Melanie & Mike say...

 Tow.jpg (63573 bytes)

      the only Weekly Word-origin Webzine
Search Home FAQ Links Site map Book Store

BackIssues

New Ask Us Theory About

 

How Are Words
Created?

Latin Roots

Latin Prefixes

Greek Affixes

Authenticator

Phoneme Shifts

Glossary

Bibliography

ETYMOLOGICAL THEORY

How words are created

By imitation of sounds (onomatopoeia)
Meow,  bang,  crackle,  zip,  ring
Through extended meanings
The verb fly becomes:  the name of an insect,   a baseball that is hit high,  the space over a theater stage
As derivations
From study comes student,  from moon comes month
Through compound words
Notebook, bedroom and mailbox are some obvious examples but also note elbow (ell + bow) and lackadaisical (from the expression 'lackaday' which itself derives from 'alack the day').
From root + affix
Prefix  +  root
Pro- (forward or forth)  +  duce (lead)  =  produce ("bring forth")
Root  +  suffix
Wonder  +  -full =  wonderful
Through changing pronunciation
Breakfast,  cupboard,  extraordinary
Through changing spelling
Alone is from 'all one'. Felt was once used to strain liquid, so the piece of felt used as the strainer became known as a felter, which later changed to filter. "God be with you" was once a valediction which, over the centuries, came to be pronounced and spelled as good-bye.
From names (eponyms)
People's names:
The Teddy Bear is named after Teddy Roosevelt and the electrical volt after Alessandro Volta.
Place names:
Frankfurters after named after Frankfurt,  Germany, and jeans after Genoa, Italy.
Trade names:
Kleenex,  Band-aid,  Jello,  Xerox,  Hoover
From the shortening or truncating of words
Telephone becomes phonephotograph becomes photo,   megabyte becomes meg
From acronyms
Sonar = SOund NAvigation Ranging,   laser = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
Portmanteau words
Motor  +  hotel  =  motel
From foreign words
Influenza (Italian),  rendezvous (French),  chow (Chinese),  opal (Sanskrit)
Invented words
Quiz,  quark

Latin Roots

Latin Root

English  Meaning

English Example Word

act act, do actual
ami like, love amiable
cad fall cadence
ced go intercede
cept take, hold intercept
cid kill, cut genocide
clud shut, close occlude
cred believe incredulous
cur run incur
dict tell edict
duct lead induct
fact make, do benefactor
fer bear, carry confer
flect flex, bend genuflect
gress step, go forward egress
here stick, adhere inherent
ject throw eject
junct join conjunction
leg read, choose illegible
loqu talk, speak loquacity
mit send transmit
mov move immovable
ped foot centipede
pel drive impel
pend hang pendulum
pon put respond
port carry transport
press press, hold impress
rupt break disrupt
scrib write describe
sect cut intersect
sent feel sentient
sequ follow sequence
spect look introspection
sta stand station
tact touch tactile
termin end determine
tract draw, pull tractor
vent come invent
vert turn convert
vict conquer evict
vid see video
voc call vocalize
volv roll, turn evolve

 


Latin Prefixes

Latin Prefix

English Meaning

English Example Word

ab away abduct
ad to, toward admit
ante before, in front of antecedent
bene well, good benediction
bi two bifocal
circum around circumvent
co together cooperate
contra against, opposite contrary
de from, down deprecate
dis apart, differently disgrace
e out elect
extgra outside extraordinary
in in inject
in not involuntary
inter between intercept
intra within, in intraocular
mal badly, evil maltreat
ob in the way obstruct
per through percolate
post after postmortem
pre before preside
pro forward, forth promote
re again, back relent
retro backward retroactive
se apart secret
semi half semi-circle
sub under submarine
super above supernatural
trans across transcontinental
ultra exceedingly ultralight

 


Greek Affixes

Greek Affix

English Meaning

English Example Word

anthropo man anthropologist
anti against antihistamine
astro star astrology
auto self automobile
biblio book bibliography
bio life biosphere
chrom color monochromatic
chron time chronology
cosmo world microcosm
cracy government autocracy
dem people demographic
eu well, good euphemism
geo earth geography
graph write autograph
hydro water hydrophobia
hyper over hyperactive
hypo under hypodermic
log speech, word syllogism
logy science, study meteorology
meta beyond metaphysics
meter measure hygrometer
micro small microorganism
mis hate, wrong misogyny
mono one monosyllable
onym name synonym
pan all pantheism
path feeling sympathy
peri around peripatetic
phil love Anglophile
phob fear agoraphobia
phon sound megaphone
poly many polyphony
pseudo false pseudonym
psych mind psychology
scop see oscilloscope
soph wisdom sophomore
syn together synchronize
tele at a distance telemetry
theo God or god theology
therm heat thermometer

 


 

Indo-European consonants

The table below shows the major Indo-European languages with some of their consonants. As you can see, the consonants are not arranged alphabetically but, rather, in groups of similar sounds. For instance, the 'stops' are all sounds which are produced with a little explosion of air, such as p, t and k. If the vocal chords vibrate when a 'stop' is articulated then it is said to be 'voiced' (e.g. b, d and g). If a 'stop' is followed by an extra puff of air it is said to be 'aspirate' (as the th in pot-hook and the dh in mud-hole).

We may here discern the evolution of this family of languages over time from the (theoretical) prehistoric Indo-European through ancient Greek and Latin to modern German. Modern English is not included as it is actually a mixture of Old English (also known as Anglo-Saxon) and Old French which makes it, technically, a creole.

To illustrate one way in which this table may be used, let us consider septa, the Latin word for seven. It uses the continuant: s, an unvoiced stop: p and a voiced stop: t. If we check the same columns for Greek we find that the only difference is that the s changes to an h and, hepta is indeed the Greek word for seven. Again, the Latin word pater becomes the English father and the Latin frater becomes brother.   Note that differences in vowels (such as the o in brother) are not predicted by this table.

  CONSONANTS

Stops

Cont.

Sonorants

unvoiced

voiced

voiced aspirate

nasal

liquid

glide

Sanskrit

p

t

s

k/c

b

d

j

g/j

bh

dh

h

gh/h

s

m

n

r/l

l/r

y

v

*Indo-European

k

kw

g

gw

gh

gwh

r

l

i/y

w/u

Hittite

ku

p

t

 

k

ku

p

t

k

ku

y

w

Tocharian

k

t(c)

k

k

Old Persian

th

b

d

g/d

g/j

b

d

g/d

g/j

h

v

Avestan

s

k/c

z/g

g/z

Old Church Slavonic

k/c'/c

z

g/z'/z

z

g/z'/z

s

j

Lithuanian

k

g

g

Greek

k

p/t/k

g

b/d/g

ph

th

kh

ph/th/kh

h

h/z

-

Latin

c

qu

v/gu

f(b)

f(d)

h

f

s

j

v

Old Irish

-

c

b

b

d

g

g

-

f

Armenian

h

th

s

kh

p

t

c

k

z(j)

h

y

g/v

Gothic

f

h(j)

hw/w

k

qu

g

b/g

s

j

w

Common Germanic

h

hw

kw/k

Old English

cw/k

g(y)

Old Norse

hv

kv

-

v

Old High German

d

hw/w

p/pf

z

qu

t/d

j

w

Middle Dutch

v

th/d

w

p

t

d

g

Comments, additions? Send to Melanie & Mike: melmike@takeourword.com
Copyright 1995-2006 TIERE
Last Updated 10/08/06 11:15 PM