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Etymology:
The Study of Word Origins and
Root Words
Identify common Greek and Latin roots
in selected words.
Recognize these roots in words
families.
Apply knowledge of roots to determine
word meaning and use in writing.
www.signingtime.com
Where do words come from?
Why do different languages share
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No Internet because there are
no computers!
No video games either!
No homework assignments!
No big reports to write!
No books to read!
No newspapers – not even the sports!
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No words for any of your
favorite songs – just music!
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The answers to these
questions lie in the
study of etymology.
This is the study of the
origins of words and
how they evolved
over time.
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www.wordfocus.com
The word etymology is derived from
the Greek etumos which means real
or true.
The ending ‘ology’ suggests the study
or science of something, as in
biology or geology.
That is the etymology of etymology.
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What is etymology?
Here is an example:
The Ancient Greek word
hippos means horse.
And potamus means river.
Hippopotamus literally
means river horse.
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Malaria
n. Infectious disease characterized
by chills and fever caused by the
bite of an infected mosquito.
This word comes from the mediaeval
Italian mal (=bad)
and aria (=air)
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What do you have in common
with Julius Caesar?
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JuliusCaesar/tvminiseries/c.2002
Let’s think about this for a minute.
Have you ever been • A dictator of a great empire?
• A Roman general?
• A close friend of Cleopatra?
• Captured by pirates and held for
ransom?
• Had your name become an actual title?
• Had any coins bearing your likeness?
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Did you answer yes to any
of these questions?
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Can you think of what you and he
have in common?
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Been a world conqueror?
Been the son of a king?
Traveled over 22,000 miles on horseback
or on foot?
Founded 70 cities and named them after
yourself?
Grown up believing that you were the son
of Zeus, king of all Greek gods?
Added the words “the Great” to your name?
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www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/clothing.html
The answer is
WORDS.
You have probably
spoken hundreds,
maybe even
thousands,
of the same words as
both Caesar and
Alexander.
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Photo © I1996 IncWell
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www.wordfocus.com
Latin was the language of ancient Rome.
As the Romans conquered Europe,
the Latin language spread.
Since England was part of
the Roman Empire for close
to 400 years, Latin was its
written language.
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www.hyperhistory.com/online_2/maptext
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English did not develop only
from Latin.
• Early English was the language of
tribes who invaded England from the
East, from what is now Germany.
• This tells us why words in German
and English are often similar.
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In the 11th century, when the French
invaded England, many French
words were also introduced.
Over time, many more words were
introduced into English from other
European countries.
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For hundreds of years after the fall of
the Roman Empire, Latin was the
language of education and knowledge
in Europe.
This explains why so many terms we
use connected with knowledge,
religion, or education are of
Latin origin.
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During the 17th and 18th centuries,
dictionary writers and grammarians
felt that English was an imperfect
language and Latin was perfect.
To improve the English
language, they made up
many English words from
Latin roots.
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They used Greek roots also since
Greek was considered the
language of the arts.
The Greeks were the first
Europeans to use an alphabet, to
theorize about language, and to
frame language categories.
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• a part of a word
• the part that carries the
most meaning
• often called a base word
when it’s a complete word
• by itself usually not a word
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• Main part of word
•
Must have at least one in a word
•
In English, limited to two in a word
•
Simple words have one root
•
Compound words have two roots
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At least half of the words in the English
language are derived from
Greek and Latin roots.
Knowing these roots helps us
understand the meaning of
words before we look them up
in the dictionary.
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A base word is a word part
that by itself is also a word:
part ition
Partition has the base word
part and means
“to divide into parts.”
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A root is a word part that is
used to form other words.
A root by itself is usually not a word:
hiero glyth
Hieroglyph has the root word hiero
and the root glyph. Hiero means “sacred”
and glyph means “carving.” Hieroglyph
means “a carved symbol in the sacred
writing of ancient Egypt.”
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If you want to learn 20 – 30 new words,
you can spend time memorizing
their definitions.
But in a few days you’ll probably forget
most of their meanings.
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The Latin root ‘port’
means to carry.
Knowing the root
can help you unlock
the meaning of many
related words with
the same root.
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porter
exportable
portable
deport
reporter
importable deportation importer
import
important portage
export
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report
portfolio
A porter is a person employed to
carry burdens, such as luggage.
Important means great significance
or value.
Portable means easy to move
or carry.
Report means to carry back
and repeat information.
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See how easy it is when you
know the root word ‘port’
means to carry?
