List of Root Words: 120+ Root Words for Writers

Root words provide the essential part of a word’s meaning. Discover our list of root words and create more sophisticated prose.

We have created a list of root words to help you develop your writing skills. Once you know a few, you will see how frequently they occur. Over 60% of words in the English language are of Greek and Latin origin, and many have German, French, and Spanish origins, which in turn have Latin roots. 

Learning root words will improve your vocabulary and help you understand the origins of the English language.

There are many other ways to improve your command of the English language. Check out our article on how to improve your vocabulary.

What are Root Words?

List of Root Words
Note that root and base words are similar but not interchangeable

Root words are our building blocks. They have a meaning and cannot be further divided into smaller words with alternative meanings. They are basic grammatical units or primary morphemes.

Each grammatical unit can be one of the following:

  • Free morpheme – a word that can stand alone
  • Bound morpheme – an affix (prefix or a suffix). Bound morphemes can form words when combined with other morphemes.

For example, the word “graph” is a Greek root word, a free morpheme. It means writing or recording. Now try adding the bound morpheme or prefix “tele” (meaning far off), and you have the new word “telegraph,” a system for transmitting messages along a wire.

If you add the bound morpheme or suffix “ology” to the root word “graph,” you have the new word “graphology,” which means the study of handwriting.

Incidentally, the suffix “ology” means the science of something, such as psychology, physiology, ecology, and zoology.

What’s the Difference Between a Base Word and a Root Word?

Base words and root words are similar but not interchangeable terms. A base word is a word that can be used by itself and can also create another word with the addition of a suffix or prefix. For example, the word “help” makes sense by itself and becomes “helpless” when the suffix “less” is added.

A root word is also used to form other words, but the root isn’t always a standalone word. For example, “lect” is a root word in “collect,” but the word “lect” by itself doesn’t make sense.

List of Root Words Printable

List of root words printable
List of root words printable

Examples of Root Words

Behave – BehaviorMal (Bad) – MalignantHydr (Water) – Dehydrate
Break – BreakingMarine (Sea) – SubmarineLogy (Discipline, Field of study, List of) – Psychology
Care – CarefulMater (Mother) – MaternityMicro (Small) – Microscope
Employ – UnemploymentMemor (Remember) – Memoir Meter (A measure) – Kilometer
Friend – FriendlyMulti (Much, Many) – MultipleMorph (Shape) – Morphing
Form – FormulatingNorm (Rule, Pattern) – ParanormalNarc (Sleep) – Narcolepsy 
Heat – ReheatPater (Father) – PaternalNym (Name, Word) – Synonym
Play – PlayerPort (Carry) – TransportPhobia (Fear) – Claustrophobia
View – PreviewPlace (Spot) – ReplacePhoto (Light) – Photography
Want – WantedRupt (Burst) – DisruptionPseudo (False, Lying) – Pseudonym
Act (To do) – ActorSect (Cut) – DissectPsycho (Soul, Mind, Breath, Spirit) – Psychopath
Aqua (Water) – AquamarineSent (Feel) – ConsentScope (See) – Stethoscope
Aud (Hear) – AudienceSpect (To look at) – Spectator Techno (Skill, Art)  – Technological
Annu (Year) – AnnualStruct (Build, Assemble) – RestructureTele (Far off) – Telegram
Appear (Come into sight) – AppearanceTen (Hold) – MaintenanceTherm (Heat) – Thermometer
Ardu (Difficult) – Arduous Terra (Earth) – Extraterrestrial Ambi (Both) – Ambiguous
Bene (Well) – BeneficialTim (Fear) – TimidAnthrop (Human) – Philanthropy
Bi (Two) – BilingualUse (Skill, Habit) – MisuseAstro (Star) – Astronaut
Bon (Good) – BonusVac (Empty) – EvacuateCardio (Heart) – Cardiovascular
Circ (Round) – Circle Voc (Call) – AdvocateCent (Hundredth) – Century
Circum (Around) – CircumstancesVot (Promise) – DevotedDyna (Power) – Dynasty 
Contra (Against) – ContraryVid (See) – VideoEqui (Equal) – Equity
Cred (Believe) – CredibilityViv (Live) – Survive Extra (Outer) – Extraordinary 
Crypt (Hidden) – CrypticAero (Air) – Aeroplane Fract (Part of) – Fraction
Dict (Say) – DictateAllos (Another) – Allegory Fort (Strong) – Fortress
Don (Give) – DonateAnth (Flower) – AnthesisFum (Smoke) – Fumes
Ego (I) – EgomaniacAnti (Against) – AntisocialGastr (Stomach) – Gastrointestinal 
Fact (Made) – FactoryArachn (Spider) – Arachnophobia Grav (Heavy) – Gravity 
Fin (End) – Final Arch (Rule) – AnarchyHomo (Same) – Homogenous
Frat (Brother) – Fraternity Arithm (Count, Number) – Arithmetic Hypo (Under) – Hypothermia
Hal (Breathe) – ExhaleAuto (Self) – AutomaticKind (Nature, Race) – Kindness
Intra (Within) – IntramuralBio (Life) – BiologyLove (Care) – Lovely
Ject (Throw) – RejectBotan (Plant) – Botanical Mis (Wrongly) – Misspell
Jud (Judge) – JudicialChron (Time) – ChronologicalOmni (All) – Omnipotent
Jur (Law) – JuryDem (People) – Democracy Pack (Bundle) – Packing
Lect (Gather) – Collect Dyna (Power) – DynamiteRead (Interpet, Consult) – Reading
Legal (Law) – IllegalGeo (Earth) – Geography Scrib (Writes) – Prescribes
Lev (Lift) – LevitateGno (Know) – Knowledge Sen (Old) – Senior 
Nav (Ship) – NavalGraph (Write) – GraphicWorth (Valuable) – Unworthy
Magn (Great) – Magnificent Hetero (Another) – HeterosexualZoo (Animal) – Zoophobia

