Building a better vocabulary, whether in your own language or a foreign language, has never been simpler. Reading a daily newspaper is the first port of call; a fun way of learning more words in a spontaneous fashion, about a variety of different topics, without it feeling too much like homework. Often, the meaning of the word is evident from the context, so this is an easy way to pick up new vocabulary without having to specifically go looking for it. Another great way is to use a thesaurus, whether it be electronic or paper, looking up synonyms for those words that we use all the time and which have become a bit repetitive and boring. This is an exciting way to improve vocabulary and liven up letters, essays or even everyday conversations. Finally, know your roots! At least half of the words in the English language are derived from Greek and Latin roots. Knowing these roots would help us to grasp the meaning of words before we look them up in the dictionary. For example, knowing the roots of the word ‘philosophy’ tells us what it means; the ‘sophy’ suffix is related to knowledge and the ‘phil’ is related to love. Similarly, ‘philanthropy’ contains the same ‘phil’ for love, while ‘anthropy’ comes from the same Greek root that gives us ‘anthropology’ – ‘logy’ meaning study of any kind, of ‘anthropos’, humankind. To help you on your way to knowing your roots, here’s a table with some of the most common ones:

Some common Greek and Latin roots:

Root (source)MeaningEnglish words
aster, astr (G)starastronomy, astrology
audi (L)to hearaudible, auditorium
bene (L)good, wellbenefit, benevolent
bio (G)lifebiology, autobiography
dic, dict (L)to speakdictionary, dictator
fer (L)to carrytransfer, referral
fix (L)to fastenfix, suffix, affix
geo (G)earthgeography, geology
graph (G)to writegraphic, photography
jur, just (L)lawjury, justice
log, logue (G)word, thought,
monologue, astrology, biology, neologism
luc (L)lightlucid, translucent
manu (L)handmanual, manuscript
meter, metr (G)measuremetric, thermometer
op, oper (L)workoperation, operator
path (G)feelingpathetic, sympathy, empathy
paed (G)childpaediatrics
phil (G)lovephilosophy, Anglophile
phys (G)body, naturephysical, physics
scrib, script (L)to writescribble, manuscript
tele (G)far offtelephone, television
ter, terr (L)earthterritory, extraterrestrial
vac (L)emptyvacant, vacuum, evacuate
verb (L)wordverbal, verbose
vid, vis (L)to seevideo, vision, television


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