Latin & Greek Roots

ago    aster    audio    augeo    battuo    cado    caedo    capio    cauda    corpus    domus    gradior    Greek Roots    haereo     jacio     mordeo    pectus    pes    rumpo    sanus    Study Hints    taceo    torqueo    traho    vinco    voco

Ago, agere is an all-purpose verb, used in many common expressions in Latin, such as to 'give thanks'. It has a basic meaning of to move (ahead); set in motion, be active in doing something and perhaps making a change. It suggests pushing or thrusting forward, being motivated to do something,or doing what needs to be done, doing the business because it has to be done.  It also suggests busy-ness. English words derived from Latin ago come from the present tense and the past participle:

Present tense  Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I act)
(to act)
(I acted)

an agent -ent = one who
agency -cy = activity of; place of work
agenda -a = things (to be done)
agile adjective
agility -ity = state of (being); noun ending
agitate -ate = verbal ending
agitation -ion = state of (being)
an agitator -or = that which, one who
to cogitate Latin co, com = with; agito = agitate
cogitation co + agitare = move around
cogitative  adjective
agony noun
to agonize or agonise (two possible spellings)
to antagonize -ize or -ise = to make,become
an antagonist ant(i) = against; -ist = one who
antagonistic -ic = adjectival ending
antagonism -ism = noun ending = state of
protagonist Greek proto = first, leading
cogent, co- = with, together + agent = driving
cogency  Latin cogere = to compel
to coagulate -ate = make ago = drive  
coagulation co = together; -ion = process of

to navigate   navis = a ship  + agere = to drive
navigable  e.g. waters
a navigator
a navvy = type of labourer (abbreviation of navigator)

a pedagogue  Greek agogus = guide; paidos = of a child
pedagogy noun
a demagogue  Greek agogus = leading; demos = people
a synagogue  Greek sun = with, together
a prodigy Latin prod for pro = forth, in front of
prodigal  applies mainly to use of money
prodigious  -ious = full of
ambiguous  ambi = both ways
ambiguity   -ity = noun ending

an act = something done, a deed
to act
actor -or = one who
actress -ess = feminine ending
action -ion = process of
active -ive = adjectival ending
activity -ity = noun ending
to activate -ate = to make
actual  -al = adjectival ending
actually  -ly = adverbial ending
actuality, especially, 'in actuality'
to actuate  -ate = to make
an actuary  -ary = one who

exigent  adjective meaning urgent; ex = out of
exigency (also exigence) = a pressing need
to examine  ex = out of
an exam, examination
an examiner -er = one who (examines)
an examinee -ee = one who (is examined)
intransigent adjective in = not
intransigence trans = over, on one's side

a stratagem noun
strategy Greek stratos = army
strategic -ic =adjectival ending
a strategist  -ist = one who

agriculture Latin cultura =cultivation of + agri = fields
agricultural  -al = adjectival ending
agrarian  adjective, e.g. agrarian laws
acre = a measurement of land

to exact ex = out of
exact adjective

to redact re = back, again
redaction act = moved
to transact = do (business)
transaction trans = over, across, through

Remember to choose a word you know and look at words like it and any notes about it.   Then choose a word you don't know and see what you can find out about it.

The majority of words here seem to come from the present tense and the -e of the infinitive shows up in some words.   Agent, agency and agenda have this -e plus the -en ending of the present participle, the -ing word.  So an agent is one who is acting on behalf of another; he or she may be finding them property or work, and be motivated by a commission or payment.  

Agility, the ability to perform some action, is now used only of speed of movement, ability in climbing, or mental ability. Agitate comes from agitare, the frequentative of ago which suggests repeated motion. One can agitate water. Figuratively, one can agitate for reform, and when our feelings and ideas are stirred up, our agitation is mental. To cogitate has the idea of thinking things over as if thoughts are being slowly set in motion in the mind. It suggests we're moving (ideas) around with other ideas and thus pondering over them.

Through the Greek and Latin agon, meaning a contest or struggle, come English agony, angonistic, and agonize. Perhaps the basic meaning of these words is being driven by the desire to win and feel good as well as to be released from embarrassment or other painful feelings. Agony can suggest severe physical or mental pain while we agonise over what decision to make, or we give agonised looks. 

Add the prefix anti- or ant- meaning against before ago and we get antagonistic suggesting that we are moving against someone and perhaps their plans.    The protagonist in a performance or play is the first or leading character.

Cogent reasons have such a driving force that they may even lead or compel an opponent to agree with one. Quite different is coagulation, which is the process of pushing or driving (elements) together so as to turn a fluid into a thickened or semisolid (solidified) state - as one does in making gravy. Rennet is a substance used to help milk thicken and curdle.

Pedagogues were originally slaves, mostly Greek, who supervised and guided the sons of the Roman upper class.The word later came to mean a teacher so that pedagogy means instruction, even the science of teaching. A demagogue leads the people or a section of the people. He may stir up the masses with shrewd speeches. A synagogue is a term specific to the Jewish people.  It is literally a place where Jews are brought together for worship. I understand there must be ten men before a synagogue can be formed. Notice the - y which shows the word is of Greek origin and the -ag from Latin ago in the second syllable.

A child prodigy leads forth or in front of children of their own age in some aspect of knowledge or skill. Mozart was a child prodigy composing music at three years of age.   The parable of 'The Prodigal Son' (See St Luke's gospel, chapter 15:11-32),of the son who went off and wasted all his money, is well known. The word prodigal has the idea of casting all one's money before one, throwing it around, like a spendthrift so that there is nothing saved. This word relates mainly to money so has a fairly narrow application.    The adjective prodigious contains a similar idea but is wider in application.  When we make a prodigious effort, we thrust all our energy forward and into it; thus it becomes a very great effort indeed.   An ambiguous statement is capable of different meanings and so is unclear; it has a similar meaning to that of equivocal (See Vocabulary and voco in Latin Roots).

The words exigent, exigency and exigence suggest situations demanding urgent attention, such as when one has run out of money. The idea seems to be that one must act, even get cracking and do something in order to get oneself out of a desperate situation. Exigere in Latin also has the idea of weighing accurately or being exact.  These three words are not as common as words related to exam, which also comes originally from ex- and Latin ago, which gave rise to the noun exagimen, which then became examen, examinis, and eventually examine. Perhaps the motivation to pass exams gives us the thrust to bring forth out of us what we know. Surely that is the aim of exams, to bring out what the examinee knows and find out the true condition of their knowledge. 

Intransigence suggests being stubborn and uncompromising, of not acting on the side of or in agreement with another, but making a thrust against them. It apparently comes through Spanish, being the name of an extreme political party, los intransigentes, in Cortes,1873-74.

The words made up of stratos and agere are linked to leading an army or being an army leader.   In earlier days the general would probably plan the army's movements. Today strategists are no doubt employed to help with this task and their success may depend on how cunning their stratagems are.

It is thought that the root ago (act, drive, lead, do) lies behind the Greek and Latin words for a field (Greek = agros, Latin = ager, agris (plural).    The idea is that the earlier meaning was “a pasture and originally a hunting ground or wild area, untenanted and open...” (See Chambers Etymological Dictionary).   Maybe a hunting drive was once conducted through this area to kill wild animals for food, but when men began to farm they drove or led cattle on to their land or fields, and began to till or deal with the land so as to grow crops.  
Similarly with the words acre and acreage though the g of ago has changed into a c, possibly due to the influence of Old English aecer

Act and action, derived from the past participle, are used in many contexts, just as ago is in Latin. An act suggests something done while action has more the idea of how the action is done. However, they do overlap at times. The adjective actual means real and existing. One knows that what it is applied to has been done. However, both actual and actually are used to fill out speech and thus can be meaningless. To actuate has the idea of getting a machine or person going while an actuary is a clerk, usually in insurance, who works out rates and risks. In days when few people could read or write, everything that was done must have revolved round such a clerk. 

Redaction is specific to the publishing industry and refers to preparing a book for publication.  It is as if one goes back over the book again, moving back through it.   On the other hand, the word transaction has a wider application in the business world where deals are done.

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Greek aster = a constellation or star 

Ancient languages were mainly based on verbs, but sometimes the connection between the verb and the noun formed from it is lost and so it is easier to connect the English derivative with the Greek or Latin noun. This is the case with the Greek and Latin words for star. Aster is the Greek word for star and asteros means 'of a star'. (The Greek letters are transliterated into English to make it easier to read). The Latin equivalents for 'star' and 'of a star' are aster and astris. The genitive, which means of a star, is important because many English words come from it and it influences English spelling greatly.

The following words are connected with astronomy (the sun, moon, stars, planets, etc):

Latin aster = a star

aster = a flower (with star-shaped petals)
an asterisk * = a starlike sign used in printing
disaster  dis- = away from, against

an asteroid
astris = of a star

disastrous adjective -ous = full of
astronomy Greek nomos = law, study
astronomer -er = one who
astronomic, astronomical (adjectives)
astronaut Latin nauta = a sailor
astrology Latin logos = word, study
an astrologer -er = one who
astrological -al = adjectival ending
astrophysics Greek physis = nature
astral -al = adjectival ending

Long ago people believed the stars controlled their lives. If people went against them or tried to throw off their influence, it was thought some evil or disaster would befall them and their lives were said to be ill-starred. Astrology relates the stars to human beings and astrologers plot the position of the stars at the time of birth and suggest what influence this may have on a person's life. Astronomy, on the other hand, is the study of the stars, sun, and moon, to find out their size, composition, movement, etc. Asteroids are small stars or objects circling the sun. Astronauts sail among the stars and the adjective astral means connected with the stars. Some people talk of astral travel, travel done when out of their body, as in sleep perhaps.

In Latin there is another word for a star, which is stella.  It is probable that the Latin words aster and stella both come from the Greek verbs steridzo or stereo which mean to establish or set in a certain position or direction. The letter a on the beginning of a Greek noun means no, not, so the a of aster may suggest that some stars at least were not fixed in position.  On the other hand, the a may be a sign of the past tense so it may mean they were spread out across the sky. I understand that the letters r and l were vowels in ancient languages and also that they often change places so that -ster and stel- could easily come from the same root:
Latin stella = a star.  It gives us constellation: con = with, together  
So a constellation is a group of stars, like the Southern Cross.

