Woot Woot! Roots!

I love words in every way; in what respects they’re similar & different, how they sound, what they mean, all that.

So, I undertook to learn some Latin & Greek roots to understand exactly how our words are formed. (Greek root for “root”: rhiz.) I’m learning a lot of things I never would have even considered before. For instance, I never realized that the word “dilemma” is actually derived from di, meaning “two”, & lemma, which means “premise, assumption”.

Also, I looked up the history of the word “calculate” & found that it came from the Latin calculus (plural calculi) which means “stone”. As the Romans progressed in adding, subtracting, multiplying, & dividing, they required the use of pebbles to help them count. This eventually developed into the word “calculate”… As you may have guessed, Calculus is also directly derived from it, so I suppose you could call Calculus a pebble.

There are so many words that I could list, but that’s a lot of italics taking up my time. 🙂 Just a few more examples of root awesomeness before I finish this short post.

  1. Epilogue – from the Greek epi, “upon” or “in addition to” & logos, “word” or “speech”.
  2. Idiosyncrasy – idio actually means “personal” & syn means “with, together”. The origin of the end of the word is unclear, but it’s roughly from the Greek kerannynai, which means “to mingle, mix”.
  3. Austere – supposedly it’s from the Latin austerus, meaning “exacting”, but I think of it as aut, which means “self”, & stere, meaning “solid”.
  4. Cacophony – from caco, meaning “bad, wrong” & phon, meaning “sound”.
  5. Gastropod – I like this one because I always had a fascination with seashells & mollusks & because the roots describe the real thing so well; gastro means “stomach” & pod means “foot”.

& on a rather funnier note, a root I learned is thalass, which means “sea”. I don’t know exactly how it ended up that it meant “sea”, but so it is. If ever you should hear the word “thalassocracy“, you’ll at least have an idea of what it means.

(By the way, here’s the app I’m using to learn all the roots – it has over 1,000 roots & a very clean interface.)


Now, because I like learning Greek & Latin so much, here are some Latin phrases that I like to use:

  • Ignotum per ignotius – this means “the unknown by the more unknown” & refers to an unhelpful explanation that is just as (or even more) confusing than that which it is attempting to explain.
  • Sui generis – one-of-a-kind.
  • Nunc aut numquam – now or never.
  • Sic infit – so it begins.
  • Caesar non supra grammaticos – I like this one a lot because there’s a story behind it. In a speech around 1414, the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg used the Latin word schisma, meaning “schism.” However, he muddled up its gender – schisma should have been a neuter word, but he used it as if it were feminine. When the error was pointed out to him, Sigismund angrily proclaimed that because he was Emperor, the word would be feminine from now on. It was then that a man supposedly stood & replied, “Caesar non supra grammaticos,” meaning “the Emperor is not above the grammarians.” It’s now used in defense of good grammar, which means it’s a phrase I’ll be throwing around frequently in my life.

Latin and Greek are both amazing. So are their roots & phrases. Learn them, memorize them, & use them!

~ ninniforlife

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