How to Use Etymology
Use etymology as a tool to understand your language.
- Learn your parts of speech. Know how to break down a word into its parts—roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Most of our ‘fancy’ words are made from a smaller number of Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Once you recognize those, you can easily figure out the meanings of lots and lots of words.
- Learn how to use a dictionary and a thesaurus. Become familiar with the symbols and notations in these reference tools.
- Become familiar with other languages. English vocabulary comes from mainly:
- Germanic languages like German, Dutch and Swedish
- Romance languages like French, Spanish and Italian
When to Use Etymology
Through etymology you can become an expert on words. When you see an unfamiliar word, or just because you are curious, look up its etymology. Also, knowing how words are formed can help you to make up new words that other people might use!