Other words connected with the stars and astronomy are:
planet from Greek planeta = a wanderer.   It seems planets were originally seen as different from fixed stars as they could be seen moving around other stars.
planetary e.g. planetary influences     -ary = adjectival ending meaning related to.
  -ium = noun ending which can mean a place where
a meteor  Greek meta = with or changing position; eor = risen, on high, and so a falling or shooting star, or fire ball on the move
a meteorite  =  a fallen meteor     -ite = noun ending suggesting connected with
meteorology  Greek logos = studymeteoros  = on high, and so weather conditions
a meteorologist  -ist = one who
a meteorological report    -al  = adjectival ending  meaning connected with
meteoric  -ic = adjectival ending.   The adjectives meteoric, astronomic, and stellar are all used of people who rapidly rise to fame or stardom.
atmosphere  Greek atmos = vapour and sphaira or sphera = globe, ball, sphere
      The word refers to the gases round the earth and also to the condition of the air in a particular place, which might be stuffy, cold, or even tense.
atmospheric conditions are the business of meteorologists.
a comet  Greek kometes = long-haired, i.e. a star with light trailing after it like strands of hair.   The c in comet is hard and pronounced like a k.
galaxy  Greek galaktos = milk, i.e. a cluster of stars and, in particular, the Milky Way.  
      We also speak figuratively of a galaxy of beauties or talent.
galactic:  adjective meaning related to a galaxy or the galaxies.   The Greek galaktos also gives us words related to milk, like lactic acid, found in milk, and lactose,       which is milk sugar.   To lactate is to produce milk through mammary glands.

The English for sun and moon come from Old English, as does the word month, which is related to the word moon. The Latin for moon is luna and from it comes the adjective lunar, meaning related to the moon or crescent-shaped.  So we find
lunar months, cycles, quarters, phases.
      In the 14th century the idea developed that the moon affected people's mental states, and periods of insanity were blamed on phases of the moon. 
      This theory is largely discredited today, but we still speak of people being moonstruck, and the words lunacy and lunatic are still in the English language.
lunacy -acy = a noun ending
lunatic adjective and noun 
      The opposite of lunacy might be sanity from the Latin sanus = healthy and now narrowed down in English to mean health of
. Thus we find
sane adjective    
insane in = not
sanity -ity = a noun ending
insanity in = not


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 Audio = I hear

The Latin verb audire = to hear comes from auis-d-ire, where auis = ear. In turn the Latin for ear comes from the Greek word for ear, which is ous, otos. Most English words which are derived from audio come from the present tense or the past participle, as you can see from the lists below:

Present tense  Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I hear)
(to hear)
(I heard)
(heard from 'I have heard')

audio noun and adjective
audiovisual Latin visum = seen
audible -ible = able to be
inaudible -in = not
an audience -ence = a noun ending
audiology Greek logos = study of
aural adjective from Latin auris or ausis = the ear

an audition
to audit
an auditor
an auditorium -ium = place where
auditory perception

The audio of a movie may be poor - it may be muffled or too quiet at times, but what is audible can be heard.

Actors undergo auditions so that directors of plays can hear and see what they can do.

An auditorium is usually a large hall where speeches, lectures, and concerts can be heard. A similar word is theatre, a place where films, etc, are shown. This word comes from Greek thea = show.

An audience listens to a concert or lecture, etc. No doubt the performers or lecturers are seen, but the emphasis is on hearing probably because many people could not read or write over a century or so ago. You may have an audience with a king or queen; you will be in the presence of royalty and words will be spoken. Again, in the words audit and auditor, the emphasis is on hearing because auditing was done before the time when people kept books. Hence, the king's officials would question tax payers about their business dealings and exact taxes owed. It was all done verbally. However, in an audiovisual presentation there is something to hear and something to see. The adjective visual comes from the Latin verb video, videre, visi, visum = to see. Video (I see) is found in video recorder.

Audiology is the study or science of hearing, while the adjectives auditory and aural are both concerned with the sense of hearing. Aural tests are designed to show how well the ears are hearing while auditory perception or imperception suggests the ability or otherwise of the ear to pick up sounds. Both have fairly specialised and limited uses. They contrast with the adjective oral, from the Latin oro, orare = to speak, beg, and/or the noun os, oris = the mouth. So oral relates to the mouth and the spoken word. Oral traditions come down by word of mouth and oral history is recorded on magnetic tapes or CDs. Oral hygiene relates to the mouth, teeth and gums.

Another Latin verb which comes from the Latin for ear is obedire (ob + oedire). The idea is that you not only hear a command but put it into operation, i.e. you hear and do, or hear and meet the request. Thus you obey. Here is the Latin verb for to obey, and some English words which come from it:

Present tense  Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I obey)
(to obey)
(I obeyed)
(obeyed from ‘I have obeyed’)

to obey
obedience -ence = noun ending
obedient adjective

obeisance -ance = noun ending

The d seems to have been lost from the short form obey, but appears in obedient and obedience. If you have an audience with a king or queen, you will no doubt make obeisance to the royal person by curtseying or bowing.

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Augeo = I cause to grow or increase

Augeo suggests causing to increase or grow rather than simply increasing.   This is because man was considered incapable of growing or increasing anything, since he could plant seeds and make conditions favourable for their growth, but form seeds or make them grow, he could not.

Here we also have one word (auxiliary) that comes from the past tense, whereas most English words are derived from the present tense or past participle:

Present tense  Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle

(I increase)

to increase

I increased


to augment
augur  noun and verb    
augury  -y = work of (noun ending)
inaugural  adjective, e.g. meeting, speech
an inauguration  in = into    noun

August  8th month of Western calendar
august adjective


an auction
an auctioneer  -eer = one who

an author, originally, auctor
authoress  -ess = feminine ending
authorship -ship = noun ending
authority noun
to authorize or authorise
Authorised Version of the Bible
authoritative adjective
authoritarian  adjective


To augment is to cause to increase what one already has, in number, size, or even strength. One may (cause to) increase one’s income by taking a second job; one’s family by adopting a child; one’s flock of sheep by buying more lambs.  

An auction is a sale where ever-increasing amounts of money are offered for the goods until the highest price is reached.   The auctioneer manages the sale by calling for higher and higher bids.

Auxiliary suggests helping, supporting, and thus, secondary, e.g. an auxiliary engine, carried in case the main engine breaks down.  Hospitals and factories may have auxiliary generators which increase their ability to keep operating in the event of power cuts.

Augury was practised in ancient Rome from about 509 BC – 476 AD.   The idea was to find the will of their many gods, mainly by watching the flights of birds or inspecting the entrails of animals.   This was the duty of special priests called augurs.   If the signs were favourable, events went ahead, but if an animal was found to be imperfect, then an event might be postponed.   Where a puppy seems contented, easy to train and does not snap or bite, one may consider it augurs well for its future with a new owner, because it will probably grow into a good-natured dog.   The idea is that past situations predict the future or increase their likelihood. 

In Act II Scene ii of Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Julius Caesar’ after a stormy night, Caesar tells how his wife, Calpurnia, had dreamed that his statue spouted blood and how she had called out three times in her sleep, “Help, ho! They murder Caesar!”    He instructs his servant to command the priests to perform an animal sacrifice.   Then Calpurnia enters describing the strange events of the wild night as told by a watchman and insisting Caesar stay at home that day.    Then comes news that the priest could find no heart in the sacrificed animal.  The omens all seem bad till Caesar’s enemies persuade him otherwise and the prideful leader sets forth.   Thus to augur means to predict by means of augury, that is, by signs or omens.   It might also be argued that augury caused one’s information to increase as to whether it was wise to go ahead with plans or not.                                                                            

An inauguration usually refers to the ceremony of admitting someone into an office, usually an important public office like that of a president.  It was originally done after auguries were taken and the signs were found to be favourable.   It is usually a formal occasion with an inaugural speech by the new officer.  Once the person has taken up the position, their power is increased.    One may also speak of inaugurating a building - opening it with ceremony.    This is similar to the inaugural meeting of a society, which is its first meeting.

August, the eighth month of the Western calendar, was named after Augustus Caesar, the great-nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar.   These two Roman rulers insisted on their names being inserted into the Roman calendar, which was slightly modified by Pope Gregory in 1582 and was gradually adopted by the Western world.   Thus we have July and August.   Originally, September (septem = 7) was the seventh month, October (octem = 8) the eighth month, November (novem = 9) and December (decem = 10) the ninth and tenth months.   But with the addition of the two extra names, September became the ninth month, October the tenth month and so on.

The name of Julius Caesar’s great-nephew was originally Gaius Octavius, but was changed several times.  In 27 BC while emperor, he adopted the name of Imperator Caesar *Divi Filius Augustus, the latter having the idea of the increaser as being the royal one who then had the power to bestow awards and thus was held in admiration, respect and honour.   The adjective august is not very common today, but has the idea of being dignified and majestic, perhaps due to increased status and ability.                                     [*Divi Filius = Son of the Divine] 


According to Robert Claiborne in ‘The Roots of English’, augeo also acquired an idiomatic sense of originate, which applies to author and authority.   On the other hand, the author of a book or plan may increase or cause to increase our ideas or understanding.  And those with the authority to make decisions, to act, control, and enforce laws, have gained increased power.

By applying to the authorities and gaining a pass, licence, or permit, one may gain authorisation or be authorized to do something which is not normally permitted.  Thus one’s power to act is increased through those who have the power to grant one’s application.

Notice also the two spellings of authorize and authorise.   The -ize has been in English for several centuries while the -ise is said to reflect the influence of French on English.   Both are commonly used in English and are acceptable, while American spelling favours the -ize.

The Authorised Version of the Bible is so named because this translation was authorised by King James I of England in 1604 due to the dissatisfaction with previous translations of the Puritans, a group within the Church of England.  It was finished in 1611 after being worked on by 47 scholars. It had the authority of the king behind it increasing its prestige, and presumably its accuracy was increased also.

The adjectives authoritative and authoritarian both relate to authority, but are used in very different ways.   One who speaks authoritatively sounds as if they know what they are talking about and are recognised as being an authority on the subject.  Who better to speak authoritatively on a subject and inspire or increase confidence in the listener than the writer of a book or those who have put together a law?  However, one who adopts an authoritarian manner acts as though they are all powerful and in control.   They may even appear to enjoy the increased power they have to limit the freedom of others.

Notice how often augeo underlies words connected with power and its increase.

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Battuo = I beat, knock or strike

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I beat)
(to beat or knock)
(I beat or knocked)

This verb seems to have changed its form over time becoming batuo, so that the forms

batuo batuere batui (batutum)   were found.

