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Word Derivations - Greek and Latin Bases

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The more Greek and Latin word bases/roots you know the better you will be able to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words that are derived from Greek or Latin. The following chart shows common word bases and sample words built from them. All the words here are formed from two bases on this list.

The first form in the chart, which is bolded, is the word base; the next form, in italics, is the entire Greek or Latin word that the base comes from, followed by its English translation. There may or may not be a difference between the bolded and the italic forms because sometimes, but not always, the base is modified (changed or reduced), depending on what follows it.

The indented words are examples using the base. To figure out the meaning of the examples, pair up the two bases for each example.

The first example is aphasia, formed from what is called the "alpha-privative" or a, which negates Greek words, and phasia, from the Greek for "utterance," so aphasia is "without utterance" or "not speaking".

Perhaps technically the alpha-privative should not be included in this list because it doesn't stand alone, but it a useful and productive unit for analyzing words based on Greek.

Here is a preview of the bases you'll find elaborated below: a-, acro-, agogue-, ana-, anthropo-, apo-, arch-, auto-, cac-, cata-, chron-, -chrom, -crat, -crypt, demo-, -dox, em-, epi-, ethno-, eu-, exo-, -gam, -gen, -graph, homo-, lith-, -log, -lyt, meter, mono-, morph-, neo-, -oid, -onymn, -ops, ortho-, paleo-, path-, patr- petro-, phas-, phil-, phobia-, phon-, -polis, soph-, stereo-, stroph-, syn-, tele-, theo-, -type.

N.B. (which stands for nota bene 'note well' ~ 'pay attention') There may also be endings like -ic, and -y that make the word an adjective, noun, or whatever, but they are not listed here.

  • a: a - without (negation)
    aphasia
    apathy
    anarchy
  • acro: akros - highest
    acronym
    acrophobia
    acropolis
  • agogue: agogus - leader > agein - to lead
    demagogue
  • ana: ana - back
    analogy
    analytic
  • anthropo: anthropos - man
    anthropoid
    anthropomorphic
  • apo: apo - off, away
    apostrophe
    apotheosis
  • arch: arche - beginning; archaios - old
    archaeology
    archaic
    archetype
  • arch: archein - to rule
    anarchy
  • auto: autos - self
    autonomy
    autopsy
    autocrat
  • cac: kakos - bad, evil
    cacophony
  • cata: kata - down
    catalyst
    catastrophe
  • chron: khrono - time
    chronology
  • chrome: khroma - color, complexion, skin
    monochrome
  • crat: kratos - strength, power
    autocrat
    democracy
    theocracy
  • crypt: kryptos - hdden
    cryptography
  • demo: demos - district, common people
    demagogue
    democracy
  • dox: doxa - opinion, praise > dokein - to seem
    orthodox
  • em: en - in
    empathy
  • epi: epi - upon, in addition
    epilogue
  • ethno: ethnos - people, nation, class
    ethnologist
  • eu: eu - well
    euphony
  • exo: exo - outside
    exogamy
  • gam: gamos - marriage
    exogamy
    monogamy
  • gen: genos - kind, gender, race, stock
    homogenized
  • graph: graphein - to write
    cryptography
    petrograph
    orthography
    paleography
  • homo: homos - same
    homogenized
    homologue
    homonym
  • lith: lithos - stone
    paleolithic
    neolithic
  • log: logy - word > logos - word; logia - study of
    analogy
    chronology
    archaeology
    monologue
    epilogue
    ethnologist
    neologist
    pathology
    homologue
  • lyt: lysis - loosening
    analytic
    catalyst
  • meter: metrum/metron - measure
    telemetry
  • mono: monos - single, alone
    monologue
    monogamy
    monochrome
  • morph: morphe - shape
    anthropomorphic
  • neo: neos - new
    neologist
    neolithic
  • oid: oeides - shaped
    anthropoid
  • onym: onoma - name
    acronym
    autonomy
    homonym
    patronym
    synonym
  • ops: opsis - sight/eye
    autopsy
  • ortho: orthos - true, straight
    orthodox
    orthography
  • paleo: palaio - old, ancient
    paleolithic
    paleography
  • path: pathos - feeling
    apathy
    empathy
    pathology
  • patr: pater - father
    patronym
  • petro: petra - rock
    petrograph
  • phas: phasis - utterance
    aphasia
  • phil: philo - loving
    philosophy
  • phobia: phobia - fear
    acrophobia
  • phon: phone - voice
    cacophony
    stereophonic
    euphony
  • polis: polis - city, state
    acropolis
  • soph: sophos - wise, clever
    theosophy
    philosophy
  • stereo: stereos - solid
    stereophonic
  • stroph: strephein - to turn
    apostrophe
    catastrophe
  • syn: syn - together, same
    synonym
  • tele: tele - far
    telemetry
  • theo: thea - god
    apotheosis
    philosophy
    theocracy
    theosophy
  • type: typos - model, type, blow
    archetype

See how much you've learned: Take the Word Roots Quiz

Also see these articles on words and word derivations:
  • Latin Words in English I
    English has lots of words of Latin origin. Some of these words are changed to make them more like other English words -- mostly by changing the ending (e.g., 'office' from the Latin officium), but other Latin words are kept intact in English. Of these words, there are some that remain unfamiliar and are generally italicized to show that they are foreign, but there are others that are used with nothing to set them apart as imported from Latin. You may not even be aware that they are from Latin. Here are some such words and abbreviations.
  • Latin Words in English II
    (See preceding.)
  • On Translating Latin Into English
    Whether you want to translate a short English phrase into Latin or a Latin phrase into English, you can not just plug the words into a dictionary and expect an accurate result. You can't with most modern languages, but the lack of a one-to-one correspondence is even greater for Latin and English.
  • Latin Religious Words in English
    If you want to say that the prospects are bleak, you could say "it doesn't augur well." Augur is used as a verb in this English sentence, with no particular religious connotation. In ancient Rome, an augur was a religious figure who observed natural phenomena, like the presence and location to left or right of birds, to determine whether the prospects were good or bad for a proposed venture. Find out about more such words.

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