100+ Root Word Definitions and Meanings

Updated February 26, 2020
100+ Root Word Definitions and Meanings
    100+ Root Word Definitions and Meanings
    Salamatik / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Learning root words can be helpful in improving your vocabulary. When you know root words, you can recognize the basis of any word and use that knowledge to help you define a word you may not otherwise know. Keep reading to learn more about root words and to see a list of over 100 root word definitions.

Root Word Basics

So, what is a root word? A root word is the most basic part of a word, known as a morpheme. Root words that can stand alone as words (such as hero or ego) are known as free morphemes. If a root word must use a prefix and/or suffix to be an English word, it's known as a bound morpheme.

For example, take the word biology:

  • The root bio is Greek for "life."
  • The suffix -logy is Greek for "the study of."

Therefore, biology means "the study of life." If you add yet another suffix, -ist, the word becomes biologist - a person who studies life. As you make your way through this list of root words, you might consider creating your own flashcard set to memorize root word definitions. Just use this editable blank flashcard template.

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Root Definitions

It's important to know basic root word meanings. Understanding these definitions is the first step in building a stronger and more expansive vocabulary. Here is a sampling of root words divided by Greek and Latin origins.

Greek Roots

Many words in English are derived from Greek roots, like "bibliography," "chronological" and "orthodontist." Take a look at this list of Greek roots and try to think of English words based on each of them.

  1. Amphi (from amphí): Both sides, all around
  2. Anthrop (from ánthrōpos): Human or man
  3. Aqua or Aque (from aqua): Water or having to do with water
  4. Arch (from arkhḗ): Ruler, chief, or leader
  5. Arthro (from árthron): Joint
  6. Bio (from biōtós): Life
  7. Biblio (from bíblos): Book
  8. Byss (from bussós): Bottom
  9. Chrom (from khrôma): Color
  10. Chron (from khrónos): Time
  11. Cord or Chord (from khordḗ): Cord
  12. Cosm (from kósmos): Universe
  13. Crac or Crat (from krátos): Ruler or rule
  14. Crypt (from krúptein): Hidden
  15. Cylind (from kulíndein): Roll
  16. Dyna (from dúnasthai): Power
  17. Dem (from dêmos): People
  18. Derm (from dérma): Skin
  19. Dox (from dóxa): Opinion or belief
  20. Eur (from eurús): Wide
  21. Exo (from éxō): Outside
  22. Gam (from gámos): Marriage
  23. Geo (from gaîa): Earth
  24. Glyph (from glúphein): Carve
  25. Gno (from gnōtós): Know
  26. Gram (from grámmatos): Letter
  27. Graph (from gráphein): Printing or writing
  28. Gym (from gumnós): Naked
  29. Gyn (from gunḗ): Woman
  30. Hemi (from hḗmisus): partial
  31. Hemo, Hem, or Hema (from haîma): Blood
  32. Hero (from hḗrōs): Hero
  33. Hol (from hólos): Entire or whole
  34. Hydr or Hydro (from húdōr): Water
  35. Iso (from ísos): Identical, same or equal
  36. Klept (from kléptein): Steal
  37. Log (from lógos): Word or reason
  38. Man or Mant (from manía): Crazy
  39. Melan (from mélanos): Black
  40. Mere (from meíresthai): A segment or part
  41. Meta or Met (from metá): Above or beyond
  42. Meter or Metri (from métron): Measure
  43. Morph (from morphḗ): Structure or form
  44. Narc (from narkân): Numb
  45. Neur (from neûron): Nerve
  46. Od (from hodós): Path
  47. Odonto (from odóntos): Tooth
  48. Onym or Nym (from ónuma): Name or word
  49. Ortho (from orthós): To correct or straighten
  50. Path (from páthos): Feeling
  51. Phono or Phon (from phōnḗ): Voice or sound
  52. Pne (from pneûma): Lung or breathe
  53. Psych (from psukhḗ): Mind, soul or spirit
  54. Pod or Ped (from podós): Foot
  55. Rhe (from rheîn): Flow
  56. Schid or Schiz (from skhízein): Split or division
  57. Siphon (from síphōn): Tube
  58. Soph (from sophós): Knowledge or wisdom
  59. Strat (from stratós): Army
  60. The or Theo (from theós): Deity or god
  61. Therm (from thermós): Heat
  62. Troph (from trophós): Feed or grow
  63. Ur (from oureîn): Urine
  64. Zo (from zôion): Animal

Latin Roots

Just as many English words are derived from Greek, many other words are based on Latin roots, like "ambidextrous," "carnivore" and "lecture." What English words can you think of that are based on each of these Latin root words?