Possibly the number of t’s in the word caused a problem. However, it still came into Old French as battre with the double t. Also, the form of the past participle seems doubtful and may not have been used. Probably most of the words here come from the present tense.

The u appears to have been omitted at some stage and does not appear in English derivatives. It is found, however, in the word battue, the French past participle meaning beaten. This whole word has come into English, and is a term used in hunting and shooting, especially where bushes were beaten to drive out birds or animals. It can also mean wholesale slaughter.

a bat noun
to bat  Note: She bats. She batted. He was batting.
batter noun and verb
battle noun and verb
embattled past participle used as an adjective; em = into
battlements noun
a battalion noun
batten noun and verb
an abattoir -oir = a place where (animals are killed for human consumption)
combat noun and verb
a combatant noun
combative adjective
debate noun and verb
debater -er = one who
debatable adjective -able = able (to be)
to abate  a, ad = to, towards
a rebate noun re = back

battue from French past participle (See above)

The basic word here is bat, an Old English word with roots in the Latin battuere or batuere. It was probably a solid stick used for beating seeds out of grasses or frightening small animals out of bushes and clubbing them to death. Today different sorts of bats are used in sports for pushing or hitting balls. In baseball the batters line up for their turn. In cricket a batsman tries to bat for hours and if he has batted all day he is probably delighted.

Notice the single t in bat and batsman, and the double t in batting, batter, and batted. The single t keeps the previous vowel a short. Where the t is doubled, the first t has this function. In words like debate, abate, and rebate, the silent e at the end opens up the previous syllable so that the vowel is long and pronounced as in the alphabet. You can hold on to it for a long time.

A number of well-known expressions relate to the word bat, such as doing something off one’s own bat (unprompted) and without batting an eyelid (showing no reaction). But expressions like blind as a bat (very short-sighted), an old bat (annoying old woman), bats in the belfry (silly, eccentric), go like a bat out of hell (run very fast) are related to the winged mouselike nocturnal mammal, bat, which probably comes from Scandanavia rather than the Latin battuere.

Most of the words with a double t have something to do with pushing around, striking, ‘beating up’, knocking down, fighting, and/or killing. We make a batter by mixing flour, eggs, water or milk, pushing them around with an egg beater or food processor to coat fish for frying, etc.

A large unit of soldiers, trained for battle, may be called a battalion. And what is battle but the permissible beating up or fighting between two opposing sides? Often soldiers went into war in uniform or battledress, shouting their battle cry and armed with battle-axes while the place where they fought was called the battleground or battlefield.

Many centuries ago castles were protected by battlements. These were parapets or low walls with gaps, built at the edge of roofs or sides of bridges. Sheltered behind these walls, troops could fire through the gap on the enemy below. Besieged and embattled cities might have their walls beaten down with battering rams, long wooden beams with a head of iron like a ram’s head. More recently a battery of guns, especially heavy artillery planted strategically, has been used in warfare. The word battery can also apply to a small group of armed men and vehicles.

The word combat is odd in that it doesn’t double the t in any form even though the a stays short. Participants in warfare are known as the combatants. They are involved in combat, a fight of some kind. Arguments were often settled in single combat such as a duel, while people who are always arguing may be said to be combative in nature.

Like the word beat in English, most of the words derived from battuere which suggest beating up or fighting in a concrete sense have figurative uses as well. I have a ‘battered old hat’ which was run over by a car. We speak of people battling cancer as though cancer were a personal enemy. Some people battle poverty or loneliness. Others see life as a battle, while an argument may be described as a battle of words or wits. We speak of a battle royal when everyone joins in the fight or argument.

Soldiers may return home battered and bruised. They may suffer from battle fatigue or be emotionally scarred. An embattled city is probably strengthened and ready for battle while an embattled parliamentarian is beset by critics, whom he is preparing to answer.

Battens are beams used to build floors; they support and hold up other structures, or cover joints. They may be wooden, metal or plastic. In the face of storms, sailors nailed down tarpaulins to cover the open hatches. Hence, the term battening down the hatches suggests preparing for a crisis.

Assault and battery is a legal term relating to threats resulting in physical harm while the batteries that power cell phones, etc., may need more than one cell to work, thus echoing the idea of a group of guns or soldiers.

Debates are battles of words though often well-controlled, thanks to rules. That which is debatable is open to question or debate.

Floods or storms are said to abate when they subside or lessen, perhaps returning to normal. It is also a legal term meaning to put an end to or quash. From it comes the idea of waiting with bated breath, with shallow, restrained breathing due to great anxiety.

A rebate is like a discount, usually given for prompt payment. It is part of a payment returned or pushed back.

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Cado = I fall; cadere to befall or happen.

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I fall)
(to fall or happen)
(I fell)

a cadence -ence = noun ending
decadent -ent = adjectival ending
decadence -ence = noun ending
to decay de = down
a cadenza
a cadaver literally, fall dead
cadaverous -ous = full of; adjectival ending
an accident ad = ac = towards
accidental adjective
an incident in = into (out)
incidental adjective; = having a minor role
incidentally adverb
incidence of
a coincidence co- = with
coincidental adjective

a cascade = a small waterfall

a case = the way things fall out
casual adjective
casualty noun
an occasion noun
occasional adjective

The Occident = the West lit: falling into
a recidivist re = back, -ist = one who (falls back into crime)

Some words derived from cado came in through French and begin with ch. They are
chance = a happening, a chance meeting
mischance mis = wrongly, badly, unfavourably, amiss.
perchance poetical or archaic = by chance
parachute para = protect against, ward off

The words cadence and cadenza are mainly musical terms. A cadence may be the fall or lowering in the pitch of a voice, especially at the end of a phrase or sentence. Cadences are found in music at the close of phrases and pieces. The ‘Amen’ is a good example.

A cadenza is a musical term for a brilliant scalic passage, maybe an ornamented cadence, usually found near the end of concertos or arias.

Decadence suggests a falling down from what something should be, due to moral or cultural decline, as happened to the Roman Empire. Decay is similar in meaning but is in more common and general use than decadence.

A cadaver refers to a corpse, a dead human body, perhaps the result of one falling down dead; cadaverous suggests something is like a dead body and may be as pale as death.

Chutes are often found in factories and allow one to let fall or drop things from a higher to a lower level, while parachutes let one fall from an aircraft while protecting one from being dashed upon the ground.

Words like case, casualty, accident, incident, coincidence, occasion, and chance all have something to do with how things fall out or on, how they befall one, happen or occur. The word case has many uses and many are idiomatic, but basically it suggests one’s circumstances, the turn of events or the way things fall out for one. Note that case as in suitcase comes from the Latin verb capere meaning to take or hold.

Casualties are usually the victims of what happened or befell them while an occasion is a particular set of circumstances, often memorable and a cause for celebration like a wedding. An incident refers to one particular occurrence, action or event, often minor in itself like a fight, but which can have serious consequences, such as when one of the participants dies shortly afterwards. The adjective incidental suggests it is minor compared with something more important. We speak of the background music to a film as incidental music; it’s not the most important aspect. When we digress from the main topic under discussion, we begin with the word incidentally meaning it is minor to the main topic. We speak of the incidence of a disease indicating how much has occurred or how extensive it is.

Coincidences suggest the way things fall out with one another, usually in unexpected or surprising ways. They are often two unlikely occurrences happening about the same time. Accidents are unwelcome happenings which produce casualties, victims of the way things have fallen out. Note that the word accident contains an example of assimilation The prefix ad becomes ac. It is easier to say accident than adcident and so over time the d of the prefix becomes the same as the first letter of the root word, cado.

The adjective casual has a number of uses: it may mean due to chance as in a casual meeting. Used of employment it suggests irregular or temporary work; of one’s attitude it suggests uninterested or not serious while casual remarks may be said without thinking.

The West is referred to as the Occident because the setting sun looks as if it is falling into the west. The Occident is the opposite of the Orient which means the East.

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1. Caedo = 1. I cut down, fell, strike down and 2. I kill

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I cut)
(to cut)
(I cut or killed)
(cut, killed)

Below we have about 30 words derived from the Latin caedo and which have something to do with cutting or killing. Some come from the stem of the present tense with -cide in them though it might be argued that they derive from the past tense cecidi. Those with -cis in them, however, clearly come from the past participle.

to decide Latin de = down, from
decidedly adverb

homicide Latin homo = a man
homicidal e.g. tendencies
matricide Latin mater, matris = mother
patricide, parricide Latin patris = of a father
fratricide Latin frater, fratris = brother
regicide Latin rex, regis = a king
suicide Latin sui = of oneself
a suicide pact
suicidal thoughts, tendencies
infanticide Latin infans, infantis = child
a pesticide Latin pestis = plague
an herbicide Latin herba = herb, plant
a fungicide Latin fungus = mushroom

a decision -ion = act or state of
a decisive action
concise con = with
conciseness -ness = noun ending
to circumcise Latin circum = round
circumcision noun

an incision Latin in = in, into
incisive adjective
incisors = cutting teeth
precision noun and adjective
precise Latin pre = before; adjective
excise adjective
an exciseman
to excise Latin ex = out of, from

Deciding or making a decision means one has cut out, killed off or dropped all other possible courses of action. A decisive person sounds as though they have made up their mind and have discarded all other ideas except the one they are talking about. There is no doubt about a decisive victory; it is definitely a victory. Nor is there any hesitation involved in a decisive action.

Homocide, matricide, patricide or parricide, fratricide, regicide, infanticide and suicide all refer to killing, this time of a person. The killing of one’s mother is matricide, but the word can also refer to one who kills their mother. Notice the two forms for the killing of one’s father: patricide and parricide. The latter with the two r’s probably comes from the former, but may have been confused with the Latin word parens = a parent. Fratricide refers both to the killing of one’s brother or sister. Notice that the words infant and infanticide come from the Greek infans, infantis = talking. This is the present participle of the Greek fari, to speak. The prefix in means not, although it sometimes means into. Thus an infant originally had the idea of one who hasn’t started to talk yet.

A more well-known word is pesticide referring to the killing of small insects or organisms, things that we consider pests because they annoy us or damage our crops and plants. Likewise, fungicides get rid of fungi while herbicides kill off unwanted plants, usually called weeds.

