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 Latin roots for 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 Web sites:
- A Basic Curriculum: Written by a homeschooling mother, this site features a large table of Latin roots, definitions, and examples, as well as a sample lesson plan for using this knowledge to build English spelling skills.
- Word Explorations: This informative Web site is devoted to helping visitors explore words with Latin and Greek origins.
- Greek and Latin Roots for English Words: Although his explanations are rather lengthy and only a small amount of Latin prefixes and suffixes are covered, Dr. Bill Long provides an informative look at how studying Latin can build your English spelling skills.
The following reference books may be useful for assisting in your study of Latin:
Worksheets and Lesson Plans for Teaching Latin Roots for Spelling
If you are a teacher searching for resources to use in your classroom spelling lessons, check out these helpful links:
- (http://edhelper.com/Word_Roots.htm 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.