Posted by: Jack Henry | June 9, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Roots

Good morning, folks! I hope you are feeling well and ready for a little bit of word history from Richard Lederer, our local verbivore, author, and columnist. Thanks to Ron F. for saving these articles and sharing them with us! You know me, I love digging into the etymologies of words. This article, Growing Your Vocabulary by Digging Down to the Roots, is a nice demonstration of how knowing the roots of words can help you learn new terms. Let me turn it over to Mr. Lederer:

Words and people have a lot in common. Like people, words are born, grow up, get married, have children and even die. And, like people, words come in families — big and beautiful families. A word family is a cluster of words that are related because they contain the same root. A root is a basic building block of language from which a variety of related words are formed. You can grow your vocabulary by digging down to the roots of an unfamiliar word and identifying the meanings of those roots.

For example, knowing that the roots scribe and script mean “write” will help you to deduce the meanings of a prolific clan of words, including ascribe, conscript, describe, inscribe, manuscript, nondescript, postscript, prescribe, proscribe, scribble, scripture and transcribe. For another example, once you know that dic and dict are roots that mean “speak or say,” you possess a key that unlocks the meanings of dozens of related words, including abdicate, benediction, contradict, dedicate, dictator, Dictaphone, dictionary, dictum, edict, indicate, indict, interdict, jurisdiction, malediction, predict, syndicate, valedictorian, verdict, vindicate and vindictive. [KC – For the full article, click the link above.]

You can expand your verbal powers by learning to look an unfamiliar word squarely in the eye and asking, “What are the roots in the word, and what do they mean?”

Here are 20 word parts descended from either Latin or Greek, each followed by three words containing each root. From the meanings of the clue words, deduce the meaning of each root, as in PHON – microphone, phonics, telephone = sound.

[KC – This is a great exercise to help you learn some important roots. The answers are at the bottom.]

1. AUTO – autobiography, autograph, automaton = _______

2. CHRON – chronic, chronology, synchronize = _______

3. CULP – culpable, culprit, exculpate = _______

4. EU – eugenics, eulogy, euphemism = _______

5. GREG – congregation, gregarious, segregate = _______

6. LOQU – eloquent, loquacious, soliloquy = _______

7. MAGN – magnanimous, magnify, magnitude = _______

8. NOV – innovation, novelty, renovate = _______

9. OMNI – omnipotent, omniscient, omnivorous = _______

10. PHIL – bibliophile, philanthropy, philology = _______

11. SOL – isolate, soliloquy, solitary = _______

12. SOPH – philosopher, sophistication, sophomore = _______

13. TELE – telegraph, telephone, television = _______

14. TEN – tenacious, tenure, untenable = _______

15. TRACT – extract, intractable, tractor = _______

16. VAC – evacuate, vacation, vacuum = _______

17. VERT – convert, introvert, vertigo = _______

18. VIV – survivor, vivacious, vivid = _______

19. VOC – invoke, vocal, vociferous = _______

20. VOL – malevolent, volition, voluntary = _______



1. AUTO = self

2. CHRON = time

3. CULP = blame

4. EU = good

5. GREG = kind, species

6. LOQU = speak

7. MAGN = large

8. NOV = new

9. OMNI = all

10. PHIL = love

11. SOL = alone

12. SOPH = wise, wisdom

13. TELE = far away

14. TEN = hold

15. TRACT = pull

16. VAC = empty

17. VERT = turn

18. VIV = life, lively

19. VOC = call, voice

20. VOL = wish

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her

Technical Editor, Advisory

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