Our language roots

It can help you to understand English better when you are familiar with its roots and can pull  a word apart to find its meaning.  Take the word ensuite (or en suite) for example, it comes from the French meaning “in sequence” and in English has come to mean a bathroom attached to a bedroom, therefore following in sequence from one room to another. We gained the word melancholy from the Greeks. It breaks into two parts – melan (black), and cholia (bile) – relating to a mood that is likened to a thick black substance, hence a gloomy state of mind. You will also find the root melan in melanin, melanoma and Melanesia.

Our language is chock a block with Latin and Greek derivations, along with French and Germanic and a few others from other countries around the globe. A common Latin root is aqu- referring to water, from which we get aqua, aquarium, aquiduct, aquaculture and aquifer. We use the Latin root ann- or -enn- for words referring to year, such as annual, anniversary, biannual and millennium. The Greek amphi- for “both sides” is used in amphibian, amphitheatre and amphibolic. We get the words gastric and gastroenterologist from the Greek root gastr– (stomach).

The English language has an even longer history with the Germanic languages because of the early influences of invasions of Britain from Germanic invaders. Words such as hamburger, waltz, kindergarten and quartz are some of the survivors. Here are some references that will open your eyes to the rich language sources of our complex language that today continues to evolve and develop.

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