Words from 6 Latin Verbs of Motion
Learn the bases of these Latin verbs of motion to make it
easy to recognize and remember over 100 useful English words. Think
· flect or flex= bend: flexible, reflection (bending light back),
· tend= stretch: extend and extensive, intense, tension, tendency
· mov, mob, or mot= move: motion, mobile or immobilize, motivate, emotion, demote, promote, remote, removed
· pel or pulse= drive/driven: compelling or compulsive, impel or impulsive, expel, propel, repel
· press= push: express, expression, & expressive, repress, impress, depress, pressure
· tract= pull: attraction, extract, retract, traction, tractor
See each word below for more examples and explanations.
Then try the matching exercise to see how many words you can recognize and
match to their meanings.
Flectere (-flect/flex)-- to bend:
- Bending our arms or legs causes us to flex our muscles.
- Lots of movement and exercise helps keep us flexible—able to move freely.
- Soldiers in the Greek and Roman armies used shields to deflect arrows or other weapons—to bend their course away from the body.
means a change in tone when speaking, or (as a grammatical term) a change in
the form or meaning of a word as affixes are added: deflect, flexible, and
reflex (as well as the other words below) are all inflections of ‘flex.
- Reflections are
caused by light being deflected or bent back from a very smooth surface like
calm water or a mirror. To reflect is
to reproduce that image, or to quietly think over what has happened. (“As he
reflected on the events of the last year, he realized his attitudes had changed
- A reflex is an automatic muscle response like jerking our hand away from a hot stove before we even feel the pain. A doctor tests reflexes by hitting a point just above the knee. If the lower leg jerks up, your reflexes are good.
Other inflections of flectere:
flexibility, flexion, inflect, inflected, inflexible, inflexibility, reflect,
Movere- to move; (past participle: motivus), mobilis- moveable:
- Motion is movement.
- We often say something ‘moves’ us when it touches our heart (affects our emotions.)
- Something that ‘motivates’
us makes us want to do something-- moves us to action.
- Commotion is a
lot of movement with noise and confusion.
- To demote someone
is to move him down in rank; the opposite of ‘promote.’
- To mobilize an
army is to prepare it to move.
- When someone breaks a leg, the doctors immobilize it to help it heal.
- A remote location
is far removedfrom city life and business.
of movere: demobilize, demotion, emotional,
immobile, immobility, mobility, mobilize, motive, moving, promotion, and remove.)
Pellere- to drive; pulsum- driven:
- To compel someone
is to drive him or her to action.
- To expel is to
drive out. For example, in the U.S. a student who brings a gun to school will
probably be expelled from the school (cannot attend classes there ever again.)
- An impulse is
an urge (within one’s own mind) to do something. Compulsion is similar, but stronger. An impulsive person is inclined to act on impulses rather than
thinking things through.
- Propellers are the turning blades that move a
boat or airplane forward.
- Your pulse is
the throbbing rhythm you can feel by pressing a spot over an artery (for
example, just below your wrist.) A doctor or nurse will “take your pulse” to
learn your pulse rate—the number of heart beats per minute. (Each beat causes
the pressure increase you feel in your wrist.)
- To repel is to
drive something away. Insect repellant
is repulsive to insects like
mosquitoes—they don’t want to be around it, so you won’t get bitten (as much!)
More words from pellere:
compelling, compulsive, compulsively, expulsion, impel, impulsively,
propel, jet propulsion, pulsation.
Pressare- to Push Against or
- To compress is to press tightly together. Compression bandages press tightly
against a wound.
- A depression can
be a severe economic downturn OR feeling low (sometimes to the point of
emotional or mental illness) OR a low place.
- To express is to
clearly communicate one’s feelings (push them out toward others). As an
adjective, express means unusually
fast and direct (delivery, train, etc.)
- Something impressive
is noticeable or admirable: “You gave an impressive presentation, even though
you had very little time to prepare.”
- Oppression is
mistreatment or harsh rule over other people.
- To press is to
push something (or someone: “When they heard rumors of layoffs, they pressed
their secretive boss for more information.” In this case, they had to press
rather than just ask because the boss didn’t want to tell them anything.)
