The following is a list of useful etymological roots and their meanings. Below it, you’ll find a few words with interesting or unusual origins.
|anthro||human||anthropology, misanthropy, anthropomorphize|
|bene||good, well||benefactor, beneficial|
|cred||believe||credence, incredible, credulous|
|dem||people||epidemic, democracy, demagogue|
|dys||bad, ill, abnormal||dystopia|
|fid||faith||fidelity, fiduciary, infidel|
|gram||drawing||diagram, epigram, telegram|
|graph||to write||geography, demographics, biography|
|itis||inflammation||bronchitis, dermatitis, hepatitis|
|mal||bad, ill, wrong||malignant, malcontent, malicious|
|meta||change, beyond||metabolism, metamorphosis, metaphor|
|mono||one||monopoly, monoxide, monoculture|
|morph||form, shape||anthropomorphic, morphology, amorphous|
|ology||study of||biology, geology|
|osis||state, condition, process||hypnosis, diagnosis, symbiosis|
|somnus, sopor||sleep||insomnia, soporific|
|syn, sym||together, with||synthesis, symbiosis, synonym, syntax|
|ver, veri||truth||verify, veracity|
|vince, vic||conquer||convince, invincible|
|vita, vivere||life||vital, vivid|
Interesting word origins
The term, bootleg, originally referred to the practice of selling illicit liquor from a flask concealed in a boot leg. It came into much wider usage during Prohibition.
The word electron comes from the Greek word elektron, meaning “amber.” It was first used by English physicist William Gilbert to refer to amber’s attractive properties. Electricity has the same word origin.
The Luddites were a group of textile workers in the 19th century, led by Ned Ludd. They destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest, fearing that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste as machines replaced their role in the industry. Although it’s a misconception that they were protesting the machinery itself, the term “Luddite” came to refer to the opposition to technology in general.
Serendipity was invented by writer and politician Horace Walpole in 1754. The word Serendip is an old name for Sri Lanka. Walpole wrote a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip, in which the protagonists “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”