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Learn English Word Roots - Part 3


The English language is like a tree, with roots in the past. In previous articles, we learned English root words that came from ancient Rome, from the Latin language. (See Learn English Word Roots, Part 1 and Learn English Word Roots, Part 2.) Many English word roots also came from ancient Greece. Now, let's learn some English root words from the ancient Greek language. Learn the English roots in this article and the next, then when you read English, you will be able to guess the meaning of many new words. Often, you won't need a dictionary at all!

1. "cycl" means "circle" or "ring. Obviously a "bicycle" has two wheels which are circular. A "cyclone" is the same as a tornado - a big storm that goes around and around, in circles. An "encyclopedia" is a set of books that tries to explain all important knowledge - it goes in a kind or circle around all of that knowledge, like a big circle of books.

2. "gram" and "graph" both mean "write" or "written". We all know what "grammar" means, right? A "diagram" and "photograph" are pictures, but they are still printed on paper, so are similar to writting. An "autograph" means writing our own ("auto") signature, especially when a famous person signs her or his name for an adoring fan.

3. "phon" means "sound". A "telephone" transmits sound over a long distance ("tele" means "far"). On the other hand, a "microphone" allows us to send out a small ("micro") sound so that everyone in a large audience can hear it. "Phonology" is the study ("ology") of all of the sounds of a language.

4. "photo" means "light". When we print a "photograph" on paper, it is the "light" that makes the picture on the paper. Cameras today have a "telephoto" lens, also called a "zoom" lens, so that we can catch the light that is far away and use it to take a picture. "Photosynthesis" is something all plants do - plants make ("synthesize") their food from sunlight.

5. "scop" means "see". What can we see through a "telescope"? We can "see" things that are far away. With a "microscope", we can see very small things, for example, in a science laboratory. A "stethoscope" is a tool used by a doctor to listen (similar to "see"!) to your heart or lungs or other things inside your body.

6. "therm" means "heat". Of course, a "thermometer" is a tool that tells us how hot or cold the air is. In your home, you can control the heat in winter by using a "thermostat" which sets the temperature at a certain level. Also in winter, you can carry hot tea or coffee in a container called a "thermos" which will keep the liquid hot.

7. "arch" means "most important". The word "monarch" has the same meaning as "king". An "archenemy" is someone's most dangerous enemy. An archetype is a typical example of something, which is important in helping us understand better.

8. "bio" means "life". Now you should be able to understand what "biography" means. We now know that "graph" means "write", so "biography" means writing about a person's life - it is a book about one person's whole life. "Biology" is the study of life. Doctors will do a "biopsy" to study some cells of a person's body, to learn about how life of those cells (are they healthy or not?).

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