- To repress is
to hold back OR to restrict freedom by governmental action.
- To suppress is to
push something under (often to put down a rebellion.)
Other words from pressare:
compressible, depress, expression, expressive, impress, impression, oppress,
oppressive, pressure, repression, repressive, suppression.
- To attend is to
be present at a gathering or to go there consistently. In the U.S., children
attend school nine months of the year. Many professionals attend an annual
conference, and marketers and buyers often attend trade shows.
- Attention is
- To contend is to
struggle with or against someone or something.
- Distention is
being stretched out of shape. If a person eats way too much, their belly may be
so distended their clothes don’t fit.
- To extend is to
stretch out or lengthen. When people cannot finish a project on time, they
might ask for an extension. From a
mountain peak there is an extensive
- To intend to do
something is to plan and have a purpose to do it. If a person hurts someone’s
feelings unintentionally, it means
the hurt was not intended. In
American courts, accidental damage (even manslaughter- accidental killing) is
treated much less severely than intentional,
premeditated damage or murder.
- Intense means
very strong. Intense sunlight can
hurt your eyes; very intense emotions
can drain a person (leave him or her exhausted.)
- To intensify
something is to make it stronger or more intense. (The word comes from tendere + facere- to make.)
- intensive means
with great effort: Summer school classes are short but intensive, as students
must learn the same material in less time.
- To pretend
means to act like something or someone we are not: a possum pretends to be dead so predators will
not attack it.
- A tendency is an
inclination to a certain kind of behavior: “She had a tendency to scream when she was upset.”
- Tension is
tightness (of muscles or feelings.)
Other words that come from tendere: attentive, attentively, contention, contentious, distend,
extensively, extent, intensely, intensification, intensity, intensively,
intent, intention, intentional, intentionally, pretense, pretension,
pretentious, tend (to), tense, tensely.
(-tract)- to pull
- Abstract words
or thoughts are about ideas, things that cannot be touched, as compared to physical
things that can be seen or handled.
- To attract is
to draw or pull toward something or someone, as a moth is attracted to light. An attractive
person is good-looking.
- A contract is a
legally-binding business agreement. The verb to contract means to pull together or become smaller or tighter.
Muscles contract or tighten as they
- If some defect detracts
from the beauty of a building (for example), it takes away from its value
and makes it less desirable. “The dancer’s stumble detracted from an otherwise impressive performance.” A detractor is someone who criticizes or
finds fault with someone else’s work.
- To distract is
to take someone’s attention away from his purpose.
- To extract is
to pull out (as minerals are extracted from the earth.) An extract is a substance taken out of something else—most often a
medicinal drink made from an herbal (plant) base processed in alcohol.
- A protractor is
a tool for drawing circles. A protracted drought
is a long dry period. In Congress they have protracted
debates about controversial subjects—speeches and arguments that last way too
- When a person realizes he has said or written something
that is inaccurate or harmful, he should retract
it-- take back what was said and admit he was wrong.
- Subtraction is
removing part of something. The mathematical process involves taking away
numbers: 5-3=2. (“Five minus three equals two.”)
- Traction involves
pulling or resistance. Doctors put a patient with a broken leg in traction to pull his bones back into
- A tractor is a
machine that pulls things on a farm.
Other words from trahere:
attraction, contraction, distractible, distractibility, distraction,
extraction, retract, retractable, retraction, subtract.
Match These Words with Their Meanings
A majority of academic words in English-- and a large
number of common words as well-- have Latin roots. Seeing the connections
between roots and meanings can help you learn and remember them better. Want to
try a few more? See
Important Latin Roots (including venire- to come and cedere- to go),
The Latin Root Ponere (to put or set),
50 Word Roots from Latin (including ferre-to bring/ carry, gradi- to step, as in grade, gradual,
degrade, jactare- to throw, as in
eject, portare- also to carry, volvere-
to return: evolve, revolve, etc.)
Words from Classical Roots,
as well as List of Prefixes, Negative
Prefix List, and others linked to the Roots and Affixes page below.
If you're interested in teaching roots, check out the inexpensive lessons and practice activities on Root, Prefix, and Suffix Worksheets.
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from Latin Verbs of Motion
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