Most English words have a Latin and Greek foundation. It’s the reason they’re called “traditional root words.” Traditional root words, in particular, often need to be attached to another word or affix to be a complete word, but this isn’t always the case.

Below are some examples of English, Latin, and Greek root words to help you become more familiar with them.

English Root Words

Many modern English root words are derived from Old English (spoken from around 450 until 1100) and Middle English (spoken from approximately 1100 to 1500).

As language continuously evolves, much of the old vocabulary is no longer spoken, but the facets that endured helped form the basis of English as we know it today.

Here are some examples of modern root words and how to use them as part of another English word:

  1. Behave – Behavior

He’s only getting a lot of attention because of his bad behavior.

  1. Break – Breaking

Breaking the fourth wall is a great way to connect with your audience.

  1. Care – Careful

She always reminds her son to be careful wherever he goes.

  1. Employ – Unemployment

Last month, America recorded a 3.5% unemployment percentage, which is still within the ideal unemployment rate of 3% to 5%.

  1. Friend – Friendly

Everyone likes her because she’s a very friendly person.

  1. Form – Formulating

Formulating a new design for this project in the short period they allotted us was challenging.

  1. Heat – Reheat

Instead of buying hot food, she prefers to reheat her leftovers to save money.

  1. Play – Player

Dennis is such an exceptional player that the head coach told him he should pursue a professional career out of it.

  1. View – Preview

Her favorite band shared a preview of their upcoming album.

  1. Want – Wanted

All I ever wanted was to feel like I belonged; is that too much to ask? 

Check out this list of er words.

Traditional Root Words: Latin

Although the English language is not directly descended from Latin the same way Romantic languages like Spanish and Italian are, a significant amount of English vocabulary was borrowed from Latin. 

Some linguists estimate that almost 50% of the words found in a standard English dictionary are of Latin descent. Below are some common Latin root words: 

  1.  Act (To do) – Actor

William was hailed as the best actor in the stage play competition.

