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Definition & Meaning: Epi Word Root

The prefix epi-, meaning “over” or “upon,” is a key morpheme in English vocabulary, appearing in numerous words such as epidermis and epitaph. Remember that epi- means “upon” from the noun epidemic, a widespread disease that comes “upon” people. Similarly, epi- signifies “over” in the word epidermis, which refers to the outer skin layer lying “over” the lower layers.

Having discussed the primary meaning of epi- as “upon,” let’s now explore its other widespread meaning, “over.” The epidermis, the visible layer of human skin, lies “over” the dermis and hypodermis, the two underlying skin layers. The epicenter of an earthquake is the point on the Earth’s surface directly “over” the earthquake’s origin. Quotes that often begin book chapters are called epigraphs, words written “over” the chapter to hint at its content. Lastly, an epigram, a short poem or sentence, expresses an idea cleverly and amusingly.

Example Sentence: The earthquake that shook northern India had its epicenter in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

Word root tree diagram featuring the root word "epi" with examples and meanings.

Words Based on the Epi- Word Root

Commonly Used Words based on this Word Root:

  • Epidemic: A widespread disease that comes “upon” people.
  • Epitaph: Writing “upon” a tomb.
  • Epithet: Descriptor placed “upon” someone’s name.
  • Epilogue: Writing “upon” the conclusion of a written work.
  • Eponym: Someone’s name placed “upon” a place.
  • Epidermis: Top layer of skin placed “over” the two underlying layers.
  • Epicenter: Place directly “over” the origin of an earthquake.
  • Epigraph: Appropriate words written “over” the chapter in a book.
  • Epigram: Short number of words written “over” a particular topic.

Archaic Words based on this Word Root:

  • Epicrisis: A commentary or annotation of a text.
  • Epispore: The thickish outer coat of certain spores.

Technical Words/Jargon based on this Word Root:

  • Epicormic: Growing from a dormant or adventitious bud.
  • Epicuticle: The outermost portion of the exoskeleton of an insect or arthropod.
  • Epicranial: Pertaining to the epicranium.
  • Epipod: A small projection arising from the thoracic legs of a crustacean.

Related Word Roots

Exploring related word roots offers further insights into the linguistic tapestry of English:

  • Sub-: Meaning “under” or “below.” Common words include:
    • Submarine: A vessel that operates underwater.
    • Subterranean: Existing or occurring under the earth’s surface.
  • Hypo-: Meaning “under” or “below.” Common words include:
    • Hypodermic: Pertaining to under the skin.
    • Hypothermia: Abnormally low body temperature.
  • Super-: Meaning “above” or “over.” Common words include:
    • Superimpose: To place or lay over something else.
    • Supernatural: Attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.

We hope this article on the commonly used epi- root word has been helpful in enhancing your vocabulary. Linking words with memorable concepts makes it easier to memorize them. This is the power of word roots: they help us break down complex words and easily understand their meanings.

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