70+ List of Latin Root Words: Use These to Improve Your Vocabulary

Are you looking for a handy way to expand your vocabulary and understanding of the English language? Our list of Latin root words is a perfect starting point.

Latin root words are everywhere in the English language. While English is not a Romantic language, like languages such as French, Italian, or Spanish, which were descended directly from Vulgar Latin, we can’t underestimate its influence on the development of modern-day English. 

Almost half of the English words in a dictionary today are derived from Latin. This shared ancestor is why you might understand some Spanish words, like “delicioso” or “diario” even if you’ve never studied the language before. 

After all, as Walt Whitman once said: “Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all.” 

To help you understand where many common English words come from, we’ve compiled a list of Latin root words with example sentences. We’ve also shared strategies for understanding and remembering these words so you can expand your vocabulary. For more, check out our list of root words which includes vocabulary descended from Old English and Greek.

Latin Root Words Explained

Root words are a type of morpheme that can be used to create new words by adding a prefix or suffix. Think of them as the building blocks for our vocabulary. For example, when you add the suffix “less” to the word “use” it becomes “useless.” The meaning of these small words often comes from Latin but you will find some derived from Greek.

One of the main reasons it’s important to understand Latin root words is because it expands your vocabulary. Once you become familiar with the roots, can easily unpick unfamiliar words in a book. Take the word “terra” for example, if you already know it means “earth” then you can surmise what words like extraterrestrial mean. 

Common Latin Root Words and Their Meanings

Commonly used Latin words
One commonly used Latin root word is Aqua

Many root words are bound morphemes, meaning they cannot be used as a standalone word. However, this isn’t a hard rule as you will also come across free morphenes. 

Let’s look at the root word “honor.” It makes perfect sense as a word by itself but becomes “honorary” when we add a suffix. “Ary,” however, is a bound morpheme because it isn’t a word by itself. 

Below are some commonly used Latin root words and words derived from them:

  • Aqua (Water) – Aquarium, Aquamarine, Aquadrome
  • Bi (Two) – Bilingual, Bicycle, Bisexual 
  • Circ (Round) – Cicle, Circus, Circumference 
  • Fin (End) – Final, Finite, Finale
  • Mal (Bad) – Malignant, Malnourished, Malice

Application of Latin Root Words in Vocabulary Building

As mentioned earlier, once you become familiar with root words, you almost immediately expand your vocabulary as you can typically figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words based on the context and the prefix or suffix used. For example, if you know “mal” means bad and “nourished” pertains to food, you will understand that “malnourished” refers to poor nutrition. 

Since Latin roots are particularly common in medical, legal, and scientific jargon, even native English speakers who find their vocabulary confusing can benefit from learning them. 

One of the reasons for the prevalence of this ancient dialect is that Latin was historically the common language used in the scientific and medical fields in the Middle Ages as most educated people across Europe understood it. Although English is currently the dominant language, 98% of medical terms used by English speakers today are derived from Latin and Greek. 

Plus, the modern legal system is a descendant of the judicial process in Ancient Rome, where Latin was spoken. The language has endured out of tradition.

The best way to learn root words is to take it one at a time. Learn the meaning of one root and then make a list of as many words as possible that share a root. Then, compose several sentences using each word in the correct context. Once you’re familiar with the root and the common words it forms, move on to the next one. 