  1. Aqua (Water) – Aquamarine

Cleo’s new aquamarine hair suits her very much; it makes her look like she just came out of a movie about mermaids.

  1. Aud (Hear) – Audience

You need to shock the audience so they don’t easily forget your performance.

  1. Annu (Year) – Annual

Are you nervous about our annual employee review?

  1. Appear (Come into sight) – Appearance

She worries so much about her appearance that it’s starting to affect her mental health.

  1. Ardu (Difficult) – Arduous 

Running a marathon is an arduous task. 

  1. Bene (Well) – Beneficial

Daily morning exercises are beneficial to one’s health.

  1. Bi (Two) – Bilingual

Kevin is bilingual because he speaks English and Spanish.

  1. Bon (Good) – Bonus

We got a generous employee bonus this year. 

  1. Circ (Round) – Circle 

The class must sit around in a circle

  1. Circum (Around) – Circumstances

Unfortunately, her current circumstances don’t let her keep her children.

  1. Contra (Against) – Contrary

Contrary to everyone’s expectations, James wins the competition.

  1. Cred (Believe) – Credibility

Lying cost him all credibility.

  1. Crypt (Hidden) – Cryptic

You will need a guide to solve that cryptic crossword.

  1. Dict (Say) – Dictate

Don’t let other people dictate your life, do what you want.

  1. Don (Give) – Donate

She’s very generous; she will always donate money to charity. 

  1. Ego (I) – Egomaniac

Being an egomaniac, everything had to be about him.

  1. Fact (Made) – Factory

Her mother has worked at the shoe factory for over five years.

  1. Fin (End) – Final 

Don’t make me call your parents; this is your final warning. 

  1. Frat (Brother) – Fraternity 

The initiation process makes joining a fraternity in college off-putting. 

  1. Hal (Breathe) – Exhale

Hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly.

  1. Intra (Within) – Intramural

Kenneth wants to participate in this year’s intramural, but he can’t decide what sport he wants to join. 

  1. Ject (Throw) – Reject

Apple pickers carefully choose good apples and reject the bad ones.

  1. Jud (Judge) – Judicial

The victim’s attorney is seeking judicial review of the decision.

  1. Jur (Law) – Jury

The jury will deliberate after hearing all the evidence.

  1. Lect (Gather) – Collect 

Mildrid likes to collect stamps. 

  1. Legal (Law) – Illegal

He believes downloading pirated copies of movies from the internet should not be illegal.

  1. Lev (Lift) – Levitate

I don’t know how the magician made his assistant levitate above the audience. 

  1. Nav (Ship) – Naval

John is a retired naval officer. 

  1. Magn (Great) – Magnificent 

The fireworks display was magnificent

  1. Mal (Bad) – Malignant

The doctor explains that the old lady’s cancer is malignant; they can’t do anything about it anymore.

  1. Marine (Sea) – Submarine

I’m frightened and intrigued by a submarine‘s mechanisms.

  1. Mater (Mother) – Maternity

Nurse Angela likes to work in the hospital’s maternity unit.

  1. Memor (Remember) – Memoir 

I would love to write a memoir about my life.

  1. Multi (Much, Many) – Multiple

The Mona Lisa’s popularity hangs on her smile; experts argue that it has multiple meanings.

  1. Norm (Rule, Pattern) – Paranormal

They want to hire a paranormal expert to solve this supernatural case.

  1. Pater (Father) – Paternal

Because his father died when he was young, Kean always wonders what paternal love feels like.

  1. Port (Carry) – Transport

He prefers public transport even if he has a car since it’s cheaper.

  1. Place (Spot) – Replace

Her employer promised to replace her if she didn’t change her attitude.

  1. Rupt (Burst) – Disruption

The bombing strikes are causing massive disruption in the country.

  1. Sect (Cut) – Dissect

Aya proudly says that she knows how to dissect a frog.

  1. Sent (Feel) – Consent

Parents must sign a consent form declaring they permit their children to participate in the summer camp.

