Practice Words from Greek and Latin Roots

Most English academic (and test) vocabulary has Greek and Latin roots. If you can recognize a fairly small number of those roots and the English words made from them, you will have a great advantage in both reading and taking tests in English.

Greek and Latin Roots in

3 arches of an old Roman aquaduct.
3 arches of an old Roman aquaduct.

There are explanations and practice for over 80 Latin and over 20 Greek roots on various pages in If you are looking for the English words that come from a specific Latin or Greek root, check the Greek and Latin Root Words index page. It will tell you which pages have more information or practice for that root. It also gives hints on how to remove prefixes and suffixes from an unknown English word to see if you can recognize its root.

The practice on this page involves words from just two other pages besides the words explained below. This page continues the discussion of Greek and Latin roots in Vocabulary from Classical Roots, as well as providing a gap-fill exercise to practice the words from both pages. You can try the exercise first, or read the explanations below and those on the classical roots page before you test yourself. 

The classical roots page discusses the meanings of words like analogy, analysis, ideology, philosopher, and theory that come from Greek roots. Greek Roots gives many more words including scope and thesis.

Vocabulary from Classical Roots also talks about a number of words from Latin roots: ambiguous, assume, consume, presume, classical, dominate/dominion, military and civilian, norm, abnormal, enormous, and successor/successive.

I moved the rest of the Latin-root vocabulary to this page (below) to keep the classical roots page from being impossibly long after adding a matching quiz.

More Vocabulary from Latin Roots

from sistere-- to stand

These four words and their derivatives (family members) are from sistere- to stand or stand still. Assistance is help-- someone ‘standing beside you.’ Consistent means to be the same every time-- reliable. Persistence is steadily continuing to do what needs doing. It means not giving up easily. To resist is stand up against something. We treat wood with preservatives so it will be resistant to decay and will last longer. Many people think chocolate is irresistible-- they cannot (don't want to) fight their desire for it.

from centrum-- center

Concentration (from com+ centrum-- center) can be an intense focusing of the mind on one thing. It also has a second meaning: a high density of something. (For example, many people believe there is an over-concentration of politicians in Washington, D.C.) We also speak of juice concentrates, which are denser because some of the water has been removed.

Other words derived from centrum are center, central, centralization and decentralization, concentric (two or more circles with a common center), geocentric (earth-centered) and eccentric. (These words are not on the Academic Word List, but are still worth learning.)  Center is a very common noun in English, but it can also be used as a verb meaning to put in the center: “You should center the title at the top of your essay.”

Someone who is eccentric is out of the center of things—odd or unusual in the way they think or do things, but not too far out or in a really negative way. We call someone’s funny habits  ‘eccentricities.’ If we dislike the person and don’t find their habits funny, we might call them ‘strange,’ ‘weird,’ or ‘abnormal,’ instead.

from mergere-- to dip in water 

To emerge is to rise or come out into the open. It comes from ex- out of + mergere- to dip in water (as in ‘immerse’- to cover with water) or to sink (like the English ‘submerge’). It’s used in expressions like “emerging from a recession.”

from physica-- study of nature

Physical comes from physica- the study of nature+al- related to or about. It is often used about things that can be seen or touched-- material things-- as compared to mental or spiritual things.

from rationalis-- reason

We use rational to talk about something that’s reasonable and sensible-- close to the original Latin rationalis- related to reason. A rationalization, on the other hand, is an excuse we make that we hope will appear reasonable.

Gap-fill: Some Greek Roots of Western Thought

Use these words (all from Greek or Latin roots) to fill in the gaps or blanks of this essay:

ambiguous, concentrate, consistently, domination, dominion, emergence, ideologies, norms, philosophy, physical, persistent, rational, scope, theoretical, theory, theses (plural of thesis). 

It’s interesting that the most (long-lasting-- not to mention different) western all have some roots in Greek and language. Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation by posting 95 that he claimed showed major errors in the Catholic doctrine of the time.

Humanist and Enlightenment philosophers believed in the or reign of Reason (with a capital R because it was almost a goddess to them) to set the that should govern human life. They believed that being logical and would eliminate most of the problems and injustices of society.

The German philosopher Hegel analyzed and developed many ideas with roots in Greek philosophy. (Some of his ideas are hard to understand and -- the subject of debate among scholars and the origin of several contradictory schools of philosophy.) Hegel proposed a of history in which a major trend, event, or approach to life (a thesis), would have internal contradictions that would lead to the of its antithesis-- an opposite trend or idea. He believed that eventually thesis and antithesis would merge into a more-inclusive synthesis.

This “dialectic” became the basis of the Marxist view of history. Whereas Christianity taught that history was God working out His will in the world and the humanists believed Reason would prevail, the Marxists claimed impersonal and economic forces moved men through the stages of civilization. Capitalism would be one of the last stages, ending in an attempt by those with capital (lots of money) to even more of it in their hands. However, their efforts would backfire, because the of their ambition would make the masses of men so poor and desperate that they would finally rebel and overthrow the of the capitalists. This would lead to the establishment of socialism and finally (Marx taught) a communist utopia.

For meanings of the words tested here that are not explained above, see Greek Roots, Vocabulary from Classical Roots, and A Classical Roots Crossword and its Answers.

(You can also right-click here to download the pdf quiz version of the gap-fill exercise, as well as the opposites matching exercise from the classical roots page.)

If you're interested in teaching roots, check out the inexpensive lessons and practice activities on Root, Prefix, and Suffix Worksheets.

HomeRoots, Prefixes, and Suffixes> Words from Greek and Latin Roots.

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