Latin Origins

First, Latin is a dead language. That means no one currently uses it to speak. But when people did speak Latin, it was way back when the Romans ruled a lot of the world. The Roman Empire originated in Italy but spread to a lot of places. They went to the continent of Africa, Spain, France, and even as far north as England.

When in Rome

Much of the English language has Latin origins. Some scholars say half of all English words came from Latin words. Do you feel smarter yet? You've been speaking another language and didn't even know it! The reason you want to examine the roots of some words is because some of these words will appear time and again in spelling lists, vocabulary lists, and finally, in history and science areas. If you can identify them and have a better idea of their origin, it might make it easier for you to spell and define similar words. There are three main tricks that might help you figure out if a word came from Latin.

• Long e and i: The words magi, cacti, and alumni come directly to the English language from Latin. Each word ends in an i with a long i sound. Some words with a long e sound are veto, senior, and medium.

• Letter c sounds like k: The following words are derived from Latin and have the letter c in them, but have a hard k sound: college, constitution, and locale.

• Don't forget gn: A letter combination that is unique to Latin words is gn. In words that come from Latin, it makes an n sound but is spelled with a gn. Two examples are design and assign.

Fun Fact

English speakers know words from at least 100 different languages. These include words like sushi, karaoke, and karate from Japanese and déjà vu, bon voyage, and hors d'oeuvres from French. Can you think of others?

The Last Letter

The letter z is rare in words of Latin origin. Therefore, any word that has a z in it probably comes from a language other than Latin. Feel like doing a little bit of research? Look up the word maze. Where does this word come from? Can you use it in a sentence? Can you name two words maze rhymes with?

The letter z is rare in words of Latin origin. Therefore, any word that has a z in it probably comes from a language other than Latin. Feel like doing a little bit of research? Look up the word maze. Where does this word come from? Can you use it in a sentence? Can you name two words maze rhymes with?

Fun Fact

Romans in Britain

Did you know that the reason so many words in the English language are Latin in origin is because the early Romans lived in England? For at least 400 years during the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans lived in the area now known as Britain. During this time, the Britons adopted many Latin words and began using them in their daily language.

Latin Suffixes and Prefixes

We've already discussed suffixes and prefixes a bit in Chapter 2, but did you know that many common suffixes and prefixes are of Latin origin? They all have interesting meanings. When you know how they are spelled and what they mean, this knowledge can help you spell and define words you don't know. Here are twenty common prefixes and suffixes from Latin.

PREFIX MEANING EXAMPLE
di- to divide We're going to dissect a frog in science
class.
ante- before Antebellum houses are in beautiful
Georgia.
pre- before We went to a movie preview.
dis- apart or away The room was in complete disarray.
inter- between Watch for heavy traffic on the inter
change.
sub- under The submarine was painted silver.
re- again The students moaned when they had to
retake a test.
bi- two My bicycle tire needed to be pumped up.
quad- four That quadruped had four legs and was
really fast.
bio- life In high school, you might take biology.
ex- out We painted the exterior of the house.
tele- distance He made a telephone call to Greece.
PREFIX MEANING EXAMPLE
-ist one who A scientist is one who studies science.
-able capable of being That car is drivable.
-ic having the I would not want to
nature of arm-wrestle the bionic superhero!
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