List of Latin Root Words Printable

List of Latin Root Words and Example Sentences

Act (To do) – ActorLun (Moon) – Lunar
Aud (Hear) – AudioMaj (Greater) – Majesty
Ambi (Both) – AmbidextrousMal (Bad) – Dismal
Annu (Year) – AnniversaryMar (Sea) – Submarine
Bell (War) – RebellionMir (Wonder) – Miraculous
Bene (Good) – BeneficialNarr (Tell) – Narrator
Brev (Short) – BrevityNoc (Harm) – Innocent
Cand (Glow) – CandleNoct (Night) – Nocturnal
Contra (Against) – ContradictNov (New) – Innovative
Cred (Believe) – CredentialsOmni (All) – Omnipresent
Deb (Owe) – DebtOpt (Choose) – Option
Decor (Ornament) – DecorationsPac (Peace) – Pacifist
Dem (Harm, Loss) – CondemnPar (Equal) – Compare
Dict (Say) – PredictPisc (Fish) – Pisces
Ed (Eat) – InediblePriv (Separated, Restricted) – Privacy
Equ (Equal) – EqualityQuad (Four) – Quadruple
Err (To stray) – ErrorQui (Rest) – Quit
Fall (Trick) – FallaciousQuot (How many) – Quota
Fend (Strike) – DefendRas (Scrape, Scratch) – Rash
Fid (Trust) – ConfidentialResid (Left behind) – Residue
Germ (Sprout) – GerminateRid (Laugh at) – Ridicule
Glaci (Ice) – GlacierRod (Gnaw) – Corrode
Glob (Sphere) – GlobeSalv (Save) – Salvage
Gust (Taste) – DisgustingSan (Healthy) – Unsanitary
Hab (Have) – HabitSculp (Carve) – Sculpture
Honor (Esteem) – HonoraryTang (Touch) – Tangible
Hort (Garden) – HorticultureTemp (Time) – Temporary
Hum (Ground, Low) – HumiliateTest (Witness) –Testify
Ign (Fire) – IgnitedTot (All) – Total
Itiner (Journey) – ItineraryUmbra (Shade) – Umbrella
Ject (Throw) – TrajectoryUrb (City) – Suburbs
Juven (Young) – RejuvenatedVac (Empty) – Evacuate
Labor (Work) – CollaborateVal (Worth) – Evaluate
Legal (Law) – IllegalVap (Steam) – Evaporate
Loc (Place) – LocationVit (Life) – Vitamin

Below is a list of common Latin root words, their meanings, and an example sentence. Most of them are bound morphemes, but there are exceptions. Try to think of other words that share these roots. 

  1.  Act (To do) – Actor

The actor gave a convincing performance in the play.

  1. Aud (Hear) – Audio 

I need new headphones, the audio quality in mine is terrible. 

  1. Ambi (Both) – Ambidextrous 

Timmy is ambidextrous, he can write with his left and right hands. 

  1. Annu (Year) – Anniversary 

We’re going out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary.

  1. Bell (War) – Rebellion 

The rebellion broke out after decades of harsh rule.

  1. Bene (Good) – Beneficial 

Staying active is beneficial for heart health. 

  1. Brev (Short) – Brevity

For the sake of brevity, I will not repeat myself, so pay attention.

  1. Cand (Glow) – Candle 

A candle-lit dinner is so romantic. 

  1. Contra (Against) – Contradict 

He always contradicts everything I say. 

  1. Cred (Believe) – Credentials

You have more than enough credentials to get the job. 

  1. Deb (Owe) – Debt 

I need to earn more money to pay off my debt.

  1.  Decor (Ornament) – Decorations

It’s October, it’s too early to put up the Christmas decorations.

  1. Dem (Harm, Loss) – Condemn

We strongly condemn the vandalism. 

  1. Dict (Say) – Predict 

You can’t predict the future. 

  1. Ed (Eat) – Inedible

This undercooked chicken is inedible.

  1. Equ (Equal) – Equality

We support equality for all. 

  1. Err (To stray) – Error

The mistake was caused by human error.

  1. Fall (Trick) – Fallacious

His argument is fallacious.

  1. Fend (Strike) – Defend

You have every right to defend yourself from attack. 

  1. Fid (Trust) – Confidential 

Everything you tell me is confidential.

  1. Germ (Sprout) – Germinate 

Seeds need the perfect conditions to germinate.

  1. Glaci (Ice) – Glacier 

The glacier is beginning to melt. 

  1. Glob (Sphere) – Globe 

Can you point to your country on a globe?

  1. Gust (Taste) – Disgusting 

The food was disgusting.

  1. Hab (Have) – Habit 

Biting your nails is a nasty habit.

  1. Honor (Esteem) – Honorary 

He received an honorary doctorate for his achievements. 

  1. Hort (Garden) – Horticulture

If you want to work in horticulture you can’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty. 

