Learn English vocabulary quicker by understanding the meaning of root words. By learning word roots you‘ll improve your retention rate and spelling.
One way to familiarise yourself with English spelling and meanings, is to learn the etymology, or origin of these words. Most of our words come from Latin or Greek; these English words have Latin or Greek ‘roots.’ Here we discuss the Latin and Greek roots that contribute to the English Language.
Here are some examples of Latin roots, or Latin words we borrowed to make our modern English words. We’ve listed the Latin root, followed by the meaning and examples of English words that contain these ancient roots. We’ve also included their definitions.
Ped- means foot- examples are pedestrian, pedal
Pedestrian- someone who is walking, or travelling by foot
Pedal- a device in which you move by pressing a lever with your foot
Bi- means two – examples are bifocal, biannual, and bicycle
Bifocal – having two lenses, such as bifocal glasses
Bicycle- having two wheels
Biannual – when something occurs twice yearly, or two times per year
Aqua- means water- examples are aquarium, aqualung, and aquatic
Aquarium – a tank of water in which fish and other amphibious creatures live
Aqualung- a device that allows you to breathe underwater
Aquatic-something that relates to water
Less often borrowed but still found in thousands of modern English words are Greek roots. Again we’ve listed the Greek root, followed by the definition of the root, and finally examples of modern words that incorporate this ancient root.
Aer – means air – aerosol, aerodynamic, aerobic
Aerosol- containing suspended particles in air or gas
Aerodynamic –optimised for flying through the air
Aerobic- exercises that increase the flow of oxygen, or air to your muscles
Auto – means self – automobile, automatic, autograph
Automobile – a vehicle in which you transport yourself
Automatic – self-operating or independently working machine, mechanism, or reaction
Autograph- signed by you or yourself
Tri – means three – triangle, triple, triathlon
Triangle- a geometrical shape with three sides
Triple-something that occurs three times
Triathlon- an event that incorporates three athletic challenges
For great places to find more Latin and Greek roots, try visiting:
By learning these roots, you’ll understand the meaning and be better able to remember the spelling of English vocabulary words. Try learning ten roots per week, and practice finding these roots in our everyday English language.