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Word Stems

When we say we are writers, what do we mean? For that matter what are words? We may say they are a collection of letters grouped in cohesive form that convey a meaning.

But, that only tells us the obvious.

Letters and the words that result from the use of them are more. They are guttural outcries, grunts and groans - controlled inhalations / exhalations of life-sustaining air manipulated by the throat, tongue and lips that we have all agreed mean a certain thing.

In other words they are verbal shorthand for our inward thoughts, our expressed outward desires...our hopes and our dreams.

Also words did not come into the world by happenstance. But, there was a specific reason behind their daily use and later the inclusion into the lexicon of English speech.

So, if neccesity is the mother of invention? Can we not say that 'necesse' the latin root word from which the word later was formed is its father?

John Kennedy, the author of the word origin dictionary, "Word Stems" declares this to be the case. He reminds us of this fact when he writes. "The English language in familiar speech consists of words of Anglo-Saxon origin. But of the words consisting of the English language, fully three fifths are of Latin origin."

He goes on to explain how the English language originated. That as a result of the Norman conquest of England the two people who spoke different languages were forced to find a compromise between them, to put aside their pride and their hatred and communicate so both could live peacefully.

"Hence our present words are but changed forms, or corruptions of Old French and Anglo-Saxon words," he tells us.

Mr. Kennedy explains in great detail how the forced situation that resulted in a coalescence of speech has benefited mankind. For the speakers of English have been given the abilty to express what was impossible before - the tangible and the intangible. Not only their outward needs and desires, but also their inward hopes and dreams...

"Hence the Anglo-Saxon is still our vernacular, the language of childhood, the speech of direct experience independent of education." And the Old French, the language of the Norman conquerers, "the speech of luxury,...of education and refinement," he explains.

He concludes with the following statement. "The English language is richer than either of its ancestors, for it has all the strength of the sturdy Anglo-Saxons, and with it the grace and flexibility of the French...and this has enriched the resulting language with synonyms admitting great range and variety of expression."

As a self-professed word fanatic I have always been interested in words. So, from time to
time I will be posting an alpabetical listing of word stems so as writers we can all familiarize ourselves with their origins.

By knowing the origin of words I hope an insight of them will develop that may not have been fully understood before. And knowledge of words origins will not only help to improve any writer's vocabulary but strengthen overall writing skills as well.

Should you have a particular favorite word and want to enlighten us all into its origin and/or the story behind its conception, feel free to contact me and I will happily include it.

Should you be interested in buying a copy of Mr. Kennedy's book I have included a link below.

Word Stems...The A's

To start the New Year off here (as promised) is the list of Word Stems...beginning with the A's. The listings are given with the root word, followed by the definition and then its usage - finally by the stems root word and origin.

I have also included a special feature, "Word of the Day" which explores the story behind the conception of the chosen word. Upon reading this post you could be surprised to discover the true meaning and story behind some very familiar words.


Abb- father, religious leader; abbott (the governor of a monastery)

Abd- hide; abdomen (the lower cavity in which the entrails are hidden) L - abhere

Abol- do away with; abolish L-abolere

Ac- needle; L-acus

Acaleph- nettle

Acanth- spine, thorn; acanthus (a thorny shrub)

Accip- seize; L- accipere

Accoutr- dress, array; accoutrement F-accoutrer

Acerb- bitter; acerbity L-acerbus

Acerv- heap; acervate L-acervus

Acid- sour; L-acidus

Acinac-short sword

Acm- top, summit; acme G-acme

Acon-whetstone, sharp stone; aconite (the herb thats grows on sharp rocks) G-acone

Acro- pointed, top; acrobat (athlete who goes to the top of their toes) / accrostic (word formed from the first (top) letters) G-acros

Acu- sharpen; acute, acumen (sharpness of intellect) L-acuere

Adept- proficient L-adeptus

Adip-fat; adipose (fatty) L-adips

Adjut- assist; adjutant (assisting officer) L-adjutare

Adolesc- adult; L-adultus

Adul- flatter; adulation L-adulari

Adulter- corrupt; adulterate, adultry L-adulterare

Advanc- go forward; advance L-ab, from, ante, before

Advant- before, ahead; advantage F-avant L-ab, from, ante, before

Advic- opinion; advice

Aeg- goat; aegis (goat-skin shield of Minerva) G-aix, aigos

Aer-air; aerial (upper air) / aernaut (balloonist, an air sailor) L-aer

Aesth- perceive, feel; aesthetic (tasteful) anaesthetic (drug that destoys feelings) G- aisthomai

Ag- act, drive, urge; agent (acts in behalf of another) L-agere, actus

Agger- heap; exaggerate (overstate, make out a great amount) L-agger

Agi- a saying; adage (wise saying) L-agium

Agog- leading, bringing; demagogue (leader of the people) / synagogue (bringing together) G-agein

Agon- contest, struggle; agony (struggle against pain) / antagonist (one struggling against) G-agon

Agr- field, land; agriculture L-ager, agri

Al- feed; aliment (food) L-alere

Al- wing; aisle (wing of a church) L-ala

Alacr- swift; alacrity L- alacer

Alb- white; album (empty or white pages) L-albus

Ald- old; alderman (city father)

Alesc- grow; coalese (grow together)

Alg- pain; neuralgia (nerve pain) G- algos

Ali- another; alien (from another land) alias (otherwise) alibi (another place) L-alius

All- other; allegory (one thing under the image of another) / parallel (beside each other) G-allos

(to be continued...)

Word of the Day:


Have you ever asked where and how this word originated? Looking at the word we can easily deduce that "sub" means under (submarine) and rosa obviously is a "rose". But "under the rose"?

What's that all about?

As the members of a secret society entered the meeting room they would see a rose hanging over the table. Upon spotting the dangling flower they understood it was a covert signal to let them know that everything said in that room was to be kept in strict confidence.

Even today when the word 'sub-rosa' is used it still means the same...something clandestine or secret. Now you know why.

I will continue to post the rest of the listing at a later time, sure to watch for them. And if you have a favorite 'Word of the Day' and want to enlighten us to its origin and story feel free to contact me and I will happily include it.

Should you be interested in buying a copy of Mr. Kennedy's book I have included a link below.

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