Study these 50+ Latin Word Roots
to Multiply your English Word Power!
The most common, everyday words in English have Germanic word roots
(from the Anglo-Saxon that became Old English). However, the vast
majority of words in an English dictionary, and the words used most
heavily in academic writing, have Latin (or sometimes Greek) roots,
though many came into English via Old French.
Knowing the most common prefixes, suffixes, and Latin word roots, can
enable you to recognize or at least guess at thousands of these
academic or literary words.
This will help you do well on tests, in
college courses, and in business. You will also find English reading
more enjoyable. It’s a fascinating study!
The list below includes 50 Latin word roots, each with a few
examples of the English words made from it.
Look at the prefixes and
suffixes attached to each word root, and see if you can guess the
A number of negative forms have also been included. If no negative is given, almost any other adjective can be made negative with 'un-.' (For a detailed explanation and more examples, see Negative Prefix List.)
The list begins with a demonstration of how prefixes can be added to a root to change the meaning, using the root 'mittere,' since it takes so many prefixes..
If you already understand prefixes fairly well, and would like to go straight to the 50+ word list, click here .
To demonstrate, these words are from
the Latin verb mittere- ‘to send:’
- missile, n. (noun)- a weapon (often a rocket) sent through the air
mission, n.- the task one is sent to complete
(or a church building used by missionaries)
- missionary, n.- someone sent by a church to a foreign land
More words from mittere plus prefixes:
ad-: ‘to’ or ‘toward’ + mittere-- send to
(This is mostly used now for sending a message of acceptance):
- admissible, adj.-- something or someone that can be accepted. (The negative is inadmissible.)
admission, n.-- acceptance into a school, organization, or program (OR acceptance of blame)
- admit, v.-- to allow into a group (OR to agree something is true: “He admitted he had made a mistake.”)
- admittance, n.-- acceptance into a program
com-: ‘with’ or ‘together’ + mittere-- send with, send together:
- commission, n.-- an official group created for a specific mission
or task, (or payment to a salesperson of a part of the sale price)
- commission, v.-- to send someone to complete a task. (When it is finished he or she may be 'decommissioned.')
- commit, v. -- to promise or firmly agree to do something
- committed, adj.-- having sent a message that you will work with someone or do something
- commitment, n.-- a promise
dis-: not, apart + mittere-- send apart:
- dismiss, v.-- to send away
ex-, e-: out + mittere-- send out:
emission, n.- something (often energy, gases or sound) sent out
- emit, v.-- to send out
ob-, o-: ‘against’ or ‘over’ + mittere-- overlook or not do or send:
- omission, n.-- something that has not been done that should have been
- omit, v.-- to leave something out
per-: ‘through’ + mittere-- send through, allow
permit, v.-- to allow or n.-- an official paper stating that something is allowed (O.K. to do). A second noun is permission (adj. permissible or negative: impermissible.)
pro-: ‘before’ + mittere-- to send or say before:
- promise, n.(or v.) -- (to make) a statement that in the future something will definitely be done
re-: ‘back’ + mittere-- send back:
remit, v.-- to send something back
- remission, n.-- something that is returned (or forgiven)
sub-: under + mittere-- to send under:
- submission, n.-- yielding to another's will
- submit, v.-- to put one’s own will or plans under the will of another person (to accept their authority)
trans-: across or through + mittere-- to send through or across:
- transmit, v.-- to send a message a long way
- transmitter, n.-- a machine that sends electrical signals across distances.
- transmission, n.-- long-distance sending
Practice finding some of these words in a word search puzzle. (Answers are here.)
English Words from Other Latin Roots
Now use your knowledge of prefixes and suffixes to help you understand the English examples given after each of these Latin word roots. (Maybe you can even think of others.)
A - D
- actum-- an act, agere-- to do or to act.
Examples of English words from these related word roots: act, activity,
counteract, deactivate, inactive, interaction, reaction, transaction. (To learn more about how words are made from act, see Word Families.)
- aequaere-- to make even or level,aequus-- equal: equality, equation, equator,
equilibrium, equate, equinox, equity. (Negatives: disequilibrium, inequality, inequitable, unequal.)
- caedere-- to cut (often -cis) or kill (-cide): concise, decisive, homicide, imprecise, incision, indecisive, precise.
- clamare-- to shout: acclaim, clamor, exclamation, proclaim, reclaim.
- claudere-- to
shut or close: conclusion, exclude, inclusive, inconclusive, occlude (to close off a passage
like an artery), preclude. reclusive, secluded.
- clinare-- to lean: decline, disinclination, inclination, recline.
- crescere-- to grow: crescendo, decrease, increase, increasingly.
- currere- to run: concurrent, courier, currently,
cursive, cursor, cursory, incur, occur.
- dicere-- to say: addictive, contradict,
dictate, dictator, diction, predict, unpredictable, verdict
- durare- to harden or to last; durus-- hard: arduous, durable, endurance, unendurable.
F - G
- facere-- to make, factus, made (often becoming fectus when joined with a prefix. Facere also becomes the suffixes -ify, -ificial, & -ification in English): affect, artificial,
classification, codify, diversify, edification, effect, efficiently,
factor, factory, identify, infect (make someone sick), justification,
perfect, proficient, simplify, specific, superficial, verify. Negatives: disaffected (affected negatively), unaffected (not affected at all), declassify, defective, unedifying, ineffective, inefficient, unidentified, unjustified, imperfection, unspecific, unverified.
