Lutz / Snyder The Root of the English Language – Greek and Latin

Lutz / Snyder
The Root of the English Language
– Greek and Latin Roots –
Semantic Units
Word roots are “semantic units,” or parts of a word that carry meaning.
Words that contain the same root also share meaning, and these related words are called
E.g. motor, motorcycle, locomotive, motion, commotion, promoted, remote, etc.
Placing roots together can form new, more specific and more complex words from the simple
roots, sort of like making compound words: football, bedroom, birthday
fingernail, storybook
Bases are the main portion of a word – the central semantic meaning (volv = to roll)
Prefixes occur before the base and either add a direction, a negation, or an intensity
E.g.: re (back, again) + volv (to roll) = revolve (to roll back)
un (not) + wrap = not wrapped, or to take the wrapped quality away
Suffixes occur after the base and note the part of speech (noun, adjective, verb, etc.)
E.g.: respect + ful (full of - adjective) = respectful (full of respect)
re (back again) + volute (to roll or turn) + ion (result of making) = revolution (result of
rolling or turning back again)
Flexing and Assimilation:
To understand word meaning through semantic units, use “flexing,” or simply staying flexible
regarding meaning.
Always start with the base (the central, core meaning) when figuring out meaning.
Don’t let spelling modifications confuse you. These changes are called “assimilation,” and they
are to make words easier to say when combining semantic units.
Often Greek bases will add an o at the end, as in cardi (heart) + o + gram (draw) = ___________
In full assimilation, the final n- of a prefix changes to the same first consonant letter of the base.
E.g.: con + lect = col + lect (collect)
con + motion = commotion
in + legible = illegible
in + migrant = immigrant
Lutz / Snyder
In partial assimilation, the n- changes to an –m if the base begins with –b or –p.
E.g.: con + bine = combine
in + possible = impossible
Other full assimilation prefixes are as follow:
ad- (drops the d and changes to the first consonant letter of the base)
ad + celebrate = accelerate
ad + gravate = aggravate
ad + pendix = appendix
ad + tract = attract
Note: a-, ab-, and abs- NEVER assimilate. Only ad- does.
dis- / di- assimilate to dif- when the base begins with an f.
E.g.: dis + fuse = diffuse
di + ferent = different
ob- changes to the first consonant of the base when doing so would make it easier to pronounce.
E.g.: ob + struction = obstruction (no change)
ob + pression = oppression (slightly easier to say)
sub- assimilates by dropping the b and adding the first consonant of the base
E.g.: sub + pose = suppose
sub + cess = success
Understanding Assimilation
[These are easy enough to pronounce, so no assimilation is necessary!]
Partial assimilation:
inpossible = __________________
inportant =
conbine =
conplicate = __________________
conpose =
inlegal =
Lutz / Snyder
Full assimilation:
inlegal =
inresponsible =
conloquial =
conrect =
Flexing with multiple prefixes
Almost always, these will be “negative” or “repetition” of a word that you recognize already.
E.g.: “reconstruction”
First, identify and remove the first prefix – reNext, try to identify the remaining word – construction
Finally, add back in the meaning of the first prefix
Flexing figuratively
Sometimes words contain meaning derived from a different level, something less restricted by
the literal meanings of the roots combined.
vid- / vis- means “to see”
super (over) + visor = over + see-er / someone who oversees another’s work
pro (forward / ahead) + vide = seeing ahead / looking forward and getting what we need
We do this more often than we might think. Sort the list below into literal seeing or figurative
Literal seeing
Figurative seeing
Do you see my point?
Do you see the rainbow?
See to it that the chores are completed.
See the pretty picture.
Now I see what you mean.
Now I see a storm cloud.
How about this:
volute = to roll / to turn
Revolution in science class might mean how a planet “rolls or turns” around the sun.
But in history class, revolution might mean events that upset things and cause a political roll or
turning around.
And in English class, we might read a selection from a volume, a word which makes reference to
ancient printing on rolls of papyrus.
Lutz / Snyder
Or this:
cur(r) / curs / cour(s) mean “to run”
cursive script: _________________________________
computer cursor:_______________________________
a river current: _________________________________
current events:_________________________________
cash currency: _________________________________
incurring debt:_________________________________
going on an excursion:___________________________
concur: (think “run together with”)_________________
military incursion of another country:_______________