Improving your vocabulary – more S.A.T. preparation

As I mentioned yesterday, I will be attempting to provide some S.A.T.-related aid in my next few posts.  This, the second post, is something of a meager etymology dictionary; it stems from a friend’s having asked me to “dissect” some words in the spirit of exposing their Latin and Greek origins.  This idea rose from my continually claiming that I learnt English through the use of dictionaries, etymology texts, and the like – indeed, I did.  I’ve followed much the same method as I did when I was younger in dis|sec|ting each member of this list.  My priority lies not in remaining true to the Latin, but rather in aiding the average English speaker in readily understanding the essence of the components of each word.  I may not provide precise translations, but they are functional translations. I intend to update this list with an additional one hundred or so roots within the next week, so please visit again.

Definition [of root]: “out of”, “from”, “very”

Definition [of root]: “sour”, “bitter”
Example: “Exacerbate” means “to make more bitter” or “to aggravate”.  Think of it this way – when you aggravate someone, you make him or her bitter, right?  Hahaha!  You literally do.
Dissection of example: ex|acerb|ate = very|bitter|verb suffix
Sentence: The rain exacerbated our already bad mood.

Definition [of root]: “harsh”, “rough”
Example: “Exasperate”, meaning “to provoke” in the case of a person, or “to increase the intensity of” in the case of some violent act or event.
Dissection of example: ex|asper|ate = very|harsh|verb suffix

Just remember that this is a suffix utilized as a stem on which a verb may be formed.  It, essentially, substitutes “make” in terms of meaning.

Definition [of root]: “out of”, a variant of ex-
Example: “Egregious”, meaning “extraordinary”, more recently with a negative connotation, but only “extraordinary” in the past.
Dissection of example: e|greg|ious = out of|flock|possessing – so, possessing characteristics that are outside of the flock (in other words, outside of the majority) – so, different.

-ious or -ous
Definition [of root]:  This is a weird one.  It doesn’t have its own meaning – it’s just utilized to indicate that whatever came before it possessed some quality that was also described previously.

Definition [of root]: “search”
Example: “Inscrutable”, meaning “incapable of being scrutinized/analyzed”.
Dissection of word: in|scrut|able = not|search|able

Definition [of root]: “soft” or “gentle”
Example: “Mitigate”, meaning “to make less severe” in the case of emotion, pain, or a punishment, and “to make milder” or “to make more gentle” in terms of a person.
Dissection of example: mit|ig|ate = soft/gentle|make|verb suffix.  Causing something to be more gentle would have to be making it less severe.

Definition [of root]: “to do”, “to make”, “to cause”

Definition [of root]: “inner”
Example: “Esoteric”, meaning “private”, “confidential”, “meant for only a few”, or “accessible to only a few”.
Dissection of example: esoter|ic = inner|belonging to/being/possessing

Definition [of root]:  Essentially “belonging to/possessing/being”.

Definition [of root]: “outplay”
Example: “Elusive”, meaning “evasive in a clever way”, “difficult to catch/see/grasp/understand”.
Dissection of example: Elusive is the adjective form of “elude”.  e|lude = out|play.  You typically outplay someone if you escape from him or her.

Definition [of root]: “to prick”
Example: “Instigate”, meaning “to provoke”, “to incite to some action”.  Honestly, if you’re going to prick someone, then you’re going to get some action.
Dissection of example: in|stig|ate = in|prick|verb suffix

Definition [of root]: “having taste”, “agreeable”
Example: “Insipid”, meaning “bland” (negative connotation).
Dissection of example: in|sipid = not|having taste/agreeable

Definition [of root]: “harm, injury”, “to do harm”
Example: “Noxious”, meaning “harmful”.
Dissection of example: nox|ious = harm|possessing/capable of/being
Remember that nox also means “night” – the night’s often associated with bad things.

Definition [of root]: There’re three different ones – you have a “no” or “not”, an intensifying action, and the same as the English “in”.

Definition [of root]: “to”, “towards”
Example: “Obnoxious”, meaning “unpleasant”, “offensive”, or “annoying”.
Dissection of example: ob|noxious = near|harmful
Someone who’s obnoxious is not harmful, but is nearly there.

Definition [of root]: “to take”
Example: “Incipient”, meaning “to begin”.
Dissection of example: in|cipi|ent = in|take.  This isn’t directly obvious, but incipere means “to take in hand”, or “to begin”.