- ferre-- to bring/carry: conference (bring together), defer, differentiate, inferred, refer, transfer.
- finis-- limit or end: confine, definite, definition, final, finite, finish, infinity.
- firmare-- to make firm: affirm, confirmed, confirmation, firmly, infirm.
- flare-- to blow: conflation, deflate, inflation.
to strike (hit someone): afflict,
affliction, conflict, inflict.
- fluere-- to flow: affluent, confluent, effluent, fluency, flux, influential, influx, reflux.
- formare- to form: conformity, deform, formalize, format, formation, inform, nonconformity, reformer, transform, unformatted, unformed, unreformed.
- fundere-- to pour or melt: confusing, diffuse, fuse, fusion, infuse, profuse, refusal, transfusion.
- gradi-- to step; gradus-- a step: aggression (neg: nonaggression and nonaggressive OR unaggressive), biodegradable, congress, degradation, degree, digression, grade, graduation, progress, regressive, retrograde, transgression, unprogressive.
- gregare-- to herd (form groups): aggregate, congregation, desegregation, gregarious, segregation.
H - L
- haerere-- to attach or stick: adhere, adhesive, cohesion, incoherent, inherent.
- integrare-- to make whole: disintegrate, integer, integral, integration, integrity.
- jactare-- to throw: conjecture (an idea thrown out to see the response), dejected, eject, inject, objective, project, projector (machine that throws a picture forward), rejected, subject to, trajectory.
- jungere- to join together: adjoining, conjoined, conjunction, disjointed, joint, junction.
- laborare- to work: collaborate, elaborately, labor, laborer, laborious.
- legis, lex-- law: illegal, illegitimate, legal, legality, legislation, legislature, legitimate.
- locus-- place: allocate, collocation, local, locate, location, relocation.
M - P
- mandare-- to order or command: commandment, demand , mandate, mandatory
- manus-- hand: manipulate, manual, manufacture, manuscript
- pes, pedis- foot: biped, centipede, expedition, impede,
impediment, pedal, pedestrian
- plicare-- to fold: complicated, duplicate, duplicity, explicit, implication, implicit, implies, multiply, uncomplicated.
- portare-- to carry: deport, deportment, exports, important, portable, report, support, transportation. (neg: unimportant, nonportable, unreported, unsupported)
R - S
- rectus-- right, regere- to lead straight or to rule: correct, correction, deregulation, direct, erect, incorrect, irregular, rectangle, rectify, regular, regulate, unregulated.
- rumpere, ruptus-- to break, broken: abrupt, corruption, disruptive, erupt, incorruptible, interrupt, rupture, uncorrupted, uninterrupted.
- scribere-- to write: ascribe, circumscribe, description, inscribe, manuscript, postscript, scribe, scripture
- securus-- safe: assure, assurance, ensure, insecure, insurance, reassure, security, sure.
- sequi-- to follow: consecutive, consequences, inconsequential, sequel, sequence, subsequently.
- servare-- to keep or protect: conservation, observe, preservation, reserve, reservoir.
- signare-- to mark or make a sign: assign, design, designate, insignia, insignificant, resign, sign, signal, signature, significant, unassigned, undesignated.
- sistere-- to place or take a stand: consistent, existence, insist, persistent, resist, resistance.
- solvere-- to loosen or dissolve: absolve, dissolution, resolve, resolution, soluble, solve. (Negatives include: insoluble, unresolved, unsolved.)
- spirare-- to breathe: aspiring, conspire, expired, inspiration, perspire, respiration, transpire, unexpired, uninspiring.
- statuere-- to put or set: constitutional,
institute, institutionalize, restitution, substitute.
to build: construction, destructive, instructions, obstruct, reconstruct,
T - V
- terminus-- end, boundary: determine, exterminate, terminal, terminate, terminology.
- testari-- to bear witness: attest (to), contest, testify, testament, uncontested.
- torquere-- to twist: contort, distort, extortion, retort, torque, torsion, torture, undistorted
- tribuere--to pay or divide among: attribute, contribution, distribute, retribution, tribute, tributary, unattributed.
- turbare--to trouble or cause disorder: disturb, disturbance, perturbed, turbid, turbulence.
- volvere-- to roll or turn around: convoluted, evolution, involved, revolve, revolutionary
Practice some of the English words from these roots at Match These Words from Latin Roots and 50 Latin Word Roots Practice. (This is a gap-fill practice after some explanation for a few words that might be hard to understand to understand from just the root: precise, differentiate, infer, objective, project, attributed, and several other words.)
There are more Latin word roots, as well as more explanations and
- Important Latin Roots (for cedere, ducere, quaerere, tenere, venire, vertere, vocare, and the English words made from them)
- English Words from 6 Latin Verbs of Motion (flectere, tendere, movere, pellere/pulsum, pressare, and trahere, for words like flexible, reflect, extend, tension, move, motion, motivate, compelling, impulsive, compress, depression, attractive and retract) and
- English Words from the Latin Root Ponere .
To keep this list from being too long, I skipped many common roots you might already know. See if you can think of any words from the Latin root bases lun- (moon), manu- (hand), sol- (sun), stella- (star). There are also many common words from Greek roots.
You can review words from 10 of these roots with a fairly easy word search puzzle. (Check its answers here.)
For more on prefixes, see List of Prefixes or Negative Prefixes. List of Suffixes explains the most common ways words change to show new parts of speech (to fit in different places in the sentence. (For example, ""Do not make a commitment to someone unless you are really committed to doing what you promise to do.")
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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