Chisels are hand tools used for shaping wood or stone by cutting bits out of the whole. The h in the ch, probably came through French. Scissors are likewise used for cutting, while cement (which comes through Old French ciment from Latin caementum = quarry stone, from caedo = to hew, cut) is used in concrete or is mixed with water to make mortar which hardens and keeps stone or bricks (which have also been cut) in place.

The ending -el of chisel is not very common in English. Words with a similar ending are camel, chapel, colonel, enamel, lapel, parcel, towel, trowel. You will probably find others if you look for them. However, the more common ending in English is -le, as in apple, circle, cycle, gamble, grumble, ramble, rifle and uncle.

A concise speech or piece of writing is cut back to the least number of words and thus is brief. Circumcision is a rite undertaken by some peoples in which the foreskin of a male child is cut, usually on the eighth day after birth. Surgery such as this may begin with the surgeon making an incision or cut into the flesh. Incisors are the cutting teeth found especially at the front of the mouth.

The adjective precise literally means cut beforehand and may suggest it has been thought out beforehand and so is exact and accurate. Switzerland and Germany are known for the production of precision instruments like knives and watches, which are made to a very high degree of accuracy.

Historically in England the excise man used to collect excise duty, a tax. You may read of excisemen hunting smugglers in England, for the smugglers avoided paying taxes. We also speak of excising passages of books, that is, removing them. Likewise, a surgeon may excise an organ of the body.

Note that the c in -cide and -cis is soft so that it sounds like an s.

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Capio = I take, hold, have, seize, capture

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I take)
(to take)
(I took)

Numerous words have come into English from the Latin root capio:

capable lit: able to take on (the job)
incapable in- = not; -able = able to
capability -ity = state of
capacityity suggests an abstract noun
incapacity in = not
capacious - ous = full of, adjective, e.g. a capacious bag

a capsule
to encapsulate or incapsulate in = in.

to capture
the captoror = one who
a captive
to captivate

a caption

Sometimes the cap- of the present tense becomes cip-. This is especially so with longer words where the root is on an unaccented syllable e.g. anticipate, with the accent on the second syllable and the root in the weaker syllable. See below.

Also, words derived from the past participle may come into English as capt (captive ) or cept (reception). It seems that those beginning with a prefix have the e as in accept. See below.

to anticipate anti = before
anticipatory e.g. actions

to participate Latin pars, partis = part, portion
participation e.g. in an event
a participant -ant = one who

municiple Latin munus = office, duty
municipality noun

to reciprocate capere = take (move) reciprocal re = back, pro = forward reciprocity noun

to accept ac- = ad = towards
acceptance -ance = noun ending
acceptable adjective
unacceptable un = not

except ex = out of, from
unexceptional un = not
inception in = into
to intercept inter = between
an interception
susceptible to; sub = up from under
susceptibility to

You may anticipate bad weather by taking your wet-weather gear with you – you have assumed (taken) the weather will be bad before it takes place.

One may look forward to one’s birthday with great excitement and anticipation so that before the birthday you feel the excitement you think you will have on that day. As it were, you take on board the feelings you expect to have then.

The verb reciprocate has the idea of giving and receiving or offering something in return for something else. We speak of reciprocal feelings; we share similar feelings.

The adjective municipal is connected with civic offices and local government, and may come from taking up an office on one’s local council or in one’s community.

The noun inception is a formal word for beginning.

Here are some other words relating to the present tense of capio, but which are not so obvious:

a prince Latin primus = first
a princess -ess = feminine ending
a principle noun
a principal adjective, often used as a noun
a precept prae = before

to occupy ob- = over
occupied = past participle used as an adjective
unoccupied un- = not
preoccupied pre- = beforehand
an occupant -ant = one who
an occupation noun

Princes and princesses take first place above others. Principles take first place and could be called first rules or basic truths. Although we may be unaware of it, we base our lives on the principles we believe in. Our behaviour shows what our principles or values are. If we bully or steal from others, it shows we have forgotten the principle of respect and our lives are based on disrespect. The word principal is an adjective in its own right and literally means taking first place, suggesting first in importance. Thus the principal character in a play has the first or leading role. Sometimes this adjective is used as a noun, e.g. the principal of a college. Here, the principal stands for the principal teacher. The word precept or precepts overlaps in meaning with principles. It again refers to moral principles or rules of conduct but is probably less common than principles and is narrower in use.

When one occupies a building or property, one takes it over. The prefix ob- seems to suggest completeness or finality whereas more often it suggests being in opposition to or blocking completeness. When a room, cubicle, or seat, etc, is occupied it is taken over and so it is filled and not available. Being preoccupied suggests that an idea one had previously thought of has taken over so that one cannot concentrate fully on another subject because the mind keeps going back to the previous idea.

Words derived from capio also include conceive, deceive, perceive, and receive, which appear to have acquired the-ive ending through the influence of French, where the word for to receive is recevoir. They are originally from Latin, as shown by the abstract nouns that go with them, e.g. conception, deception, perception, and reception.

Related to conceive:

Related to deceive:

Related to perceive:

Related to receive:
a receiver
a receipt
a recipe
a recipient
to recuperate

a concept
misconception mis- = wrong
to conceptualize
conceptual -ual = adjectival ending
deception de = down
deceptive adjective
perception per = through
imperceptive im = not
a reception
receptive adjective
a receptacle

Another group of words which may also be related to the Latin capio are

to chase
to enchase
a case as in suitcase
a cassette
a casement
to encase
a casket
a chassis
the cash
a cashier -ier = one who

The majority of these words have lost the p of capio and are related to the Latin capsa which means a box or case for books. Different in meaning is to chase which has the idea of pursuing something or someone though you may not necessarily take or catch hold of it.
Enchase is a technical word used in the jewellery trade for putting a gem into a setting or making an engraving on metal. The gem or engraving is encased, as it were, and cannot easily be taken out or removed. A case, as in suitcase is a sort of container, as are cassettes, caskets, chassis, and capsules. The word capsule retains the p of capio while the word chassis has the same form for singular and plural, but the final –s is not pronounced in the singular, but only in the plural. According to Robert Claiborne, it originally meant a casement or hinged window frame. Then it became the frame of a carriage or automobile. The origin of the word casement can also be traced back to capio.
It seems cash was originally the word for a money box, but then it became the money itself.

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Cauda = a tail

Cauda meaning the tail, of an animal, for example, gives us a few English words:

a coward noun
cowardly adjective or adverb
cowardice -ice = noun ending
a queue noun
a cue noun

A coward is one who runs away, tail between his legs, as a dog does perhaps when scolded. You can act in a cowardly (adjective) fashion or show cowardice (noun) by giving in. It is tempting to think that the verb to cower, which suggests flinching, drawing back or crouching down in fear or even shame, may be related to the Latin cauda, but, according to Robert Claiborne in “The Roots of English” it more likely comes from a German word meaning ‘to lie in wait’.

Queue and cue are homophones in that they sound alike. You may line up and stand in a queue waiting to get into a sports venue, for example. It’s not often a straight line so it may look curved like a tail. Queue-jumpers or those who try to push in ahead of their turn are usually unpopular so queue-jumping is not recommended. The French for the tail is la queue.

The word cue has two meanings. In acting or music it is the tail end of a speech or phrase signalling the performer that it is their turn to enter, speak, or play. To be on cue means one has come in at just the right moment. The second meaning of cue relates to a long tapered shaft with a leather tip used to strike the ball in the games of billiards, pool, or snooker. It was apparently originally a stick.
Both words queue and cue sound exactly like the letter q, and I understand that q used to be written in scripts as a signal for actors to enter, etc. When written as a word, it is spelt cue.

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Latin corpus, corporis = the body

From corpus, corporis come words relating to the human body and also to the body when it suggests a group of people.

Notice that some words come into English from corpus, the body (the nominative case or subject) and some from the stem of the word which is derived from the genitive or possessive case, corporis = of the body. Usually words come into English from the stem of a noun.

From corpus, corporis come words relating to the human body and to the body when it suggests a group of people.

Notice that some words come into English from corpus, the body (the nominative case or subject) and some from the stem of the word which is derived from the genitive or possessive case, corporis = of the body. Usually words come into English from the stem of a noun.

corpus = the body (nominative)

corps singular
corps plural
a corpse

corpulent adjective
corpulence noun
corpuscles plural noun
a corsage noun
a corset noun
a corselette
a corselet or corslet

corporis = of the body (genitive)

corporal adjective
a corporal noun
corporeal adjective

a corporation
corporative adjective
corporate, e.g. a body Corporate

to incorporate

Corps suggests a body or group of people with a special function, e.g. corps de ballet, diplomatic corps, army corps. The p and s are silent in the singular and the p alone is silent in the plural. Corpse, which used to be written corse, is a dead body, usually human. The adjective corporal means related to the human body, as in corporal punishment. But as a noun, corporal usually refers to an officer in the armed forces. However, this word may have originally come from the Latin caput = head, and may have been spelt caporal.

Corpulent and corpulence suggest too much body, a big belly, while corpuscles are literally little bodies of the blood and so are very small blood cells.

According to Robert Claiborne in “The Roots of English”, a corsage originally meant a bodice but now refers to a posy of flowers pinned on the bodice. A corset is literally ‘a little body ’, a garment worn round the hips to make one look slimmer. Corselettes are similar but usually covered the bust as well as the hips. Today corsets and corselettes look much the same. Corselets were worn by knights of old to protect the upper body. Today a corsetiere makes or fits corsets.

Where a man, especially, has too much body on the belly or abdomen, we say he has a corporation, but mainly the word corporation is a legal term used in the world of business. It suggests a group of people authorised to act on behalf of a larger group, such as its investors. We speak of a Body Corporate, a group of people who make decisions on behalf of a group, often of tenement or unit owners. There are also Incorporated Societies, often non-profit-making organisations which operate under specific rules.

The verb to incorporate is more generally used and means to include in a body of material just as a poem may be incorporated into a speech.

The adjective corporeal, with the e in it, has the idea of bodily, material or physical, as opposed to mental or spiritual. Its opposite is incorporeal meaning having no material form or body. In Law corporeal suggests being composed of material objects while incorporeal implies no physical existence and is used of items like easements and copyright.

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Domus = building, house, home

Words connected with Latin domus = building, house, home and Greek doma = house, housetop.

Related Latin words are dominus = master and domina = mistress; also, domicilium = residence.

