Word Roots and Meaning L – N

There are hundreds of words in English that have roots in Latin and Greek, a lot of these words are similar to words in French, Italian and Spanish. Knowing the meanings of these word roots can help you guess the meanings of words you don’t know.

Many of these words are found most often in formal and academic English.

A root can be found in the beginning, middle or end of a word.




lect, leg (Latin)

choose, gather

collect, legion, lecturer, legend, dialect, eclectic, election

ling, lang (Latin)

language, tongue

linguistics, bilingual, monolingual, lingo, language

log (Greek)


logic, logistics, catalogue, prologue, monologue, travelogue

loqu, loc (Latin)


loquacious, elocution, circumlocution, ventriloquism

luc, lum (Latin)


Lucid, elucidate, translucent, illuminate, luminary, luminous

mania (Greek)


manic, maniac, megalomania, egomania, pyromania,

manu (Latin)


manual, manufacture, emancipate, manacles, manager,

mar (Latin)


marine, submarine, aquamarine, marina, mariner, maritime

matr, mater (Latin)


maternity, maternal, matrimony, matricide, matriarchy

max (Latin)


maximum, maximise, the max, maximalist, climax, anticlimax

med, mid (Latin)


medium, midlands, mediator, medieval, mediocre, median

mini (Latin)


minimum, mini, miniature, mini-skirt, mini-break, deminish

mit, miss (Latin)


transmit, mission, omit, commit, submit, remittance, emit

mono (Greek)


monologue, monolingual, monopoly, monolith, monosyllable

mort (Latin)


mortuary, mortician, mortal, mortgage, immortal, morgue

multi (Latin)


multiplication, multinational, multilingual, multipurpose

naut (Greek)

sail, travel

nautical, astronaut, nausea, cosmonaut, aeronautics

neo (Greek)


neonatal, neophyte, neologism, neolithic, neonatal

neuro (Greek)


neuron, neurotic, neurology, neurosurgeon, neural

nomin, nomen (La)


nominate, nomenclature, nominee, denominator, ignominious


The prefix ‘bi’ means ‘two’, so what do you think the following words mean?

bilingual: ‘She has a French mother and a Polish father so she grew up bilingual‘.

bicycle: ‘It’s much easier to ride a bicycle than a unicycle’.


The prefix ‘mono’ means ‘one’, the root word ‘log’ means ‘word’, so what do you think ‘monologue’ means? ‘The actor has to speak a long monologue in scene 2. It’s a lot to learn’.

What is ‘monolingual’? ‘Most people in the UK are monolingual, a lot of children don’t spend much time studying foreign languages at school’.


The prefix ‘trans’ means ‘across’, so what do you think ‘transmission’ and ‘transmit’ mean? ‘The technology allows data to be transmitted by mobile phones’.

What is ‘transcontinental’? ‘By the 1890s there were half a dozen transcontinental railways’.

What’s ‘transatlantic’? ‘The first successful transatlantic flight from Canada to Ireland was in 1919′.


The root word ‘klepto’ means ‘steal’, so what do you think ‘kleptomania’ might mean? ‘He’s a kleptomaniac, if it’s not nailed down, he’ll take it’.

The suffix ‘ocracy’ means ‘rule’ or ‘govern’, so what do you think ‘kleptocracy’ means? ‘The country is largely run by a kleptocracy which diverts billions from the public purse into the hands of the party members’.


The root word ‘scrip’ means ‘write’, so what do you think ‘manuscript’ means? ‘The Book of Kells is a beautiful illuminated manuscript made by Irish monks in around 800 AD. You can visit it in Dublin’.


The suffix ‘cide’ means ‘kill’ or ‘killer’, so what do you think ‘matricide’ means? ‘The Roman Emperor Nero committed matricide. First he tried to poison his mother, then crush her under a falling ceiling and drown her in a sinking boat, eventually he disguised her death as suicide’.

Check your ideas in the dictionary.