Remember Your Roots

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Latin & Greek Roots in Modern English

Test Prep Guru, Craig Ryan is at it again with tips that are sure to help students studying for the GMAT, GRE, and SAT exam, define unfamiliar words found in the verbal section of each exam.

Many modern English words contain Latin and Greek roots, he explains. 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, particularly in the sentence correction and reading comprehension sections. 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 Word 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.

Root Meaning Example
belli war rebellion, bellicose
biblio book bible, bibliography
bio life biology
cis cut incision, precision
cosm order cosmos, microcosm
cycl circle cycle, cyclone
di, dic two divert, dichotomy
dict word dictate
duc, duct carry, lead conduct, conducive
fac, fact do, make facimile, manufacture
fect do, make perfect
form shape uniform, reform
fort strong fortify
geo earth geography
gram, graph write telegram, autograph
homo same homophone
log, logy speech, study of dialog analogy
man, manu hand manage, manual
mater, matri mother, home matriarch, maternity
medi middle median, mediocre
miss, mit send missive, transmit
multi many multiply
nom, nym name nominate, synonym
pater, patri father paternal, patriarch
pathy feeling, suffering sympathy
ped foot pedal, pedestrian
port carry transport, portable
scend climb ascend, descend
script written language postcript
secut follow consecutive, nonsequitur
sent feel sentient, consent
sequ follow sequence, subsequently
tact touch contact
tempor time contemporary
tract pull, draw out tractor, attractive
trans across, move transit, transient
vene assemble, meet convene
vent come, go advent
vers turn reverse, versatile
vert turn covert
voc, vok voice, call vocal, revoke
vox vox populi ‘voice of the people’
volu turn, roll revolution
volve turn, roll devolve


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