GRE Vocabulary - Latin & Greek Roots in Modern English

Let us explore a faster way to define unfamiliar words found in the verbal section of the GRE exam.

Many modern English words contain Latin and Greek roots. These roots contain the basic meaning of words, and occur repeatedly throughout the language. Knowing these roots will help you determine the meaning of unfamiliar words, at least on a very basic level. As you'll see, this partial understanding may prove to be all we need to know to select the correct answer.

Below is a list of common roots and their general meanings. Learning these roots will help you recognize the basic meaning of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of English words.

Warning: Learning hundreds of new words would not be the best use of your time. However, learning to recognize these roots when you see them is nearly as powerful, and requires much, much less effort.

Digging Up Roots

Let's look at the word manufacture. Manufacture is a combination of two word roots, manu and fact. Using the list of roots, you can see that manu means 'hand' and fact means 'make' or 'do.' Therefore, you can infer the meaning 'make by hand.'

Let's look at another example, biography. Again, using the list of roots, you see that bio means "life" and graph means "write". Therefore, you can conclude that the word biography relates to the "writing of a life" or the written story of a person's life.

belliwarrebellion, bellicose
bibliobookBible, bibliography
ciscutincision, precision
cosmordercosmos, microcosm 
cyclcirclecycle, cyclone
di, dictwodivert, dichotomy
duc, ductcarry, leadconduct, conducive
fac, factdo, makefacsimile, manufacture
fectdo, makeperfect
formshapeuniform, reform
gram, graphwritetelegram, autograph
log, logyspeech, study of dialoganalogy
man, manuhandmanage, manual  
mater, matrimother, homematriarch, maternity
medimiddlemedian, mediocre
miss, mitsendmissive, transmit
nom, nymnamenominate, synonym  
pater, patrifatherpaternal, patriarch
pathyfeeling, sufferingsympathy
pedfootpedal, pedestrian
portcarrytransport, portable
scendclimbascend, descend
scriptwritten languagepostscript
secutfollowconsecutive, non sequitur
sentfeelsentient, consent
sequfollowsequence, subsequently
tractpull, draw outtractor, attractive
transacross, movetransit, transient
veneassemble, meetconvene
ventcome, goadvent  
versturnreverse, versatile
voc, vokvoice, callvocal, revoke
voxvox populi'voice of the people'
voluturn, rollrevolution
volveturn, rolldevolve