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Greek Word Roots


Often, when you come across a new word, you can break it down into parts in order to try and figure out what it means and how to spell it. To help you do this, it is worth paying attention to word roots. Once you accept that English words come from all over the world, you can group them depending on where they are from and start to look out for word patterns.

For example, if you recognise that the Greek ‘phob’ means ‘fear’, you can usually assume that English words which include ‘phob’ also describe fear in one way or another,for example ‘phobia’ or 'claustrophobic'

If you know that the Greek ‘acr’ means ‘height or summit’, it makes sense that the English word ‘acrobatics’ has something to do with heights, or that ‘acrophobia’ refers to a fear of heights.

Let’s take a look at some Greek word roots:

Root
(click on link for spelling list)
What does it mean? What are some examples
in English?
ast star asterisk
asteroid
astrology
astronaut
astronomy
disaster
cycl wheel/circular

bicycle
cycle
cyclic
cyclone
Cyclops
Encyclopaedia
motorcycle
recycle
tricycle
unicycle

dem people demagogue
democracy
demographic
demography
endemic
epidemic
epidemiology
pandemic
gen birth/race antigen
congenital
degenerate
eugenics
gender
genealogy
generate
generation
genes
genesis
genetic
genocide
pathogen
progeny
gramm/graph writing anagram
autograph
bibliography
biography
calligraphy
diagram
epigram
grammar
grammar
graph
graphic
graphite
monogram
paragraph
photography
programme
seismograph
telegram
hydr water dehydrate
hydra
hydrangea
hydrant
hydrate
hydraulic
hydrogen
hydrology
hydroplane
meter/metr measure barometer
centimetre
diameter
metre
thermometer
opt eye optic
optical
optician
optometry
phon sound cacophony
earphone
gramophone
headphone
homophone
megaphone
microphone
phonetic
phonics
phonograph
saxophone
symphony
telephone
xylophone
poli city acropolis
cosmopolitan
megalopolis
metropolis
police
policy
politics
scop see horoscope
kaleidoscope
microscope
periscope
scope
stethoscope
telescope
tele end/far telecaster
telecommunication
telegram
telegraph
telekinesis
telemarketing
teleological
telepathy
telephone
teleport
telescope
television
therm heat exothermic
hypothermia
thermal
thermodynamics
thermometer
thermos
thermostat

These, of course, are only a few of the many Greek roots used in English words. You can read a full Wikipedia list of Greek roots here.
If you’re interested in where words come from, make sure to check out our course and some of our previous blog posts:

Here at Spellzone we believe that knowing the story behind a word can really help with learning to spell it – both as a memory aid and as a way of identifying word patterns within the word. You can find our top spelling rules here.

Have a good week!


02 Jun 2014
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