Greek and Latin Roots: “A” Base Words

I’d like to return to my series on affixes for a while and talk about Greek and Latin roots. These roots refer not only to affixes, but base words (also called “stems”; these are the main word to which affixes or prefixes are added) as well.

Again, for teachers, I would still highly recommend the book Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary. For students, I would like to feature what is probably the most useful chunk of the book here: common classical roots of English vocabulary. All content here, while essentially common etymological knowledge, I’m taking from Appendix C of Greek and Latin Roots, with periodic changes in the sample words (just because I felt like it). Since I’ve already talked (to an extent) about affixes, I’d like to start with base words. No Swedish translations are given this time, as they would be much more difficult to sort, and not nearly as helpful.

Base Meaning Example
(a)llel one another parallel
ag, act, igu drive, go agile, action, ambiguous
adelph brother Philadelphia (“the city of brotherly love”)
aer(o) air, wind aerate, aerobic
agog(ue), agogy lead (verb) pedagogy, synagogue
al, alma nourishing alimony, alma mater
alg pain, ache nostalgic, analgesic
am(a), amat, amor love, friend amiable, amateur, amorous
ambul walk ambulatory
angel messenger angelic
angle angle triangle, quadrangle
anim life, soul animate
annu, enni year annual, perennial
anthrop(o) human being, mankind anthroplogy
ap(i) bee apiary
aqu,aqua water aqueduct, aquarium
aquil eagle aquiline
astr(o) star astronomy
athl contest, struggle athlete
audi, audit hear, listen audience, audition
avi bird* avian, aviator

*Note that this one has also become synonymous with flight; while “avian” means “pertaining to birds” and an “aviary” is large, enclosed space to keep birds, an “aviator” is not a bird, but a human being who pilots an airplane (or other flying machine).

If the sample words are new to you, or you’re not sure how they connect to the meaning of the base word, I recommend looking them up in the Online Etymological Dictionary.

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