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Basic
meaning
Latin root
Example words
-dict-
to say
contradict, dictate, diction, edict, predict
-duc-
to lead, bring,
take
deduce, produce, reduce
-gress-
to walk
digress, progress, transgress
-ject-
to throw
eject, inject, interject, project, reject, subject
-pel-
to drive
compel, dispel, impel, repel
-pend-
to hang
append, depend, impend, pendant, pendulum
-port-
to carry
comport, deport, export, import, report,
support
-scrib-, script-
to write
describe, description, prescribe, prescription,
subscribe, subscription, transcribe,
transcription
-tract-
to pull, drag,
draw
attract, contract, detract, extract, protract,
retract, traction
-vert-
to turn
convert, divert, invert, revert
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Greek root
Basic meaning
Example words
-anthrop-
human
misanthrope, philanthropy,
anthropomorphic
-chron-
time
anachronism, chronic,
chronicle, synchronize,
chronometer
-dem-
people
democracy, demography,
demagogue, endemic,
pandemic
-morph-
form
amorphous, metamorphic,
morphology
-path-
feeling, suffering
empathy, sympathy, apathy,
apathetic, psychopathic
-pedo-, -ped-
child, children
pediatrician, pedagogue
-philo-, -phil-
having a strong affinity
or love for
philanthropy, philharmonic,
philosophy
-phon-
sound
polyphonic, cacophony,
phonetics
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The root ‘am’ means love or friend.
Select the best meaning of the word
friendly.
A. amend
B. ambition
C. amicable
D. ambush
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The root ‘am’ means love or friend.
Select the best meaning of the word
friendly.
A. amend
B. ambition
C. amicable
D. ambush
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How did you do?
You could have looked at the part of speech of
friendly.
You see a suffix ending. The –ly (meaning like)
tells you this word must be an adjective or an
adverb, both parts of speech used to describe
someone or something.
The suffix ending –able (meaning capable of)
should also tell you this word is an adjective.
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If you understand that there are two
Latin roots that mean light:
luc- and lumyou can begin to figure out some of
the meanings of the words below.
luminous
lucid
luminescent
luminousness
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illuminate
luminaria
translucent
illumination
The Latin roots ‘pod’ and ‘ped’ mean
foot. Knowing this, you will be able
to figure out the meanings of each
of these words:
podiatrist = treats foot ailments
pedestrian = person who walks
pedicure = care of the feet
pedal = lever worked by the foot
quadruped = animal with four feet
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school.discovery.com/clipart/category/lang.html
It’s interesting that
the word for friend
in Spanish is
amigo.
Both English and
Spanish share the
same root:
‘am.’
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Spanish is a language that evolved
from Latin over the last 2,000 years.
English borrowed thousands of
words from Latin, many of them the
same words that Spanish uses.
Both languages have also borrowed
many words from Greek.
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English
Spanish
family
center
radio
class
desert
magic
gorilla
familia
centro
radio
clase
desierto
magia
gorila
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Use your Spanish language
skills to help you unlock the
meaning of new words in
English.
Ask yourself –
Does this look a lot like a
word I know in Spanish?
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English words with the same base word
or root word often have related
meanings. When they do, they make
up what’s called a word family.
Knowing the meaning of the base word
or root can help you figure out the
meanings of the words in the family.
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BASE WORD
BASE WORD
light
spect
en light ment
flood light
light -year
spot light
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spect acle
pro spect
in spect or
spect ator
Here’s another word family that
shares the Latin root pos meaning
to put or to place.
im pos ition
pro pos e
trans pos e
de pos it
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im pos
pos
pos
pre pos
e
ture
itive
ition
imposition = a burden or unfair
demand placed on someone
impose = to place a burden or
unfair demand
posture = to put or place the
body in a certain position
deposit = to put or set down;
to place
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Let’s stop a minute for some
educational trivia about
Julius Caesar.
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Do you remember
our question about
being kidnapped by
pirates?
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Improving
Vocabulary
Lesson
Caesar and the Pirates
As a young man, Caesar was
kidnapped by pirates. When they
demanded a ransom of 20 talents
(nearly 5,000 gold coins), he laughed
at them, saying they did not know
whom they had captured. Instead,
Caesar ordered them to ask for 50
(12,000 gold coins).
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Caesar and the Pirates
The pirates accepted, and
Caesar sent his followers
to various cities to collect
the ransom money.
Thirty-eight days later,
they returned with the
ransom and Caesar was
set free.
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Improving Vocabulary:
• Etymology
• Root Words
• Base Words
• Cognates
• Word Families
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