Greek Roots

Many Greek roots have entered English, both directly (especially in medical and scientific vocabulary) and by way of Latin. Recognizing a few of their common bases (combined with a few prefixes) will increase your reading comprehension. Besides, they’re fun!

A large percentage of English words for math, sciences and social sciences (as well as music and other performance arts) come originally from Greek.

There's a list of some very common Greek roots below, followed by more individual words with Greek origins,

Common Greek Roots for English Words

Picture of the Parthenon in Greece, with text: From demographics to sympathy and telescopes to chronology, a lot of English words have come from Greek. How many can you recognize? Try our quiz!

Here’s a list of some of the most common Greek roots, in their usual combining form. (Most end in ‘o.’ You just drop the ‘o’ if the following syllable begins in a vowel.) 

  • anthropo- man, human: anthropology, anthropomorphic, philanthropy
  • bio- life: antibiotic, biology, biosphere, probiotic, symbiosis
  •  chrono- time: chronic, chronology, chronometer
  •  cris, crit- judge or decide: crisis, criteria (standards to use to judge something), critical, hypocrisy
  •  geo- earth: geologist, geometry,  geographic
  •  graph (from graphein- to write or draw, & graphia- a description of): calligraphy, demographic, digraph, graph, (a chart showing information in the form of a picture), graphic, photograph
  • hydro- water: dehydrate, hydraulic, hydroelectric, hydrogen, hydrophobia, hydrothermal
  •  logo- (often logy- study of, from logia- a speaking about, logos- word or thought): biological, cardiology, dermatologist, ecology, ideology, logic, mythology, psychological, theological
  • lexis- word: lexical, lexicography (dictionary writing)
  •  metron- measure: metric, speedometer, thermometer
  •  morpho- form or shape: metamorphosis,  morphology
  • patho- feelingsuffering, disease: antipathy, apathetic, empathy, pathogen, pathological, sympathetic
  •  philo- love (of): philanthropy, philosophical, technophile
  •  phobia- fear: agoraphobia, hydrophobia, technophobia
  • phone- sound: phonics, phonological, phonograph, symphony, telephone
  •  photo- light: photography, photosynthesis
  •  polis- city: metropolis, policy, political, politician
  •  psych- (via Latin)-soul, mind: psychiatrist, psychic, psychology
  •  scope- to look at: microscopic, scope (now the breadth and size of a project or vision, enough space to work), stethoscope, telescope
  •  sphere- ball: atmosphere, hemisphere, sphere, spherical
  •  techno- art, skill: technique, technology

  •  tele- far: telegram, telegraph, telephoto, telescope
  •  thermo- hot: thermal, thermodynamic, thermostat
  • thesis (plural theses) - a proposition (idea proposed for debate): antithesis, hypothesis, synthesis, thesis

More English Words from Greek Roots

Here are some more English words and their relatives that came from Greek (often via Latin):

  • anatomy
  • character
  • chorus (& choir)
  • climate
  • climax
  • cone
  • cube
  • economics
  • harmony
  • melody
  • orchestra
  • physiology
  • surgery
  • theater
  • theme
  • theory

Practice with Greek Roots

Two Greek suffixes and a few prefixes that you might need:

  • -ic, -al = pertaining to, related to;
  • a- = without, 
  • anti- = against, 
  • hemi- = half, 
  • hypo- = under, 
  • sym- or syn- = with

InstructionsChoose the best answer to each question, then press the right arrow to move to the next question.


Practice these Greek roots more with the Greek and Latin Roots Quiz.

Related Root & Prefix Pages

Greek & Latin Prefixes: a list of Latin & Greek prefixes arranged by English meanings with a picture of a Greek temple & the start of the list of prefixes: meanings, Latin, & Greek prefixes.

This is a useful list of the English meanings and then the Latin prefixes and Greek prefixes that mean the same thing.

A spreading oak tree with extensive roots in a circle design

Find the pages to study or practice over 100 root words on EnglishHints. This reference table gives meanings, examples, & links.

tree with fall leaves & text: These 50+ Word Roots Can Help You Learn over 370 English Words (just on this page)

You know words made from these roots. Learn the Latin word roots themselves for a big boost in vocabulary!

See also Medical Prefixes, Medical Suffixes, (both almost all from Greek) & Medical Vocabulary.

Still want more? For stories about unexpected words that come from Greek (as well as some from above), see this article from Babble.

HomeRoots, Prefixes, and Suffixes> Greek Roots.

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