[Many of these words have the idea of lording it over or being superior to because one is the master of the household]

a dome = rounded roof
domestic e.g. matters, affairs, science
to domesticate -ate = to make
domiciliary e.g. help
domain = area under one lord or control
to dominate as lords controlled households
dominant adjective
to domineer over = control arrogantly

domesticity -ity = state of

domiciled at

dominion = territory of a lord or government

domination -ion = act or process of
a domineering manner or spirit
[-eer suggests being concerned with]

a dominie = Scottish for schoolmaster
to predominate over
predominance -ance = state of

danger = the lord’s power
to endanger the life of
dungeon = the lord’s tower

despot: literally, he who has power over the house, from dems = house and     pot- = power
despotic -ic = adjectival ending

dame = lady of the house
damsel = young unmarried woman
donna as in prima donna
timber through German zimber = the material a house is made of

predominant pre- = before in importance

endangerment noun

despotism -ism = practice of

madam: form of address; ma = my
Madonna: term for Virgin Mary (from Spanish)
don: Spanish for Mr or Sir

You’ll notice that the vowels o, a, and e often swap places. This is quite normal when words pass from one language into another. Also, the n seems to replace the m, especially in Spanish and in the words danger and dungeon. I’m not sure how common this is, though n’s often drop out of some forms of words. It might be argued that an m is really a double n, and so they may swap places readily.

It is common for d’s, t’s, and th’s to change places because the pronunciation of these consonants is very similar. It is the tongue that moves rather than the lips. A good example of this is tooth or teeth, and dental or dentist, where the initial t of tooth becomes a d in dental and the th turns into a t.

Likewise, it seems domus passed into German as zimber, the material of which a house is made, and became timber in English. A z is also similar in sound to d’s and t’s.

Under the feudal system in Europe (from the 9th to the 14th century AD) land was owned by lords. People lived in villages controlled by a lord. Thus, as Robert Claiborne suggests, in ‘The Roots of English: A reader’s handbook of word origins’, it was dangerous to offend the lord of the manor since one might end up in his dungeon.

The g in danger and dungeon may come from the letter i in a Latin word like dominium (the place or rule of the master).

The e after the g as in dungeon makes the g soft so that it sounds like a j (as in jug). A g is normally hard, as in gun.


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Gradior = I step, take a step, walk, go

Gradior is a verb with a passive form in Latin but an active meaning; hence, the r on the ending. This occurs occasionally in Latin and may come through Greek from which Latin is derived. Gradior looks as if it means ‘I am stepped’ but rather it means ‘I step’.

There is also the Latin noun gradus which means a step

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I step)
(to step)
grassus sum
(I stepped)
(stepped or walked)

grade noun and verb
a grader -er = that which
a gradient
gradual, gradually adjective and adverb
a graduand
a graduate
an undergraduate or undergrad
to upgrade
an upgrade
to downgrade
to degrade de = down, from
degradation noun
biodegradable bio = life
retrograde adjective
a degree
an ingredient

aggression ad = towards
aggressiveive = adjectival ending
an aggressor -or - one who
congress con- = with
to digress di, dis = away from (the subject)
a digression
egress e, ex, = out of, from
ingress in = into
progress pro = forwards
a progression
progressive adjective
to regress re = back, again
regression noun
regressive adjective
retrogression retro = backwards
to transgress trans = across (moral boundaries)
a transgression

Except for the fact that the basic idea behind most of the above words is a movement or step, there is little connection between words formed from the present tense in this list and words formed from the past tense. Thus the two columns may be regarded as separate.

Grades represent steps on a ladder. Today all sorts of items are graded like meat and eggs. You may receive a good grade or a poor grade in an examination. Sometimes examinations themselves are called grades and you may begin at Grade 1 and rise in steps of difficulty to Grade 8.

Graduands are students who have passed all the necessary grades and are about to graduate, whereas undergraduates are the students who are still passing the grades.

An upgrade suggests a promotion, a rising up the ladder, progressing or improving in some way while a downgrade is the opposite.

On a colour chart for painting you will find gradations of colour from a rich red or scarlet, for example, down through the various shades of red to a very pale pink.

The word gradient usually applies to the slope of a road. A sudden steep slope may be marked by a warning sign reading Steep Gradient. A grader often refers to a tall machine on wheels that levels out the ground in road-making. There are machines called graders that sort out fruit and eggs by size and when people do this work they are also called graders.

Degradation, with the accent on the first syllable, often has the idea of humiliation so it is probably degrading to have rotten eggs thrown at one. Substances which are degradable can be reduced to smaller molecules. My understanding is that they can be taken back a step in the manufacture of the final product. If a substance is biodegradable it can be broken down or decomposed by some living organism like bacteria. This principle is used in the treating of sewage and making of compost.

The word degree comes into English from the Latin via French. Like the word grade, it suggests steps on a ladder or stages on a scale which is real or imagined. We speak of degrees of temperature on the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales. Burns are divided into degrees of intensity or seriousness; you may suffer from a first, second or third degree burn. Third degree burns are the deepest and most serious. We speak of degrees of difficulty, of competence, or of freedom as if we are applying some scale to these.

Ingredients in a recipe are the items which are to be put or gradually moved into the mixture. They are part of the steps necessary for successful cake-making. Usually they are put in one by one or step by step.

Aggression is as if someone has stepped towards another in anger. The aggressor may show his anger through a forceful tone of voice. He may raise his fist, but the derivation of the word suggests that the aggressive or hostile approach entails a step towards the other.

A congress is usually a formal meeting, often of delegates from different countries or different parts of a country. In the USA the House of Representatives is known as Congress.

To digress from a subject is to take a step away from it and thus go off the topic.

Ingress and egress are perhaps more formal words for entrance and exit or coming in and going out.

Most people prefer to make progress, that is to take steps forward rather than to regress and make retrograde decisions or actions which take one back a stage and amount to stepping backwards in time or retrogression. When adults behave like children, they may be said to be guilty of retrogression.

A transgression usually involves crossing moral or ethical boundaries and is often used as a synonym for sin, trespass or offence.

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More hints on words derived from Greek (See also Origins of the English Language)

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters starting with alpha and ending at omega, and most can be easily transliterated into English, for instance, alpha represents our a and beta our b. But there is no exact equivalent for our c or f. There are also a few letters that are foreign to our alphabet, e.g phi which sounds like our f and is represented in English words as ph, and psi which we write as ps and pronounce as s. For a table of the Greek alphabet and symbols, see Greek Alphabet Symbols: Rapid Table.

1. Their ph sounds like an f in English, as in photograph, telephone, pharmacy, phantom, philosophy, physics, phase, emphasis.

2. Their ps, found in psychology, psalm, pseudonym, psyche, psychosis, is pronounced in English as a plain -s. The p is silent.

3. We do not pronounce the h in the rh of rhinoceros, rhythm, or rhapsody. [Rhinoceros comes from Greek rhino- from rhinos = nose or nostril, and ceros from keras = horn. Rhythm is derived from rheo = to flow while rhapsody comes from rhapto = to stitch and ody from oide = a song or ode]

4. The letter y in the middle of a word, where an i might be expected in English, is pronounced as a short or long i as in lyrics, physics, symbol, and sympathy (with the short i), and dynamite, rhyme and rhythm (with a long i).

5. Common endings which come from Greek roots are

* logy, derived from logos, a word or study of, as in astrology, biology, geology, theology. [bio- from bios = life; geo- from ge = earth; theo- from theos = god]

* nym from onoma = name, as in pseudonym (false name), and synonym (word or name of similar meaning)

* an a on the end of a word, as in asthma, bacteria, coma, dilemma, diploma, dogma, drama, enigma, era, idea, orchestra, pneumonia, stigma.

*-is as in analysis, crisis, diagnosis, synopsis.

[ana- = up and luo = loosen; crisis from krisis = decision; dia- = apart and gignosko = know, recognise; syn- from sun- = together or altogether and opsis = seeing]

* -os as in asbestos, chaos, cosmos, thermos [a = no or not, and sbestos = quenchable, i.e. unquenchable or unextinguishable; chaos = gulf, chasm, empty space; cosmos from kosmos = order, the universe; thermos = hot].

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Haereo = I stick

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I stick)
(to stick)
(I stuck)

to adhere to, ad = to
an adherent -ent = one who
inherent adjective used as noun
inherently adverb
to cohere co = with, within; together
coherent adjective
coherence -ence = noun ending
incoherent in- = not
incoherence noun

adhesive ad = to
adhesion noun

cohesion co- = with, together; noun
cohesive adjective

The words from haereo are not particularly common and there is usually a simpler word that can be used. You may adhere to the rules or to a script or not stick to them. Adherents follow a group, party or leader and can be counted on sticking to the group, etc. Adhesive tape is simply sticky tape, while adhesion is a medical term used when organs or parts of the body stick together, especially after surgery. It is usually found in the plural, i.e. adhesions.

The –ent ending is again a sign of the present participle so that coherent literally means sticking together. Words with the endings -ant and -ent are usually adjectives but can be used as nouns so that an adherent, as mentioned, means one who sticks to a group or party and is a loyal member.

The adjective inherent suggests a quality or characteristic that is naturally part of one. Inherent ability is what one was born with and has not been acquired later. The words coherent and incoherent are often used of speech. When one has received a shock or fright, one’s speech often becomes incoherent and cannot be understood because it is so confused.

The letter r turns into an s in the words that come from the past participle haesum, i.e. adhesion and cohesion with their adjectives adhesive and cohesive. A great leader has the ability to turn a rag-tag, unco-operative and dispirited group into a cohesive one, a group that works together as a whole and sticks together.

Related to the Latin verb haereo is another Latin word haesito, which also has the letter s instead of the r. It seems this verb originally emphasized the sticking, so that haesito may be translated as I stick fast or I really and truly stick.

The Latin word haesito gives us these English words:

to hesitate -ate = to make, cause

hesitant -ant = -ing

hesitation noun

It is these three last words derived from haesito = I stick fast, which are most commonly found in English, so that if one hesitates, one may be really and truly stuck in the old belief or decision and unable to shift to another one.