Definition [of root]: “through, thoroughly, utterly, very”
Example: “Pernicious”, meaning “deadly” or “causing utter ruin”.
Dissection of example: per|nici|ous = utterly|murder|ous

Definition [of root]: “death”, “murder”
Example: “Pernicious”, meaning “deadly” or “causing utter ruin”.
Dissection of example: per|nici|ous = utterly|murder|ous

Definition [of root]: “disintegrated material”, essentially, as it is the equivalent of “detritus”
Example: “Detrimental”, meaning “causing damage”.
Dissection of example: detri|ment|al = damage|new state|for that purpose = “for the purpose of causing a new, damaged state”.

Definition [of root]: It’s mostly to indicate a new state of some item.

Definition [of root]: “omen”
Example: “Ominous”, meaning “foreboding”, “threatening”, “portending evil”, or “having the significance of an omen”.
Dissection of example: omin|ous = omin|like/possessing/being/capable of.  Obviously, if someone is threatening you, then they are an omen of ill health in the future.

Definition [of root]: “to increase”
Example: “Augment”, meaning “to make larger”.
Dissection of example: aug|ment = increase|new state.  So, “increase to a new state”.

Definition [of root]: “with”, “together”, “in association with”, “completely”
Example: “Cogitate”, meaning “to think about”, “to ponder”.
Dissection of example:  So, this comes from co- and agitatus, so the root ag- meaning “to drive” with the frequency suffix -it-.
co|git|ate = completely|drive on|verb suffix

Definition [of root]: Variant of ad-, used if ad- occurs before t.

Definition [of root]: “to, towards, at, about”

Definition [of root]: “assign to tribes”, “classify”
Example: “Attribute”, meaning “to assign to some cause”, “to consider as a quality of some item”.
Dissection of example: at|tribu|te = about|assign to tribes.  In other words, classify.

Definition [of root]: A variant of com- occurring before some consonants.

Definition [of root]: “with”, “together”, “in association with”, “completely”

Definition [of root]: “temple”, “place marked for some observation”
Example: “Contemplate”, meaning “to consider well”, “to look at with attention”.
Dissection of example: con|templ|ate = completely|observation place|verb suffix.

Definition [of root]: “deep down”
Example: “Penetrate”, meaning “to enter”, “to pass through”, “to pierce”.
Dissection of example: penet|r|ate, with the -r- probably stemming from intrare and thus meaning “enter”.  So, deep|enter.

Definition [of root]: A variant of in– or “to cause a person/thing to be in”.

Definition [of root]: “hook”
Example: “Encroach”, meaning “to go beyond agreed-upon or expected limits”, “to trespass”.
Dissection of example: en|croc = “to cause a person to be a crook”.  Think of it that way.  If someone trespasses, then this causes him or her to be a crook.

Definition [of root]:  A variant of ad- in some cases, and of apo- in others.

Definition [of root]: “away, off, apart”, in a sense.

Definition [of root]: “one’s own”
Example: “Appropriate”, meaning “fitting for a given person or situation”, or “to take for oneself”
Dissection of example: ap|propri|ate = to|one’s own|verb suffix.

Definition [of root]: “to betroth” – When you marry someone, you’re in a secure relationship.

Definition [of root]: “apart”, “free from”

Definition [of root]: “care”
Example: “Secure”, meaning “safe”, “dependable”, “to get a hold of”, “to make safe”.
Dissection of example: se|cur|us = free from|care|suffix
If something is secure, then you needn’t worry about it.

Definition [of root]: “stand”
Example: “Stable”, meaning “secure”, “stationary”.
Dissection of example: sta|ble = stand|(suffix denoting place)
So, essentially, “stand in place”.  Think of “establish” – it essentially means “to stabilize” some service.

Definition [of root]:  A suffix denoting some place.

Definition [of root]: “true”
Example: “Verify”, meaning “to confirm the truth of”.
Dissection of example: veri|fy = true|render.  If you verify something, then you render it true.

Definition [of root]:  A suffix essentially meaning “to do”, “to make”, “render’, “to become”.

Definition [of root]: “decided”, “certain”
Example: “Certify”, meaning “to confirm”.
Dissection of example: certi|fy = certain|render.

