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Teaching Latin Roots for Spelling

Although the study of Latin may seem like an obscure pursuit, understanding this ancient language can actually help one develop a more proficient grasp of English spelling words. For this reason, teaching the Latin roots as part of spelling is often a recommended part of the preparation for students who wish to compete in spelling bee events.

The English language has borrowed bits and pieces from many other languages, but Latin remains among the most influential. In fact, some studies have estimated that almost half the words we use in our daily conversation have Latin roots.

There are two main reasons for the prominence of Latin within modern English vocabulary:

  • After the French conquered England in 1066, French remained England's official language for 200 years. French and Latin have many similarities.

  • For many years, Latin was widely regarded as the language of culture, religion, education, and science in the Western world. Even today, Latin terminology is used heavily in many scholarly fields.

Examples of Latin Influence in English Spelling

There are a number of examples of Latin's influence in current English spellings. Consider the following:

  • Carnivore: The word carnivore illustrates that the letter i is a vowel often used to connect two Latin word elements. If you are uncertain of the spelling of a connecting vowel sound that is a schwa (\ə\), the letter i is a reasonable guess in many circumstances.

  • Exuberant: In Latin, the letter x is often pronounced \gz\, as in the words exuberant and exacerbate.

  • Interruption: Many people have trouble remembering whether words from Latin double their internal consonant. However, it's easier to keep these words straight if you memorize them as parts of related categories. For example, remembering the spelling of interrupt will assist you in correctly spelling the word interruption.

  • Lucid: The \ü\ sound as made in the word ooze is typically spelled with a u in lucid and other English words with Latin roots. The sound typically follows a \d\, \j\, \l\, \r\, or \s\ sound. After other consonants, however, the \ü\ sound becomes \yü\ --as in bugle or meticulous.

Resources for Understanding Latin Word Roots

Since Latin is not commonly taught in schools today, finding accurate information about this ancient language can be a challenging task. To begin, however, yourDictionary suggests visiting the following helpful websites:

  • Word Explorations: This informative website is devoted to helping visitors explore words with Latin and Greek origins.

  • Membean: A fun and visual way to learn root words. The root word is defined in the gray box, then click on the Read More button to see a word tree of vocabulary words using the root word.

The following reference books may also be useful for assisting in your study of Latin word roots:

Latin Roots: Worksheets and Lesson Plans

If you are a teacher searching for resources to use in your classroom spelling lessons, check out these helpful links:

  • Ed Helper - This site has a series of review exercises designed to increase a student's knowledge of Greek and Latin word roots.

  • ESL Galaxy - Although the worksheets on this site are intended for those who are learning English as a second language, native English speakers who are struggling with basic spelling skills may also find the lessons to be useful and informative.

  • KwizNet - This site's interactive SAT prep vocabulary quiz provides a wonderful overview of the most common Greek and Latin prefixes.

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