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Jacio = I throw or hurl

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I throw)
(to throw)
(I threw)

Jacio has the idea of throwing, which entails some force. Most words derived from it appear to have come into English from the past participle though the a of the past participle has been replaced by an e, possibly from the past tense, jeci. It could also be that these words come into English through the French jeter = to throw.

a javelin

adjacent ad = to, next to

to ejaculate Latin e, ex = from, out of
ejaculation -ion = noun ending

ease noun
easy adjective
easily adverb
easement noun
disease dis = separated from

a jet noun e.g. of water
jet adjective e.g. skis
a jetty
to jettison e.g. fuel
abject adjective e.g. misery
an adjective = a part of speech
conjecture noun and verb
dejected de = down
dejection -ion = act or state of
to eject e-, ex- = out of, from
to inject in- = in, into
to object to ob- = in the way of
an objection
objectionable adjective
an objective ob- = towards
an object
to project pro- = forwards
a projection
a projector
a projectile
to reject re- = back
to subject to
a subject sub- = under
subjective adjective
the trajectory trans- = across, through

Although Grandsaignes d’Hauterive lists all the above words as deriving from jacio (I throw), not all commentators agree.

Jacio itself is closely related to another Latin verb, jaceo, jacere, jacui meaning to lie down or recline which seems to have no past participle comparable to jactum (thrown). According to Robert Claiborne in “The Roots of English”, jaceo literally means to be thrown down, so perhaps lying down from a standing position is seen as requiring some energy. Thus Robert Claiborne contends that jaceo (I lie down) gives rise to the words adjacent, adjective, and abject.

The house adjacent to mine is the one next door or lying next to mine. The adjective is the part of speech which gives more information about some noun and usually lies next to or near that noun. Abject misery almost makes you lie down under the weight of its burden of pain.

The group of words related to ease may also have originally come through jaceo with the idea of lying next to and so reached with comfort or ease. Perhaps the word easement with its legal meaning of right to use or right over another’s land suggests this derivation since an easement, (i.e. having water or sewerage pipes crossing a neighbour’s land) may give one the right to dig up that land if a problem occurs with the pipes.

The javelin, a weapon thrown towards its target, has a v instead of a c and, although it may have originally come from jacio with the idea of throwing, it seems to have been borrowed from the French javelot or javeline.

The meaning of the remaining words can mostly be obtained by putting the affixes (suffixes and prefixes) and root word together, e.g. to eject = to throw out. If one is ejected from a meeting, one is literally thrown out. Rejection is the act of pushing back or rebuffing and is usually hurtful. Projectiles may be literally thrown and the path that they follow is known as their path or trajectory.

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Mordeo = I bite, I eat, sting, wear away of a river

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I bite)
(to bite)
(I bit)

Mordere has the idea of biting off with the teeth and so eating. Figuratively, it has the idea of stinging, hurting and criticising.

Just a few words have come into English from the Latin mordere, a few from the present tense and a few from the past participle:

mordant adjective and noun

a mordent

morsel noun
remorse noun
remorseful adjective
remorseless adjective

The adjective, mordant can be used of anything said or written and always implies criticism. You’ll find it used of humour, wit, comments, thoughts, etc. A mordant remark is literally a biting remark. Other synonyms for mordant might be stinging, cutting, sharp or sarcastic.

As a noun mordant is a specialised term used in dyeing and printing. In dyeing it applies to any substance which combines with a stain or dye so as to fix it on to the material. In printing it refers to a corrosive acid used to etch lines on to a surface. You probably won’t come across these specialised meanings, however.

A mordent is another specialised term, which you probably don’t need to know. This one ends in –ent. It belongs to music and in Alec Rowley’s “A Pocket Pronouncing Musical Dictionary” published by Alfred Lengnick & Co, Ltd, London, Fourth edition, 1951, it is described as a “Transient or Passing shake, consisting of the principal note, the note below, & the principal note.” These notes are played very quickly adding to the brilliance of the piece. I think they could even be called “biting”.

A morsel is a small amount or quantity of something, especially food. It is literally the amount one can bite off a larger amount, but you may also hear speak of a morsel of gossip or news in a figurative sense.

Remorse implies a strong feeling of regret or guilt over some past action. It may be a crime or deed regarded as a sin, or quite an ordinary action. It is a common, colourful word which suggests that one’s conscience is biting back or gnawing at one for past deeds. A remorseless tyrant continues a policy of cruelty towards his subjects; he is a cruel man who has no regrets for the way he is governing and is not going to give it up. This word is also used figuratively, e.g. Explorers in a desert who have run out of water may struggle with the heat and feel that the sun shines remorselessly upon them.

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Pectus, pectoris = the chest or breast

The words coming into English from this Latin noun are derived from pectoris, the genitive of the noun, meaning of the chest. They are:

pectoral adjective, e.g. pectoral muscles
to expectorate ex- = out of, from; -ate = to make
an expectorant -ant = ing; adjective used as a noun
expectoration noun; -ion = process or act of

Expectorate means to spit or cough up (phlegm, etc). Expectorating involves making phlegm come up from the chest, so expectoration is the coughing up and spitting out of material from the chest or lungs. An expectorant is a medicine helping one bring up phlegm from the chest. The -ant equals our present participle, as in helping, making or promoting.

Notice that the word expect is unrelated to expectorate, but comes from the Latin past participle spectum, which means looked at, and so expect means to look out for.

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Pes = the foot, pedis = of the foot

Most Latin words come into English from what is called the stem of the noun, which in the case of pes is pedis = of the foot or the foot’s (shape). Only a few words are derived from pes, the form for the subject of a sentence.

The list includes:

pes = the foot

a pioneer -er = one who
a pawn

an octopus octo = 8
a platypus platus = flat

pedis = of the foot

a pedal
a pedestrian -ian = one who
a pedestrian crossing
a pedestal
a centipede Latin centi = 100
to impede im- not
an impediment -ment noun ending
to expedite ex- = out of
to be expedient for
an expedient noun
expeditious -ious = full of
an expedition noun
to repudiate re- = back
repudiation noun
the antipodes anti- = opposite
a chiropodist Greek chir = hand
a podiatrist -ist = one who
a pedigree French pied de grue

The word pedigree comes from the French pied de grue which means the foot of a crane or a crane’s foot. Apparently this bird’s foot was thought to resemble a family tree or genealogical chart.

A pedal is worked by the foot while a pedestrian goes on foot. A pioneer likewise goes on foot and prepares the way for others. A pawn was originally a foot soldier and is now the smallest piece used in chess or else someone used by others for their own benefit. We could say the latter is the weakest, perhaps the most naïve person, one who can be kicked out or around at will.

To impede is literally, to put one’s feet in the way of, and so to block or hinder. The opposite is to expedite, namely, to put one’s feet out of the way of and so enable or allow something to move faster. Negotiations may be expedited by prior discussions. It may be expedient to send someone away in order to avoid a situation becoming worse.

The adjective expeditious literally means full of freed feet and so has the idea of acting quickly. An expeditious choice is made promptly and helps the situation. You might do something with great expedition or speed, but more likely you are setting out on foot to explore or discover something. It may be a hunting or a military expedition, but today you are more likely to go by car or aeroplane than by foot.

To repudiate is to push back or away with the foot. Repudiation also has links with the Latin verb pudere meaning to be ashamed, for repudiation often involves shame.

A podiatrist is one who specializes in treating the feet. A word with a similar meaning and which seems to have gone out of fashion in New Zealand is a chiropodist where presumably hands were used to treat feet.

The antipodes has four syllables and represents the region on the opposite side of the world to one’s feet.

The centipede has many legs legs while the octopus has eight tentacles (feet). The platypus is an Australian mammal with webbed feet and a ducklike bill.

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Rumpo = I break, burst

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I break)
(to break)
(I broke)

Most words derived from the Latin rumpo come into English from the past participle ruptum. The derivation of rumpus is doubtful and may not even have come from the Latin rumpo, but the meaning is so close to that of rumpo that I have included it in brackets.

[a rumpus]
[a rumpus room: noun used as adjective]

a rupture = something broken
abrupt Latin a, ab = from, away from, adjective
abruptly adverb
abruptness noun
bankrupt lit: broken bank
bankruptcy -cy = noun ending
to corrupt com = with, from within
corrupt adjective
corruption noun
corruptible adjective
incorruptible in = not
to disrupt dis = apart (separation)
disruption noun
disruptive adjective
to erupt e, ex = out of, from
an eruption noun
to interrupt inter = between
interruption noun
an irruption in = into
rout noun and verb
route noun and sometimes verb
routine noun

We speak of someone kicking up a rumpus when they are making a commotion or disturbance and thus are breaking up the peace. A rumpus includes noise. It is probably not serious enough to get one arrested, however. A rumpus room is usually designed for playing games. Here you can break out of your usual routine, relax and be noisy.

Many words which come from the past participle ruptum have quite specific and narrow uses though sometimes they are also used figuratively. Perhaps the most commonly-used word here is interrupt suggesting someone or something breaking in between what we are doing or saying. Interruptions can be welcome but mostly they appear annoying.

The word rupture usually refers to a break in a cell membrane and, in particular, to an abdominal hernia, i.e. it is a medical term. However, it can also refer to a break in relationships. It is not a particularly common word.

Abruptness usually refers to the way something is said. It is as if it is broken off and is probably said with feeling. It breaks into proceedings by its unexpectedness, suddenness, and the force of emotion behind it. Actions can also be performed abruptly; you might leave abruptly, that is, in such a way as to break in on what is happening.

Bankruptcy is a legal term. You may be insolvent and so be unable to pay your debts, but a bankrupt has made a legal declaration of his inability to do so, and his assets, if he has any, are sorted out by a court and divided among his creditors. Figuratively, you may be said to be bankrupt of morals or compassion.

The idea of corruption seems to be that one is broken or breaks from within through good turning into evil. Money may be said to corrupt and bribery is often associated with corruption.

The word corruption is a good example of assimilation where the m of the prefix com becomes similar to the first consonant of the root word ruptand so the word becomes corrupt. It is much easier to say corrupt than to say comrupt. Try it for yourself.

Meetings, work or services may be disrupted. Meetings may be disrupted through members becoming angry and argumentative, even violent, or it may be that noisy machines outside may cause the disruption. A party may be disrupted by gate-crashers. Have you ever spent hours at an airport because services have been disrupted by fog? People may be disruptive as may be pupils, classes, and strikes. Disruption includes interruption but is usually stronger, longer, and potentially more annoying.

Eruption is usually limited to volcanoes and geysers, but figuratively a meeting or classroom may erupt into laughter.

The last three words on the list contain neither an m nor a p and so their derivation is not so obvious. It seems they come into English through French. A rout is an overwhelming defeat. When an army is routed, it is utterly broken apart.

