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The Power of Roots



Image source: Google

Cool your jets! This is not about the ‘roots’ from Math which scare us so! The roots I am referring to are the ones used in language; on which so many words are based! Here is a link to see the many roots and words based on them. (This may not be an exhaustive list, however):



Let me recount an interesting situation that I found myself in just this morning. A colleague and I were looking up something on Google which led us to the term ‘binocular’ vision. At the mention of that word, my thought went straight to actual binoculars before we found the actual definition of binocular vision which was, ‘vision using two eyes with overlapping fields of view, allowing good perception of depth.’ It pinched that we could not fathom the simple roots in the word: ‘bi’ and ‘ocular’! Had we thought about it consciously, we could have arrived at the meaning ourselves.

Let us try to find the meaning of the word ‘Petroglyph’. The word has two roots: ‘Petra’ and ‘Glyph’. Let us take a step back and think where all have we seen the root ‘Petra’ getting used. Think!

Did a very common word ‘Petroleum’ strike your mind! And what about ‘Petrol’? Yes, these are based on the same root i.e. Petra meaning ‘rocks’. Petroleum= Petra (Rock)+ Oleum (Oil) and hence the meaning ‘oil from the rocks’.

Coming to the root ‘Glyph’; it means ‘carving’. There are many words like Hieroglyphic, dermatoglyphic. Now, we can think of the meaning of the word ‘Petroglyph’ which means carving on the rocks! Interesting right?

The knowledge of roots and using them to understand word meanings can make vocabulary enrichment very interesting. Another way of using the roots is to make a map of the words based on a particular root. Let us take ‘fide’. There are so many words based on the word fide: Bona fide, Fidelity, Fidel, confide! Making a map of these can help us connect the words. This can be a good tool in the classrooms, as well, for teachers to use.

Whaddayaknow! Roots actually have superpowers!


By Devika Mittal – Educational Specialist

(Member of Test Development Team)

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