Greek and Latin Roots Study Guide
Greek and Latin Roots
This lesson, like the previous one, will help you build word power by taking words apart. Roots are the building blocks of words, and knowing some common roots will help you to gain vocabulary fluency with unfamiliar words.
In the previous study guide, you learned how prefixes and suffixes modify words. In this lesson, you'll focus on the root words to which prefixes and suffixes are attached. Our English language is a relatively new language in the history of the world, and it's one of the richest and most complicated. Its very newness is responsible for the great variety of English words in the language. Thousands of English words are built upon root words from other languages that have existed for thousands of years. English, as we speak it today, began about 400 or 500 years ago, so we're practically babies in the language game!
People who study the history and origin of words and languages are called etymologists. But you don't need to be an etymologist to benefit from knowing how words are formed and re-formed with word roots. As a student, your vocabulary skills will be enhanced (look up enhanced if you don't already know what it means) by learning some common root words. Once you do, you'll be able to use them to help you figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words.
The two most common sources for English words are Latin and Greek roots. You probably learned about these civilizations in school, so you know that Latin was the language spoken in ancient Rome more than 2,000 years ago. Latin spread throughout Europe and eventually developed, by about the seventeenth century, into modern languages spoken today, like English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
A Sample Latin Root and Its Use in Common English Words
Look at some of the many English words that have been built from one Latin root.
- ced/ceed/cess: Latin root for to go, yield, stop
- antecedent: that which comes before
- cessation: a stopping, the end of something
- concede: to admit something is true, to surrender
- exceed: to extend beyond
- precede: to come before
- proceed: to go forward
- procedure: the act of proceeding, a process
You don't have to memorize Latin roots; that would be a huge task and could take years! But a list like the one above should help you see the relationships that exist between words and help you figure out meanings of similar-sounding words.
Ancient Greek is the other major original source of many English words. The language spoken in Greece today is descended (look up that word if you don't already know it) from earlier forms of Greek that date back to the thirteenth century B.C. Imagine how fascinating it is for etymologists to trace a modern word in English back through 3000 years of Greek usage!
A Sample Greek Root and Its Use in Common English Words
Look at some of the many English words that have been built from one Greek root.
- chron: Greek root for time
- anachronism: something that is out of date or placed in the wrong time
- chronic: continuing over a long time, or recurring
- chronology: the sequence of events in time
- chronicle: a detailed record or description of past events
- synchronize: to cause to occur at the same time
Now that you've seen samples of Latin and Greek roots and their descendants in modern English, take the following quiz to see how other roots are used in common words you may use every day.
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
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