  1. Spect (To look at) – Spectator 

I didn’t take part; I was just a spectator.

  1. Struct (Build, Assemble) – Restructure

He wants to restructure their house to eliminate clutter and make it look more inviting.

  1. Ten (Hold) – Maintenance 

A neat garden requires constant maintenance.

  1. Terra (Earth) – Extraterrestrial 

E.T. was an extraterrestrial being. 

  1. Tim (Fear) – Timid

A mouse is a timid creature. 

  1. Use (Skill, Habit) – Misuse

When rulers misuse their power, the whole kingdom suffers.

  1. Vac (Empty) – Evacuate

You must evacuate the building if there is a fire. 

  1. Voc (Call) – Advocate

She’s an advocate for anyone with visual or auditory impairment, pushing laws requiring public establishments to offer suitable support.

  1. Vot (Promise) – Devoted

He was a devoted husband and father. 

  1. Vid (See) – Video

There’s a CCTV video that captured the bank robbery.

  1. Viv (Live) – Survive 

A domesticated dog would never survive in the wild. 

Traditional Root Words: Greek

Although Greek wasn’t as influential in the development of the English language as Latin, it still played a big role. Around 13% of the words found in an English dictionary come from Greek. See our list of English words with Greek roots below to use them in teaching or writing correctly:

  1. Aero (Air) – Aeroplane 

Timmy has never traveled via aeroplane before. 

  1. Allos (Another) – Allegory 

A “sinking ship” is an allegory for something going wrong. 

  1. Anth (Flower) – Anthesis

The period a flower blooms for is called the anthesis

  1. Anti (Against) – Antisocial

An antisocial personality disorder is a severe condition where the person disregards other people’s rights and feelings.

  1. Arachn (Spider) – Arachnophobia 

Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. 

  1. Arch (Rule) – Anarchy

The classroom descended into anarchy without a teacher present. 

  1. Arithm (Count, Number) – Arithmetic 

Bobby excelled in arithmetic in elementary school.

  1. Auto (Self) – Automatic

Cecile and her father are arguing whether automatic cars are better than manual cars.

  1. Bio (Life) – Biology

Biology is an exciting subject with many subbranches explaining living things’ origins, behaviors, and classes.

  1. Botan (Plant) – Botanical 

I love seeing interesting plants at the botanical gardens.

  1. Chron (Time) – Chronological

The new employee likes to put the files in chronological order.

  1. Dem (People) – Democracy 

We each get a vote: we live in a democracy.

  1. Dyna (Power) – Dynamite

No one has the right to use dynamite when fishing.

  1. Geo (Earth) – Geography 

We learned about volcanoes in geography class today. 

  1.  Gno (Know) – Knowledge 

To my knowledge, he wasn’t at the party.

  1. Graph (Write) – Graphic

Henry is an excellent graphic artist, and he’s good at exceeding his client’s expectations.

  1. Hetero (Another) – Heterosexual

I still believe that gay and lesbian pairs will one day have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

  1. Hydr (Water) – Dehydrate

Fevers can quickly dehydrate your body, so you must drink lots of water.

  1. Logy (Discipline, Field of study, List of) – Psychology

She is studying psychology to understand herself and other people better.

  1. Micro (Small) – Microscope

You need to carefully put the specimen under the microscope if you don’t want the slides to break.

  1. Meter (A measure) – Kilometer

There’s a total of 1,000,000 millimeters per kilometer

  1. Morph (Shape) – Morphing

The film shows the leading actor morphing into a giant wolf.

  1. Narc (Sleep) – Narcolepsy 

Narcolepsy is a difficult condition to live with.

  1. Nym (Name, Word) – Synonym

A synonym refers to words that have the same or similar meanings.

  1. Phobia (Fear) – Claustrophobia

Her severe claustrophobia prevents her from using any elevator. 

  1. Photo (Light) – Photography

Jake wants to enroll in photography classes this semester. 

  1. Pseudo (False, Lying) – Pseudonym

She writes her excellent stories under a pseudonym.