A route was a pathway opened up by force and became broken in and hence established. (Check) It seems that the word routine suggests the way in which we break up our day into units of work, play, and eating. Where I live, we normally pronounce the word route as if it were the word root, as in a plant, but I hear Americans saying route in the same way as I pronounce rout.

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Sanus = healthy (adjective) and sanitas = health (noun)

Words derived from these Latin words have something to do with health. The list includes:

sane adjective
insane -in = not
sanity -ity = noun ending
insanity -in = not
saneness -ness = noun ending
sanitary adjective
unsanitary un = not
insanitary in = not
sanitation -ion = noun ending
a sanatorium -ium = place where
a sanitarium
to sanitize -ize = make
to sanitise -ise = make

The words sane, insane, sanity, insanity and saneness, are usually used of mental health, but can sometimes have a more general use, even a figurative or colloquial one, as in “You’re driving me insane” when one is expressing annoyance at another’s behaviour or “That’s an insane idea” when one thinks the idea is crazy or quite impractical.

Sanitation, sanitary, and unsanitary usually relate to physical health. The words unsanitary and insanitary seem to be used interchangeably, both meaning unhealthy or likely to cause disease.

Town and city councils have departments of sanitation whose staff see that streets, buildings, streams and water supplies are clean, unpolluted and health-promoting. Good sanitation describes healthy-living conditions while unsanitary conditions promote disease rather than health; they are unhygienic and may contain dirt, dust, mould, rubbish, body waste or vermin like rats and mice. Health or sanitary inspectors decide whether a place is fit for habitation or not.

While sanitation comes from Latin, a similar word or synonym, hygiene, is of Greek origin coming from the name of the Greek goddess of physical health, hygiene and cleanliness, Hygeia. She is usually pictured as a woman holding a snake. The snake was worshipped in many ancient religions and seems to have been linked to healing. Note the letter "y" in hygiene, which is a clue that it comes from Greek. The goddess Hygeia had a sister called Panakela, from which probably comes panacea, meaning a remedy for all diseases. Pan means all in Greek while akos means cure or remedy.

A sanatorium, sometimes spelt sanitarium, which seems the preferred spelling in America, is a place where patients go to improve their health, to convalesce or recuperate after an illness. Sanatoriums or sanatoria are often situated in the country or among hills where the air is fresh and clean.

Sanitize and sanitise both mean to make healthy by getting rid of dirt or germs. The -ize seems to be preferred in America while the -ise, suggesting French influence, is used more in Britain. These two words can also be used figuratively, especially of writing which needs the editing out of words that make it unfit for publication.

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Hints for Learning

1. Take it easy rather than trying to cram in information. Just browse the page.

2. Try to relate the vocabularies back to the Latin or Greek root.

3. If you know most of the words, try to understand a word you don’t know.

4. If you know a few words only, choose the easiest word you can find to learn.

5. Check out which column an English word is in. Is it under the present tense heading or the past participle? This gives a clue to its spelling.

6. Check the Latin infinitive for the second last vowel which may affect the English spelling also. The e in agere appears in words like agent while the a in vocare shows in vocal and vocabulary.

7. Listen for these words in conversation and watch for them in books. This is the easiest way to learn how words are used.

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Taceo = I am silent

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I am silent)
(to be silent)
(I was silent)
(having been silent)

A few words only have come into English from the Latin root taceo:

reticent adjective
reticence noun

tacit adjective
taciturn-or = one who

The Latin root taceo gives us only a few words in English. You may read them rather than hearing them in conversation. However, it is useful to know what they mean and how they are used. The noun reticence suggests holding back and not saying what one thinks. If one is reticent about what one thinks or feels, one probably keeps one’s thoughts or feelings to oneself. The opposite of reticent might be loquacious, which is derived from loquor = I speak, and literally means full of talk. Another antonym might be garrulous, which comes from the Latin garrio = I chatter. Both these antonyms suggest that one doesn’t know when to stop talking and start listening. When we give tacit approval or show tacit agreement, we may not say anything or perhaps we nod or gesture approval or agreement.

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Torqueo = I twist

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I twist)
(to twist)
(I twisted)

Torqueo has the idea of twisting, twirling, bending, winding (round a stick). It comes into French as tordre. Most words derived from it come into English from the past participle.

torment noun
to torment
a torque noun
a torch

to torture
torture noun
tortuous adjective
a tortoise
to contort
contortion Latin con- = with
a contortionist -ist = one who
to distort dis- = away from
distortion of
to extort ex- = out of, from
an extortionist -ist = one who
to retort re- = back
a retort
tort a legal term
nasturtium Latin nas- = nose
torticollis Latin collum = neck

Torment and torture both have the idea of severe pain felt through twisting of some kind. However, torture may be more violent; it probably lasts for a short time only, and may be applied by something concrete like the rack or thumb screws. It was usually used to elicit information or get money out of someone. The rack was an instrument for stretching a victim’s limbs and pulling them out of joint. Torment, on the other hand, may be permanent, mental or physical, and can arise through indirect means such as a guilty conscience. There is a certain overlap between the words so that one can be tortured by anxiety or tormented with inquiries.

Torque is a term that comes from physics. It is also used in medicine and mechanics and may be familiar to those involved in the automotive industry. Damien Howard describes it as a twisting force that tends to cause rotation. See www. Torque has many applications and I understand it is basically the force we use when we turn a key in a lock or turn a door knob even. Chambers Dictionary of Etymology describes it as a force causing rotation or torsion.

It seems a torque, also written as torc or torq, was a type of ornament worn by iron-age Europeans and Britons and made of twisted metal. Such ornaments have been uncovered in archaeological digs in England and may have been worn as belts, necklaces, armbands, and especially as neck rings, open at the front. They seem to belong to Celtic art and the most famous gold neck ring was probably worn by a person of high rank. They were also made of silver and iron and appear to have been popular in European cultures from 700BC – 200AD. For more information and images, see torc in Wikipedia and the InterNet.

Today torches are powered by batteries, but a torch was once a bundle of branches or sticks twisted around each other at one end and lit. Sometimes the end to be lit was soaked in fat first.

A tortuous path is one full of twists and turns, while a tortoise means twisted foot, possibly because a tortoise has large, thick hind legs.

Contortion usually involves the face or parts of the body. It generally results from pain though a contortionist is a very flexible gymnast who has learned to place parts of his body in unusual places and angles without pain. Distortion is a slightly more general term. Meaning, truth, facts, statements and sound can be distorted, twisted away from the real thing or out of shape. Curved mirrors which distort one’s reflection can be fun.

Extortion involves unpleasantness and may be a crime. Money, promises or confessions may be extorted or twisted out of people by means of force or threats. Replies, which are classed as retorts, have an unpleasant flavour, too, being considered ill-natured or rude. The idea is that one gives back insult for insult or one cutting remark for another. One has to be quick-witted to do it, but it is a twisted rather than being a clean way of relating. A retort is also a glass vessel with a twisted neck used in science to distil substances. Do look up the image of a retort on the InterNet.

A tort is a civil wrong. It is part of tort law or the Law of Torts and usually involves harm, damage or injury to someone or their property. It may occur intentionally or through negligence, and may be rectified through a civil court case. It seems that when the law is twisted, it becomes an injustice and needs addressing.

Torticollis or wryneck is a medical term referring to a complaint one would prefer not to have, for it occurs when the head is abnormally tilted or twisted to one side due to injury, weakness or spasm of a muscle.

The leaves of the nasturtium plant have a sharp smell and taste which apparently made people turn up or twist their noses. It comes from the Germanic nas meaning nose and turtium or tortum meaning twisted, so it literally means twisted or wrinkled nose. The nasturtium also has yellow, red or orange flowers which are edible. The seeds can be dried, pickled and used instead of capers for seasoning.

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Traho = I pull, draw, drag, take

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I pull)
(to pull)
(I pulled)

a train noun
to train verb
a trail noun
to trail verb
a trailer noun
a trace noun
to trace verb
a trait noun

to portray = "draw" someone
portrayal noun
a portrait noun
portraiture abstract noun

a tractor -or = that which
a tract of land
tractable -able = able to be
intractable in- = not
to attract ad- = to, towards
attractive -ive = adjectival ending
unattractive un- = not
abstract abs = away from
an abstraction
a contract con- = with, together
to contract to do
a contractor -or = one who
a contraction
contractable (of disease)
contractual arrangements
to detract de- = from
a detraction noun
detractors noun
to distract dis- = away from
a distraction
to extract ex- = away from
an extract noun
an extraction e.g. of teeth
an extractor fan
to protract pro- = forward, out
protracted adjective
a protractor -or = that which
to retract what one has said
a retraction re- = back
retractile adjective
to subtract sub- = from
subtraction - mathematical process
to treat
a treat noun
treatment -ment = noun ending
a treaty noun

Note that the word drawing-room is not related to traho but comes from word withdraw and was originally a withdrawing room. You withdrew with your guests so that you could talk away from the household.

The short words in the first column suggest a mark is left or there is movement in a line. A train is pulled along by an engine and may look like a straight line whereas a bride’s train, if not held up by the bridesmaids, will drag along the ground, perhaps leaving a mark. A snail often leaves signs of the path it took with a slimy trail. A storm may leave a trail of destruction so that one knows where it hit. If no trace is left, then nothing is drawn from it and thus no mark is left.

We also speak of a character trait, which is a more figurative sense. It suggests how our personality or character is drawn.

A tractor or traction engine are both used for haulage; they draw or drag heavy machinery, etc, behind them. Tyres can lose traction on icy roads; losing grip, they slip and slide. When I was young, people who broke their legs had them put in traction, presumably to ensure the leg was straight when healed. This meant they had to lie still in bed with the broken limb held up in the air. I doubt broken legs are treated like this today.

We speak of a tract of land or water. According to Robert Claiborne in “The Roots of English”, an expanse of land was originally marked out by actual lines drawn on the ground. Another meaning of tract is a leaflet, usually on a religious subject. We also speak of our digestive tract, which begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. It is a long, drawn-out tube, about 30 feet or 9 meters long, which takes in a number of organs, such as the stomach and intestines.

The word tractable, whether used of people or animals, suggests they can be easily handled or managed; they can be pulled or drawn along the way desired by their teachers or trainers. This word is used in a good sense; if tractable, one is teachable.

However, the words treat and treaty, have more the sense of dealing with. We can treat someone well or badly; we can give them a treat, a pleasant surprise or party, perhaps. When making a treaty with a country or group of people, we must negotiate with their leaders, drawing out from them what is acceptable to them and to you.

