized by their meanings in English.)

For example, the Latin root cedere (and its English forms -cede, –ceed, or -cess) mean to go. The root gradi (-gress) means to step.

So the
English word precede means to go before. Process (& procedure) are the way
to do something— to cause it to go forward. A procession is (a lot of people) going
forward. Progress and progression are forward steps, Recede, recession,  regress, and regression all refer to going backward.

Matching Practice

Instructions: Match the items on the right to the items on the left. The first one (contents) has been done as an example.

See Roots Memory Game 1 (Quaerere), Memory Game 2 (Cedere) and Memory Game 3 (Vertere) for very different matching games with three of these roots. Most practice different English words, as well.

These are «Memory» (or «Concentration») games.  Players turn over two cards of twelve (or sometimes more) at a time, looking for matches. When the cards don’t match, they flip back over. Players try to remember matching card locations. Then they can use their turns to choose (and win) those pairs.

It’s a lot of fun, and a good mental exercise! It’s also a great way to deepen the connections in your mind between words and their meanings.

You can also practice many of these words with a word search puzzle. (Look for its answers here.)

Quaerere-
to seek (look for)

Also acquire, acquisition, inquire, inquiry, inquisition, question, require.

Demonstration with the Latin verb mittere- ‘to send

Practice finding some of these words in a word search puzzle. (Answers are here.)

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