Sunday, 27 November 2011

Latin and Greek Word Elements


English is a living language, and it is growing all the time. One way that new words come into the language is when words are borrowed from other languages. New words are also created when words or word elements, such as roots, prefixes, and suffixes, are combined in new ways.
Many English words and word elements can be traced back to Latin and Greek. Often you can guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word if you know the meaning.
word root is a part of a word. It contains the core meaning of the word, but it cannot stand alone. A prefix is also a word part that cannot stand alone. It is placed at the beginning of a word to change its meaning. A suffix is a word part that is placed at the end of a word to change its meaning. Often you can guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word if you know the meaning of its parts; that is, the root and any prefixes or suffixes that are attached to it.

Latin Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes

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.
Many English words and word parts can be traced back to Latin and Greek. The following table lists some common Latin roots.
Latin rootBasic meaningExample words
-dict-to saycontradict, dictate, diction, edict, predict
-duc-to lead, bring, takededuce, produce, reduce
-gress-to walkdigress, progress, transgress
-ject-to throweject, inject, interject, project, reject, subject
-pel-to drivecompel, dispel, impel, repel
-pend-to hangappend, depend, impend, pendant, pendulum
-port-to carrycomport, deport, export, import, report, support
-scrib-, -script-to writedescribe, description, prescribe, prescription, subscribe, subscription, transcribe, transcription
-tract-to pull, drag, drawattract, contract, detract, extract, protract, retract, traction
-vert-to turnconvert, divert, invert, revert
From the example words in the above table, it is easy to see how roots combine with prefixes to form new words. For example, the root -tract-, meaning “to pull,” can combine with a number of prefixes, including de- and re-. Detract means literally “to pull away” (de-, “away, off”) and retract means literally “to pull back” (re-, “again, back”). The following table gives a list of Latin prefixes and their basic meanings.
Latin prefixBasic meaningExample words
co-togethercoauthor, coedit, coheir
de-away, off; generally indicates reversal or removal in Englishdeactivate, debone, defrost, decompress, deplane
dis-not, not anydisbelief, discomfort, discredit, disrepair, disrespect
inter-between, amonginternational, interfaith, intertwine, intercellular, interject
non-notnonessential, nonmetallic, nonresident, nonviolence, nonskid, nonstop
post-afterpostdate, postwar, postnasal, postnatal
pre-beforepreconceive, preexist, premeditate, predispose, prepossess, prepay
re-again; back, backwardrearrange, rebuild, recall, remake, rerun, rewrite
sub-undersubmarine, subsoil, subway, subhuman, substandard
trans-across, beyond, throughtransatlantic, transpolar
Words and word roots may also combine with suffixes. Here are examples of some important English suffixes that come from Latin:
Latin suffixBasic meaningExample words
-able, -ibleforms adjectives and means “capable or worthy of”likable, flexible
-ationforms nouns from verbscreation, civilization, automation, speculation, information
-fy, -ifyforms verbs and means “to make or cause to become”purify, acidify, humidify
-mentforms nouns from verbsentertainment, amazement, statement, banishment
-ty, -ityforms nouns from adjectivessubtlety, certainty, cruelty, frailty, loyalty, royalty; eccentricity, electricity, peculiarity, similarity, technicality

Greek Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes

The following table lists some common Greek roots.
Greek rootBasic meaningExample words
-anthrop-humanmisanthrope, philanthropy, anthropomorphic
-chron-timeanachronism, chronic, chronicle, synchronize, chronometer
-dem-peopledemocracy, demography, demagogue, endemic, pandemic
-morph-formamorphous, metamorphic, morphology
-path-feeling, sufferingempathy, sympathy, apathy, apathetic, psychopathic
-pedo-, -ped-child, childrenpediatrician, pedagogue
-philo-, -phil-having a strong affinity or love forphilanthropy, philharmonic, philosophy
-phon-soundpolyphonic, cacophony, phonetics
The following table gives a list of Greek prefixes and their basic meanings.
Greek prefixBasic meaningExample words
a-, an-withoutachromatic, amoral, atypical, anaerobic
anti-, ant-opposite; opposinganticrime, antipollution, antacid
auto-self, sameautobiography, automatic, autopilot
bio-, bi-life, living organismbiology, biophysics, biotechnology, biopsy
geo-Earth; geographygeography, geomagnetism, geophysics, geopolitics
hyper-excessive, excessivelyhyperactive, hypercritical, hypersensitive
micro-smallmicrocosm, micronucleus, microscope
mono-one, single, alonemonochrome, monosyllable, monoxide
neo-new, recentneonatal, neophyte, neoconservatism, neofascism, neodymium
pan-allpanorama, panchromatic, pandemic, pantheism
thermo-, therm-heatthermal, thermometer, thermostat
Words and word roots may also combine with suffixes. Here are examples of some important English suffixes that come from Greek:
Greek suffixBasic meaningExample words
-ismforms nouns and means “the act, state, or theory of”criticism, optimism, capitalism
-istforms agent nouns from verbs ending in -ize or nouns ending in -ism and is used like -erconformist, copyist, cyclist
-izeforms verbs from nouns and adjectivesformalize, jeopardize, legalize, modernize, emphasize, hospitalize, industrialize, computerize
-gramsomething written or drawn, a recordcardiogram, telegram
-graphsomething written or drawn; an instrument for writing, drawing, or recordingmonograph, phonograph, seismograph
-logue, -logspeech, discourse; to speakmonologue, dialogue, travelogue
-logydiscourse, expression; science, theory, studyphraseology, biology, dermatology
-meter, -metrymeasuring device; measurespectrometer, geometry, kilometer, parameter, perimeter
-oidforms adjectives and nouns and means “like, resembling” or “shape, form”humanoid, spheroid, trapezoid
-phileone that loves or has a strong affinity for; lovingaudiophile, Francophile
-phobe, -phobiaone that fears a specified thing; an intense fear of a specified thingagoraphobe, agoraphobia, xenophobe, xenophobia
-phonesound; device that receives or emits sound; speaker of a languagehomophone, geophone, telephone, Francophone

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