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Root Words
One of the most effective ways of learning new words is learning through root words. Before we delve into the details let’s answer one basic question here,

What is a Root Word?

A Root Wordis the heart of the word, the element upon which the word is built. Root words are parts upon which complete words are built.

Let’s take up an example to understand how root words work. Have you heard of the word calligraphy? It means beautiful writing. It is derived from a combination of Greek Root Words:

  • Calli which beautiful
  • Grapho/graphy/graphy which means to write or to record

These two root words combine to give us calligraphy: the art of writing beautifully.

How to use Root words to Improve Vocabulary

Root words are a powerful method to learn and by using this method, you can learn multiple words at the same time. It also reduces your effort. Instead of learning 50 new words, you can learn 5 roots and about 10 words for each root word. The benefit of this root word method is twofold, firstly, you can retain more words and secondly, you can make a calculated guess and deduce the meanings of new words that you come across on a day to day basis.

Let’s understand this with the help of an example,

We just learnt about the Root Word: ‘grapho/graph/graphy’ which means to record or write.
Some words from the same root are:

  • Graphologist: a specialist who studies handwriting.
  • Holograph: Handwritten book or document (the root ‘holo’ stands for ‘hand’
  • Lexicographer: A compiler or writer of a dictionary

Now, while reading an article you come across the word ‘orthography’, and you don’t know the meaning of this word. You can clearly understand that it is related to writing, which is very close to the actual meaning, a set of conventions for writing a language. Check out these commonly used roots and words based on them.

Word Roots Complete List

Common Root Words and Their Meanings

Let’s explore 30 of the most common Greek and Latin roots used in the English language.

Root WordMeaningOriginRelated Words
A/nnot, withoutGreekAbyss- something in-depth or profound

Achromatic –something which is colourless

Anhydrous –No water

Ambulwalk, moveLatinAmble – Stroll

Ambulant – move around

Ambulance – a vehicle that moves a sick or injured people to and from hospital

Animlife, spiritLatinAnimal – a living organism which has all the 5 senses as well as nervous system

Animate – Having life

Equanimity –a quality or condition of being cool

Ann/ennyearLatinAnniversary –a ceremony in which an event is remembered
AstroouterspaceGreekAstronaut – a person travelling to space
Autoself, same, oneGreekAutonomy: condition of being self ruled

Autobiography: personal life story

Benegood, wellLatinBenefit: gain

Benevolent –big heartedness

Biolife, living matterGreekBiochemistry: branch of science relating to chemicals

Biophilia:rapport of human with natural world

Cardi/oheartGreekCardiovascular –damage to hearts major blood vessels

Cardiologist – a heart doctor

Carn/iflesh, meatLatinCarnivorous –meat eating; carnival: annual festival
Chron/otimeGreekAnachronism- A person or a thing who/that seems to be displaced in time.

Chronological – arrangement of events in a time-wise order

Synchronize – occurring at the same time

Cide, cisecut, killLatinHomicide – murder

Insecticide – a chemical used to kill insects

Patricide- killing of father

Matricide- killing of mother

Suicide- killing yourself

Circumaround, aboutLatinCircumnavigate- travel around, in a ship or a plane

Circumscribe – to draw a line around something

Circumspect – looking around cautiously

Circumlocution- An indirect way of speaking something

Cogn/iknowLatinCognizant: having knowledge
Dem/opeopleGreekdemocracy – government of the people;

Demolish- destroy

Derm/askinGreekDermatologist – a doctor for the skin; dermatitis: Eczema
Enn/i, AnniyearsLatinPerennial –continuous; long lasting

Biennial: happening every 2 years

Equ/iequal, equallyLatinEquidistant – an equal distance from two points; Equation – a statement of equality.
FidfaithLatinConfide – trust someone, fidelity – faithfulness;
Geoearth, soil, globalGreekGeocentric: representing earth as the centre; Geometry: branch of maths related to shapes and dimensions.
Heterodifferent, otherGreekHeterogeneous –different

Heteronyms – words with same spelling but different meanings

Interbetween, among, jointlyLatinInternational – involving two or more countries

Intersection – place where lines come together

Lact/omilkLatinLactate – to give milk

Lactose – the sugar contained in milk

Loqu, locuspeakLatinEloquent – speaking beautifully and forcefully

Loquacious –  talkativeness

Elocution – art of public speaking

Macrolarge, greatGreekMacroevolution – large scale evolution

Macromolecule – a large molecule;

Mal/ebad, ill, wrongLatinMalnutrition:lack of proper nutrition

Malodorous:foul smelling

Nom/innameLatinNominal – being something in name

Nominate – to elect

OmniallLatinOmnipresent: present everywhere

Omnivorous eating all foods.

Panall, any, everyoneGreekPanacea – a remedy for disease

Panache:a stylish, original, and very confident way of doing things that makes people admire you

Retrobackward, backLatinRetrograde: to move backwards.

Retrospect – the remembering of past events.

Word Roots Complete List

Thus, it is clear from this article that Root Words can play a very important role in enhancing your vocabulary and can also help you in understanding words in context.

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