The three most commonly-used compound words in the second column are probably attract, contract, and extract. We are drawn to attractive people or attractive personalities; they draw us to them.

Your dentist may extract one of your teeth; he pulls or takes it out. You may also read an extract from a book, a paragraph or two taken from the book.

The word contract has two main meanings. The first is the opposite of expand. Muscles contract; they draw themselves up together and become shorter. The noun contract also has a legal meaning. We may contract to do some task. A builder contracts to construct a house and a written contract is drawn up with conditions attached.

We may contract debts. We can also contract a disease, so diseases can be described as contractable. However, the adjective spelt contractible has the idea of being drawn together or shrunk.

Crossings-out in one’s homework may detract or take from its appearance and it may be marked down.

A loud noise may suddenly distract students from their lessons; their attention is no longer focused on their study but on the cause of the noise.

The word protract, meaning drawn out, is used particularly of time. We may speak of a protracted wait, argument, struggle, dispute, illness or protracted pain. Talks, discussions and negotiations may be protracted and last a long time. In mathematics a protractor is used to measure and draw angles to scale. It is also a medical term for a muscle which is extended more than it should be and may even protrude. Thus pro- suggests forward or out as well as before in time and place.

In the word portrait the prefix por- is a form of pro suggesting the artist brings forth a picture or outline of someone’s face, in particular.

The prefix sub usually means under but in subtract it has developed the meaning of away from so that in mathematics subtraction is where we take one number away from another.

Though not a very common word, abstract has several uses and can be used as an adjective, noun or verb. An abstract noun, as opposed to a concrete noun, describes an idea, quality, or state of being like beauty or love, rather than something one can reach out and touch. (See Word Definitions: Parts of Speech). We may speak in abstract terms or of abstract art. This means we are dealing with ideas, theories or emotions. We also speak of someone being abstracted, meaning their mind is not on the present surroundings or task in hand but on something else. Thus they are preoccupied.

The noun abstract means a summary of the contents of a treatise or book. The prefix abs- has the same meaning as –ab (away, from) and is used before the letters c, q and t.

Sometimes we need to retract or take back a statement we have made because it is untrue or it makes us liable under the laws of defamation. A retraction is necessary or one may be taken to court. The undercarriage or landing gear of an aeroplane can be retracted as can some cords and cables. Often the cord on a vacuum cleaner is made to be retracted for tidiness. A tortoise has a retractile head. It can be drawn back under its shell for protection. Likewise a cat has retractile claws.

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Vinco = I conquer, defeat, win, obtain the victory

The past tense of vinco appears in the well-known phrase “Veni, vidi, vici”, which has popularly been attributed to Julius Caesar. According to the historian Appian of Alexandria, c95-165AD, a Greek historian with Roman citizenship, who wrote of the Roman wars, he is supposed to have said it around 47 BC in a letter to the Roman senate after a quick victory in Asia Minor. The phrase means I came, I saw, I conquered.

Present tense Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I conquer)
(to conquer)
(I conquered)


to convince con- = with
unconvincing un- = not
vincible adjective
invincible in- = not
to evince e- = from, out of

convict noun and verb
a conviction noun
to evict e- = from, out of
eviction noun
a victor -or- = one who
victorious adjective
a victory noun
Victor a boy’s name
Victoria a girl’s name
Vicky girl’s name, short for Victoria
the Victoria Cross
a victim
to victimize -ize or –ise = to make

You may convince another to do what you want with your arguments; this means you win them over with your words. Vincible, meaning able to be conquered, does not seem to be in common use whereas invincible, its opposite meaning, i.e. not able to be conquered, is.

The verb, evince, came into English in the late 16th century meaning to win a point or prove by argument. In other words, it had much the same meaning as the word convince has today. However, evince has gradually lost this meaning and now suggests to reveal or show something clearly, e.g. When I knew her she evinced no interest in politics.

The word convict has a legal meaning. After a trial in which the arguments for and against the defendant’s innocence or guilt is debated, the accused may be declared innocent of the crime and freed, or he may be declared guilty and be convicted of it, in which case he must face the penalty awarded by the judge. He either wins his case or loses it.

One may also feel convicted by guilt on a personal level; it’s as if one puts oneself through a trial in one’s mind.

The noun convict was especially used by Great Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries to describe prisoners who were deported to other countries such as Australia and America, often for very minor crimes like stealing a loaf of bread. Apparently Britain’s jails were overflowing with people convicted of petty crimes at that time and reduced their prison population by deporting them.

The abstract noun conviction has a slightly different meaning, having more the idea of strongly-held, deep-rooted beliefs and moral principles, which have been won by hard thinking and struggles.

The word eviction is narrow in its meaning and is also connected with the law. It has the basic idea of being forced out of a place with the backing of the law. Thus tenants can be evicted from a rental property if their rent has not been paid and an unruly customer can be evicted from a pub. In each case the person doing the evicting has the power of the law behind them. The tenants have broken some part of their tenancy agreement and the noisy customer has disturbed the peace in the pub. The tenants and rowdy customer are defeated in their desire to remain where they are.

The Victoria Cross is a very high award established by Queen Victoria (1819-1901) in 1956 to honour acts of courage during the Crimean War (1853-1856). It seems the medals have been awarded to fewer than 1,400 people since then.

A victim is the one who is defeated by the more powerful person. A group of bullies can easily victimise a younger person on their own. Because of their greater number and power, they turn him into a victim. The –ize ending is used to turn a noun into a verb and has been in use in English since the 16th century. However, today it seems to be a characteristic of American English while the –ise ending, which reflects the influence of the French language, is more common in British English.

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Voco = I call

The Latin verb, voco, is also related to the Latin noun, vox vocis = voice, which appears in French as la voix.

In English most nouns have one form to which an -s is added to make it plural, but in Latin and Greek, nouns have several forms depending on how they are used.  After prepositions, for example, the ending of a noun changes so that it has a different form.  The form vox is used only when it is the subject of a sentence, but most other parts come from the stem, vocis, which is known as the genitive and means of the voice. It is the equivalent of the English apostrophe s in nouns, e.g. the voice's strength.  

Present tense  Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
(I call)
(to call)
(I called)
(called from 'I have called')

voice   noun and verb  (la voix French)
unvoiced   un- = not
voiceless   -less = without
viva voce   Latin  vivus = living
vociferous -ous = an adjectival ending = full of
to vociferate  (ferendum = bearing)
vocabulary noun
voca-al = adjectival ending
to vocalise, vocalize
vocalist  -ist = one who

unequivocal  un- = not

advocacy  noun
to convoke con = together
to evoke e, ex = forth, from
to invoke in = on, upon
to provoke pro = forth

to revoke  re = back

vocative case

vocation  -ion = noun ending
vocational  adjective

to equivocate  equi = equal

to advocate ad = (to), for
evocative of adjective
an invocation  to
provocative behaviour
revocation  -ion = act of

The word voice seems to have picked up the letter i from the French, la voix, and the word vowel has picked up a w.  Where this w came from, I don't know.  In English the letter w is called a double u but is written both as a double u and a double v, while in French it is called a double v and is found in borrowed words only.   It could be that the w was introduced into the word vowel to separate the o and the e and to show that both vowels are pronounced, since in words like toe, the o and the e are pronounced as one sound, an o.

The five English vowels, a, e, i, o, u,  could be called the voices of the alphabet because, unlike the consonants, they are vocalised (they have sounds).   Viva voce is Italian for an oral examination, as opposed to a written one.   It literally means with living voice.   'Viva the queen' means '(Long) live the queen!';  it is like a cheer or an hurrah.  The term sotto voce means under the voice or breath and so whispered, while in pianoforte music the hand marked with sotto voce plays beneath the other hand.

The infinitive vocare shows us that the vowel in words like vocabulary is an a.

 Vocabulary might be described as a list of words which name objects, ideas, and feelings in a particular language. Every person has their own personal vocabulary, that is, the words they know and use.

The suffix or ending -ary is used to form nouns and adjectives and has the idea of
a) a place where and b) being connected with.   Thus, vocabulary is connected with what things are called, i.e. words.   Your vocabulary is the collection of words known to or used by you.

Without vocal cords we would have no voice and we wouldn't be able to voice our ideas.   People who are said to be very vocal are those who air their feelings freely.   In music the vocal score is written for the singers and a vocalist usually sings popular songs with the backing of an instrument.

In the three words with equi- in them, the -qui is stressed. To equivocate is to be ambiguous, to call it equal ways or to make equal calls, perhaps, so that the meaning is unclear. Unequivocal is the opposite and means plain and clear. Its first syllable has a secondary accent.

No doubt you've spotted the k in the verbs under the present tense.   The letter k has the same sound as the hard c in English.    The soft c, which sounds like an s, generally results from French influence, as in the words cell, celery, cent, cigarette, and cinema.  In our group of words voice and vociferous have the soft cVociferous suggests having a voice that carries and so a vociferous cry is a really loud one.

The first c in advocacy is hard and the last c is soft and sounds like an s.  The endings -cy, -acy, -ancy, -ency, -ance and -ence are common noun endings and have a soft c.   The word advocacy has the idea of the act or process of calling or speaking in favour of someone.  A lawyer advocates in court on behalf of his client. 

To provoke is probably the most common verb in the list.  It suggests that certain behaviour calls forth from another a strong emotion like anger.   Provocation has often been used as a defence in crimes of violence.   Words ending in -ion and -tion are usually nouns formed from verbs and are very common.  Provocation is the act of calling forth a reaction; provocative conduct does the same thing.   A convocation is the calling together of a large number of people and thus it can be many people gathered together for a particular purpose, such as in a conference.   The calling back or cancelling of a promise, decree, vow or oath, is the idea behind revoke and revocation.

Underneath the past participle heading you'll see the word vocative. The -ive is an adjectival ending or suffix, and vocative stands for vocative case.  When we call out to our friends, “Bill, Joan, come here!”, we are using the vocative case. If you were speaking in Latin, there could well be a different form for Bill or Joan. Poets used to call upon the muses to inspire them and many poems begin with an invocation, a few lines asking the muse for help. Another adjective with the suffix -ive, is evocative, which is often followed by the preposition of. A scene, painting or poem may be evocative of a past happy or sad event.

The word vocation suggests one's calling.   People who feel they have been called to a certain profession or employment consider it their vocation or calling in life.   It is more than a job.   On the other hand, the word avocation suggests a minor occupation.

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