  1. Alter (from alius): Other
  2. Ami or amic (from amicus): Love
  3. Ambi (from ambi): Both sides
  4. Ann or Enni (from annus): Year
  5. Aud (from audire): Sound
  6. Bell (from bellum): War
  7. Brev (from brevis): short
  8. Cap (from capere): To take or seize control of
  9. Carn (from caro): Meat
  10. Ced (from cedere): Yield or go
  11. Corp (from corpus): Body
  12. Cred (from credere): Believe
  13. Cruc (from crux): Cross
  14. Culp (from culpa): Guilt
  15. Dent (from dentis): Tooth
  16. Dic (from dīcere): To speak or say
  17. Doc (from docere) Teach
  18. Du (from duo): Two
  19. Duc or Duct (from ducere): To lead
  20. Ego (from egṓ): Self
  21. Equ (from aequus): Equal or equivalent
  22. Fac (from facere): To make or do
  23. Fil (from fīlum): Thread
  24. Frater (from frāter): Brother
  25. Grad or Gress (from gradi): Step
  26. Ject (from jacio ): To throw
  27. Jud or Judic (from iudex): To judge
  28. Jus or Jur (from ius): Law and justice
  29. Lect or Leg (from legere): Say or read
  30. Liter (from littera): Letter
  31. Loc (from locus): Place
  32. Luc (from lūx): Light
  33. Magn (from magnus): Big or Large
  34. Man or Manu (from manus): Hand
  35. Mar (from mare): Sea
  36. Mater (from mater): Mother
  37. Min (from minor): Smaller
  38. Miss or Mit (from mittere): Send
  39. Mon (from mónos): Warn
  40. Mov, Mot, or Mob (from movere): Move
  41. Mort or Mor (from mors): Death
  42. Mut (from movere): Change
  43. Nomin or Nomen (from nomen): Name
  44. Nov (from novus): New
  45. Pac (from pax): Peace
  46. Pater (from patḗr): Father
  47. Pel or Puls (from pēlós): Drive or push
  48. Pend or Pens (from pensare): Weigh or hang
  49. Plan (from plānus): Flat
  50. Port (from portare): Carry
  51. Pot (from potere): Power
  52. Pug or Pugn (from pugnare): Fight
  53. Quer or Quis (from quaerere): To ask or seek
  54. Scand or Scend (from scandere): To climb
  55. Sci (from scire): Know
  56. Scind or sciss (from scindere): Cut
  57. Script or Scrib (from scribere): Write
  58. Sect or Sec (from secare): Cut
  59. Sess or Sed (from sedere): Sit
  60. Sent or Sens (from sentire): To be aware of, to feel
  61. Sequ or Secut (from sequere): To follow
  62. Serv (from servare): To save or serve
  63. Simil or Simul (from simulare): The same or similar
  64. Sol (from solis): The sun
  65. Son (from sonus): Sound
  66. Spic or Spec (from specere): To see or look
  67. Spir (from spirare): Coil or to breathe
  68. Spond (from spondere): Pledge or promise
  69. Stat (from statuere): Stand
  70. Tact or Tang (from tangere): Touch
  71. Tempor (from temporis): Time
  72. Tent or Ten (from tenere): Hold
  73. Terr (from terra): Earth
  74. Vac (from vacare): Empty
  75. Vent or Ven (from venire): To come
  76. Ver (from verus): Truth
  77. Vert (from versus): To turn
  78. Vit (from vita): Life
  79. Voc (from vocare): To call

More Resources on Root Words

The root study doesn't have to stop here. If you'd like to see these words in action, check out an article that lists examples of root words. There, you'll learn about root stems and how words can be formed by adding prefixes, suffixes or both to roots.