  1.  Hum (Ground, Low) – Humiliate 

How could you humiliate me in front of everyone we know?

  1.  Ign (Fire) – Ignited

The trip to the museum ignited an interest in history in Marcus. 

  1. Itiner (Journey) – Itinerary 

Go to bed early, we have a packed itinerary tomorrow. 

  1. Ject (Throw) – Trajectory 

The scientists are monitoring the trajectory of the meteor. 

  1.  Juven (Young) – Rejuvenated 

I felt rejuvenated after spending my weekend at the spa. 

  1. Labor (Work) – Collaborate

Group projects teach you how to collaborate with others.

  1. Legal (Law) – Illegal

It’s illegal to drive under the influence. 

  1. Loc (Place) – Location 

The job is on-site at our London location

  1. Lun (Moon) – Lunar 

We couldn’t see the lunar eclipse due to the cloud cover. 

  1. Maj (Greater) – Majesty 

Please bow, for His Majesty, the King.

  1. Mal (Bad) – Dismal 

The weather is dismal.

  1. Mar (Sea) – Submarine 

You can see all kinds of fish on the submarine voyage. 

  1. Mir (Wonder) – Miraculous 

The fireworks display was miraculous.

  1. Narr (Tell) – Narrator

The protagonist was an unreliable narrator.

  1. Noc (Harm) – Innocent 

He was found innocent of all charges. 

  1. Noct (Night) – Nocturnal 

Bats are nocturnal.

  1.  Nov (New) – Innovative 

She came up with an innovative solution to our problem. 

  1. Omni (All) – Omnipresent

These days, social media is omnipresent.

  1. Opt (Choose) – Option 

Quitting is not an option.

  1. Pac (Peace) – Pacifist 

He’s a pacifist, he won’t fight back. 

  1. Par (Equal) – Compare

It’s not fair to compare siblings.

  1. Pisc (Fish) – Pisces 

His Zodiac sign is Aries, he was born too late in March to be a Pisces.

  1. Priv (Separated, Restricted) – Privacy 

Reading my diary is a huge invasion of privacy.

  1. Quad (Four) – Quadruple 

The new attraction has quadrupled visitors at the zoo. 

  1. Qui (Rest) – Quit 

There’s no shame in having to quit something if it makes you unhappy. 

  1. Quot (How many) – Quota

If you keep slacking off, you’ll miss your quota.

  1. Ras (Scrape, Scratch) – Rash

Scratching your rash will make it worse. 

  1. Resid (Left behind) – Residue 

The snail left a sticky residue on the plants. 

  1. Rid (Laugh at) – Ridicule 

After the blunder, the celebrity became an object of ridicule.

  1. Rod (Gnaw) – Corrode 

The ocean will eventually corrode the cliffs away. 

  1. Salv (Save) – Salvage

There was nothing we could salvage after the house fire. 

  1. San (Healthy) – Unsanitary 

The restaurant was closed down because of unsanitary conditions. 

  1. Sculp (Carve) – Sculpture 

The new sculpture at the museum is so life-like. 

  1. Tang (Touch) – Tangible 

There is no tangible evidence of foul play. 

  1.  Temp (Time) – Temporary 

She’s a student, she only has time for temporary work. 

  1. Test (Witness) –Testify 

The witness has been called to testify.

  1. Tot (All) – Total

Dinner cost $100 in total.

  1. Umbra (Shade) – Umbrella

Don’t forget to bring an umbrella, it’s going to rain today. 

  1. Urb (City) – Suburbs

I prefer living in the suburbs, it’s much quieter than the city center. 

  1. Vac (Empty) – Evacuate 

Take note of the emergency exits, in case we need to evacuate.

  1. Val (Worth) – Evaluate

There’s too little information to properly evaluate the situation. 

  1. Vap (Steam) – Evaporate 

The puddle will evaporate when the sun comes out. 

  1. Vit (Life) – Vitamin

Ensuring the correct vitamins are in your diet will help you stay healthy.

If you liked this post, you might also be interested in our list of random words. They work great if you want to spice up your prose.