One way to increase vocabulary: learn Latin roots

Does your child show a logical way of thinking?  Does your son delight in finding patterns?  Does your daughter love puzzles?

If so, your child might like to learn English vocabulary by studying Latin and Greek roots.

uni- as root word

More than 60 percent of English words can be traced back to Latin or Greek words, sometimes with a bypass through France.  Most of those Latin or Greek roots developed into not one or two English words, but eight or ten or more.

If a child can memorize a Latin root, he can find that root pattern in many related English words.  Thinking logically, he can assume that those other words are related in meaning to the original Latin root.

The child’s vocabulary can grow exponentially.  A student who studies vocabulary the traditional way, learning ten new unrelated words a week, can possibly learn 380 new words in a school year.  But a child who studies one Latin root a week might learn thousands of new words in a school year.

The Common Core State Standards recommend that children be introduced to Latin prefixes, suffixes and roots in third grade. But even kindergarteners can learn a Latin root a week and can infer the meaning of words made from that root.

For example, suppose a little kid learns that “mater” is the Latin word for mother.  A teacher or parent could introduce the words maternity, maternal, matriarch, matrimony, matron, and alma mater.  Even if the child can’t read, she can hear “mater” in those words and can assume they have something to do with a mother.

One easy way is to begin with the Latin and Greek roots for numbers.  Or try a word which is part of children’s lives, such bicycle.  Cycle, circle, circular, cyclical, encircle—it’s not hard to remember that they all have something to do with a circle.   Encourage children to propose their own words.  How about circus, a child might ask.  Yes, circus comes from circle.  Can you guess why?  Maybe because of the rings?  Maybe.

Having a large vocabulary is associated with strong reading comprehension.  Using Latin roots is one way to gain a large vocabulary.

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