Definition [of root]: “from”, “away from”, “out of”, “of”; also used to indicate intensity or the removal of something.

Definition [of root]: “to show”
Example: “Demonstrate”, meaning “to show”.
Dissection of example: de|monstr|ate = “of showing”.

Definition [of root]: “index”
Example: “Indicate”, meaning “to point out”, “to state or express”, “to make known”.
Dissection of example: indic|ate = index|verb suffix = “to index” = “to point out, to arrange material in some logical order”.

Definition [of root]: “a close friend”
Example: “Intimate”, meaning “highly personal”, “very private”, “a close friend”.
Dissection of example: intim|ate = “make a close friend”, essentially, or “being like a close friend”.

Definition [of root]: Equivalent of -ic.

Definition [of root]: “to hang”
Example: “Appendix”, meaning “supplementary material at the end of some text”.
Dissection of example: ap|pend|ix = apart|hang|adj. suffix
So, the appendix is hanging apart from the material, but is there nonetheless.

Definition [of root]: “to try”
Example: “Experience”, meaning “an instance of undergoing something”.
Dissection of example: ex|peri|ence = very|try|instance

Definition [of root]: Equivalent to ­-ance, indicating an action, state, or quality.

Definition [of root]: “to bind”
Example: “Liable”, meaning “legally responsible”.
Dissection of example: li|able = bound|able = “able to be bound [to a cause, crime, et cetera]”

Definition [of root]: “to bear”, “to hold up”, “to exist in some condition”
Example: “Encumber”, meaning “to hinder or block up”.
Dissection of example: en|cumber = en|comber = in|confluence (as of rivers, comber meaning “together-exist”, essentially) = dam.
So, you build a dam – you hinder the flow of water.

Definition [of root]: Two roots, actually – je meaning “play” or “game”, and parti meaning “divided”.  Hence,“uncertain game”.
Example: “Jeopardy”, meaning “a risk of loss”.
Dissection of example: je|parti = play|divided = “game of chance” = “risk”

Definition [of root]: “below”, “underneath”, “slightly”

Definition [of root]:  A variant of sub-.
Example: “Succinct”, meaning “expressed in a few words”, “concise”, “terse”.
Dissection of example: suc|cing|us = under|equip.

Definition [of root]: “ashes”
Example: “Incinerate”, meaning “to burn”.
Dissection of example: in|ciner|ate = in|ashes|verb suffix = “turn to ashes” = “burn”.

Definition [of root]: “projecting forward or outward”, “in favor of something”
Example: “Profess”, meaning “to lay claim to”, “to acknowledge one’s faith in something”, “to teach”, “to admit into a religious group”.
Dissection of example: pro|fess = in favor of|acknowledge = “Acknowledge that you are in favor of something.”  This can translate to teaching this item of thought, hence “professor”.

Definition [of root]: “to acknowledge”
Example: “Profess”, meaning “to lay claim to”, “to acknowledge one’s faith in something”, “to teach”, “to admit into a religious group”.
Dissection of example: pro|fess = in favor of|acknowledge = “Acknowledge that you are in favor of something.”  This can translate to teaching this item of thought, hence “professor”.

Definition [of root]: “ordinary work”, “useful”
Example: “Practical”, meaning “pertaining to ordinary work”, “useful”.
Dissection of example: practic|al = ordinary work|capable of/being = “of ordinary work”.

The lack of precision in some areas is intentional – I wish that I could effectively aid people in understanding standard Latin and its history, but I’m taking the comparatively easy way out.  This, again, is the method that I used whilst attempting to pick up English words many years ago.  I hope that it is of help to someone!

This entry was posted in Advice on Academics, Admissions, & University, English Language, Literature, & My Writing, Standardized Testing Prep.. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Improving your vocabulary – more S.A.T. preparation

  1. Nao says:

    Nice post!
    Some basic etymological knowledge is really the key to an expansive vocabulary. Much more efficient than rote memorisation. :p

    • Sophia says:

      Thanks, although I feel that it doesn’t do what I’d wanted. Hopefully someone will find it helpful ^_^
      It is, yes – etymology is particularly beneficial, perhaps because it aids people in understanding that language consistently makes sense. I try to avoid memorizing items (I usually prefer to derive laws); when I do, I try to memorize within the context of an item’s existence, so etymology was a favored tactic when I learnt English.

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