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Words You Need To Know

Words from Latin

No language has been more influential in the development of English than Latin. There are two reasons for this. First, when the French conquered England in 1066, their language was very similar to Latin, and French remained England's official language for 200 years. Second, Latin was, until relatively recently, the language of culture, religion, education, and science in the Western world. It is still used today to name newly discovered species of plants and animals and to form some compound words in various scientific and technological fields.

Now You Try

  1. 1. Curriculum is another word from Latin like necessary and interrupt that has an internal double consonant. Can you think of an adjective related to curriculum that also has double r?

    That's Correct! The adjective is curricular.

  2. 2. Some of the Latin study-list words end with the sound \shəs\, and the consonant that begins the last syllable is c or t. Can you think of two words in English that end with this sound and are spelled with xious?

    English words from Latin ending in xious include anxious, noxious, and obnoxious.

  3. 3. The rarely used plural of consensus is consensuses, but some words from Latin that end in us have a plural that ends in a long i sound (\ī\) and is spelled with i. Can you think of three such words?

    There are several such plurals in English. The most common ones are probably alumnus/alumni, nucleus/nuclei, cactus/cacti, fungus/fungi.

  4. 4. Three words on the study list come from the Latin verb that means "throw." These words are conjecture, dejected, and trajectory. See if you can unscramble these letters to find four other common English words that have the same root:

    jbustce: Show Answer
    trecje: Show Answer
    rptcjeo: Show Answer
    cotbej: Show Answer

    That's Correct! The words are subject, reject, project, and object.

  5. 5. The consonants gn often occur in words from Latin. When they divide two syllables of a word, both of them are pronounced. Some words from Latin, however, have the consonants gn in a single syllable. In this case, the g is silent, as in design. Can you think of three other words from Latin in which this happens?

    Some other words with a silent g include assign, benign, impugn, and reign.

Spelling Tip

One of the hardest things to remember about words from Latin is whether an internal consonant (like rr in interrupt) is doubled. To reinforce your memory of the correct spelling, try to remember related words all together (like interrupt along with interruption or necessary along with necessity).

Spelling Tip

The \\ sound (as in ooze) is nearly always spelled with u in words from Latin. It typically follows a \d\, \j\, \l\, \r\, or \s\ sound. After other consonants, this sound normally becomes \y\ (as in bugle, subterfuge, ambiguity, and prosecute and in one pronunciation of refugee).

Spelling Tip

Beware of words like crescent in which the \s\ sound is spelled with sc in words from Latin. Other examples include visceral, discern, discipline, susceptible, and corpuscle.

Spelling Tip

When you hear within a word from Latin the \s\ sound followed by any of the sounds of e (long, short, or schwa), there's a possibility that the \s\ sound is spelled with c as in exacerbate, access, adjacent, condolences, facetious, and necessary.

Spelling Tip

The letter i is a vowel often used to connect two Latin word elements. If the connecting vowel sound is a schwa (\ə\) and you must guess at the spelling of this sound, the letter i might be a good guess: See carnivore and herbivore. Other examples include non–study-list words that end in iform such as oviform and pediform.

Spelling Tip

The letter k rarely appears in words from Latin, and its sound is nearly always represented by c as in canary, prosaic, canine, mediocre, Capricorn, cognition, ductile, incorruptible, vernacular, innocuous, and many other words on the list.

Spelling Tip

The letter x often gets the pronunciation \gz\ in words from Latin (as in exacerbate and exuberant).

Spelling Tip

The combination ious ends many adjectives of Latin origin. When the consonant that precedes ious is c or t, the sound of the final syllable is \shəs\ as in facetious, ostentatious, pernicious, and precocious. It is important to keep in mind that several adjectives from Latin ending with this sound end in eous rather than ious. In such instances, the definitions of the words usually contain phrases such as "consisting of," "resembling," or "having the characteristic of." Examples include non–study–list words herbaceous, cetaceous, and lilaceous.