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Just as the United States is made up of people who have come from many nations, English includes words that have come from many languages. For centuries traders and warriors have carried their languages wherever they went. English was heavily influenced by Greek, Latin, French, and German. However, the roots of English go all the way back to ancient India!
When England began establishing colonies around the globe in the sixteenth century, her sailors and settlers took the English language with them. Some people they encountered learned English, and English, in turn, adopted many words from other languages.
See if you can match each English word in the list on the left below with its language of origin in the list on the right. (You can check your answers in a dictionary.)
A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a word. In many cases a whole word is a single morpheme.
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Often, however, a word consists of a root or base word with prefixes and/or suffixes attached. If you know the meaning of each of these parts, you can "add them up" and figure out the meaning of the word. Knowing the meanings of common morphemes can help you figure out the meanings of thousands of words the first time you see them.
|Morpheme and Meaning||Examples|
|aud (hear)||auditory, audience, audit, audition|
|auto (self)||automobile, autobiography, autocrat|
|bene (good, well)||benefit, benediction, benevolent|
|bi- (two)||bicycle, bisect, bilateral, bicameral|
|biblio (book)||bibliography, Bible, bibliophile|
|bio (life)||biology, biography, biodegradable|
|cap (head)||capital, captain, per capita, capitulate|
|cent (hundred)||century, percent, centennial|
|cent (center)||central, concentric, egocentric|
|chrom (color)||monochromatic, chromosome|
|chron (time)||chronology, chronic, anachronism|