  1. Psycho (Soul, Mind, Breath, Spirit) – Psychopath

Excessive use of alcohol and drugs can turn an individual into a psychopath.

  1. Scope (See) – Stethoscope

The doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to the heart’s murmur.

  1. Techno (Skill, Art)  – Technological

Because of financial issues, Lino’s parents ask him to enroll in a technological institute instead of a university.

  1. Tele (Far off) – Telegram

His grandfather has a stack of old telegrams containing Morse code and other important information.

  1. Therm (Heat) – Thermometer

I can’t believe my doctor still uses a traditional thermometer to see if I have a fever instead of a thermometer gun.

Common Root Words

Once you become familiar with root words, you begin to recognize them everywhere in your day-to-day conversations. Below are some more common root words, originating from both Latin and Greek, that you’ve certainly come across before. 

  1. Ambi (Both) – Ambiguous

The government always seems to be ambiguous on this issue.

  1. Anthrop (Human) – Philanthropy

Her idol always donates to various charitable institutions and devotes a lot of time and effort to philanthropy.

  1. Astro (Star) – Astronaut

Mino knows that NASA has strict requirements to be an astronaut, but he is serious about being one in the future.

  1. Cardio (Heart) – Cardiovascular

Smoking puts anyone at a higher risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

  1. Cent (Hundredth) – Century

Living in medieval castles shows how wealthy and powerful the royal family was during the 11th century.

  1. Dyna (Power) – Dynasty 

The dynasty finally fell when the last surviving relative died. 

  1. Equi (Equal) – Equity

The brand owner plans to raise the company’s return on equity to 25%.

  1. Extra (Outer) – Extraordinary 

Adrenaline allows us to do extraordinary things in an emergency.

  1. Fract (Part of) – Fraction

He needs to save money, so he only spends a fraction of his monthly income.

  1. Fort (Strong) – Fortress

The general explained that the easiest way to capture the enemy’s fortress was from the inside.

  1. Fum (Smoke) – Fumes

Try not to inhale the fumes from the fire. 

  1. Gastr (Stomach) – Gastrointestinal 

Your nausea is due to a gastrointestinal disorder. 

  1. Grav (Heavy) – Gravity 

Gravity on the moon is weaker than on Earth. 

  1. Homo (Same) – Homogenous

To avoid issues, all club members must have a homogenous taste in music.

  1. Hypo (Under) – Hypothermia

Seven mountaineers are suffering from hypothermia after the avalanche.

  1. Kind (Nature, Race) – Kindness

Lia prays she inherits her mother’s intelligence and kindness.

  1. Love (Care) – Lovely

You look much shorter than I remember, but you’re still as lovely as ever.

  1. Mis (Wrongly) – Misspell

To ensure you have a high-quality paper, do not misspell words, check grammar, and avoid typos.

  1. Omni (All) – Omnipotent

My mom explains that money isn’t omnipotent, but people can’t survive in this world without it.

  1. Pack (Bundle) – Packing

Jillian has been packing her things since this morning, preparing for her flight tomorrow. 

  1. Read (Interpet, Consult) – Reading

Mia enjoys reading and doing her assignments on their school’s rooftop rather than in the library.

  1. Scrib (Writes) – Prescribes

After her checkup, the doctor prescribes some medications to lessen the pain in her stomach.

  1. Sen (Old) – Senior 

Senior citizens get priority seating on the bus. 

  1. Worth (Valuable) – Unworthy

The humble student feels unworthy to receive the award, but his family and friends assure him that he does and are proud of him.

  1. Zoo (Animal) – Zoophobia

Aina’s date takes her to a zoo without knowing she has zoophobia.

Expanding your vocabulary is critical to improving your writing. See our list of conjunction words to learn more.


  • Aisling is an Irish journalist and content creator with a BA in Journalism & New Media. She has bylines in OK! Magazine, Metro, The Inquistr, and the Irish Examiner. She loves to read horror and YA. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.