Many of the words we use come from a root word. Once you pull off any prefixes or suffixes, the root will be normally at the front or the back of the remaining word. A little digging will uncover just what the root really means. For example, in a word such as scissors, the root is sciss, which means cut.
Words can even have two root words, such as schoolhouse.
There are many root words that are frequently used as parts of common words in the English language. For example, the following root words are provided with their meaning and, in italics, with an example of the root as part of a word:
Liter, glyph, cap, morph, crypt, plan, ego, scent, and zoo are also root words. For example, animal is the actual meaning of the root word zoo, so when they named the zoo, they were right.
Some root words aren’t even fully words, such as bio. Bio is the root word for biography or biology. Bio means life. Here are a few more examples or partial root words:
By knowing different root words, you can understand what a word means even if you don’t know the word, since the meaning can be derived from a combination of the root words.
Some root words make less sense. For example, take the word apology. The root word "logos" means speech, and "apo" means from or off. So, if you interpret the meaning of apology based on root words alone, you might think that it means "away from speech?" Not a very good explanation for a word that now means to express regret or remorse. So, remember that knowing the meaning of the roots won't always provide you with a clear definition.
When talking with friends or reading a book, you're constantly bombarded with root words. Here are some examples of roots, their meanings and other words that are formed by adding prefixes and/or suffixes to these building blocks:
Every root word has a meaning and that meaning corresponds to the new word made from it.
In English, root words are generally derived from Latin and Greek. So, in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Tula’s father may have been right when he said “Give me a word, any word, and I'll show you that the root of that word is Greek.”
Defining a root from a word is simple when you have a list of all the roots available. The easiest place to find the root for a longer word would be to look up the longer word here on YourDictionary.com. By searching the longer word and the root word in a dictionary, or in one of the specialty reference sources on YourDictionary.com, you can learn the definition, where the word came from, and information on who came up with the word.
Etymology is the study of root words, or the history of words. Etymologists discover how words are formed and what their meaning is and how that meaning has changed over time.
Etymologists apply specific steps to analyze the origin of words. They have to perform philological research, make use of dialectological data, and study semantic change.
Etymologists must know a wide range of languages and understand how they were developed. Not only are the words important, but how the language interprets it is also vital in the study of etymology.
The first etymologists were the Sanskrit linguists and grammarians in ancient India, but etymology is still practiced today.
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