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Latin Derivatives Build English Vocabulary

Discover how learning Latin derivatives can become a powerful tool for building English vocabulary. Our strategy gives each student an understanding of the foundations of a large vocabulary.

Rather than handing out a list of intimidating English words, provide just one Latin root. Let your students guess what it means. Let them show how many derivatives they know already.

Let them think first. Then show them how to apply what they know to discover new English vocabulary words.

Latin Word of the Week (2/10/2008):


to sit, to settle

You'll be amazed how many English derivatives come from this Latin verb meaning to sit or to settle. And your students will shout out with joy as they demonstrate their prior knowledge!

Latin Derivatives Build Vocabulary:

Access Prior Knowledge

Words that access prior knowledge help you and your students remember the meaning of the Latin root word.

_sedentary (adj): sitting or settled. The sedentary life of an old hound dog. Some say children in school are too sedentary, with all the seat work. From the 2nd principal part Sedere.

_session (n): the Latin root of this noun means a sitting together, especially in a court of law. Now in English we use it to mean an assembly of any kind. It comes from the 4th principal part Sessum.

Brainstorming: More Latin Derivatives!

_assess (v): the Latin root of this verb means to sit near or to settle near, but in English we use it to mean to estimate value. Think tax assessment: About how much do you owe? A home assessment: About how much is it worth?

The word assess comes from adding the preposition ad- to the 4th principal part sessum. (When ad- meets sessum, the d disappears and the s is doubled)

_assiduous (adj): hard-working and diligent. An assiduous person sits at his work for long hours. See above for the prefix ad- + sessum. [Notice that compound forms of this Latin root, i.e. when there is a prefix added to the root, the stem vowel -e- changes to -i-: -sid- instead of -sed-.]

_obsession (n): ob- + sessum means literally sitting in the way. An obsession is something that seems always to be in the forefront of your mind, sitting in the way of other thoughts. As apposes to an obstacle, which is standing in the way (ob- + stare).

_residual (adj): pertaining to what's left over, i.e. the stuff that's still sitting there after the fact. Think of the the residue in a just-eaten bowl of ice cream. Or the residual crumbs in the bottom of a now cookieless cookie jar.

_subside (v): sub- + sedere, this verb means to settle or sink down, to become calm. The noise subsided as soon as the children left for the day.

_subsidiary (adj): helpful, auxiliary, subordinate. One company can be a subsidiary of another, larger company. Or if the CEO has a personal assistant, that assistant might be called a subsidiary, i.e. one who sits at the ready to help.

_supersede (v): literally, to sit above or sit upon. This verb's most common meaning is to take the place of or to render obsolete. The automobile superseded the horse and buggie, but now we need something more efficient to supersede the automobile!

The Latin Derivatives of Science & Medicine!

_sediment (n): that which has settled to the bottom is called sediment.

_sedimentary (adj): in geology, sedimentary rock is formed by the compression of small particles into stone. Sand settles to the bottom of a riverbed, a process called sedimentation.

_sessile (adj): in botany, sessile means connected at the base without lateral support, such as a leaf. In zoology, sessile means permanently attached or not freely moving.

_sedative (n/adj): a sedative is a drug that calms or settles the patient, the opposite of a stimulant. As an adjective, sedative means calming or soothing.

_sedate (v/adj): as a verb, to sedate means to calm or soothe: The doctor sedated the child with drugs; the mother sedated the child with hugs and gentle words. As an adjective, sedate means inactive, calm. Although the lioness in the zoo seems sedate, she is potentially a violent animal.

_residency (n): in the medical field, a residency is a period of tenure for a new doctor. He or she holds the position, but is not yet established fully as a doctor. They work such long shifts they might think they reside at the hospital.

_insidious (adj): an adjective used to describe something hidden but dangerous. Its Latin root (insidiae) means an ambush. An insidious desease may lie dormant for years before becoming suddenly fatal. An insidious student may lurk in your room, seeming to do his work, but actually devising plans to disrupt your lesson.

_sedens (adj): in scientific nomenclature: sedens means sitting, e.g. calamus sedens is the scientific name for a kind of palm tree. Can you find more scientific Latin derivatives?

This is NOT an exhaustive list of English derivatives from SEDERE! Can you explain the meaning of the following Latin derivatives?

resident, residential, sedan

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