English Vocabulary: Word Roots and word formation!!


MANIA in Latin means “madness,” and the meaning passed over into English unchanged. Our word mania can mean a mental illness, or at least an excessive enthusiasm. We might call someone a maniac who was wild, violent, and mentally ill—or maybe just really enthusiastic about something. Too much caffeine might make you a bit manic. But the intense mood swings once known as manic-depressive illness are now usually called bipolar disorder instead.


1. Kleptomania: A mental illness in which a person has a strong desire to steal things.

Usage: Kleptomania leads its sufferers to steal items of little value that they don't need anyway.

2. Dipsomaniac: A person with an extreme and uncontrollable desire for alcohol.

Usage: She didn't like the word alcoholic being applied to her, and liked dipsomaniac even less.

3. Megalomaniac: A mental disorder marked by feelings of great personal power and importance.

Usage: When the governor started calling for arming his National Guard with nuclear weapons, the voters finally realized they had elected a megalomaniac.

4. Egomaniac: Someone who is extremely self-centred and ignores the problems and concerns of others.

Usage: He's a completely unimpressive person, but that doesn't keep him from being an egomaniac.


PSYCH comes from the Greek word psyche, meaning “breath, life, soul.” Psychology is the science of mind and behavior, and a psychologist treats or studies the mental problems of individuals and groups. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with mental and emotional disorders, and a psychiatrist (like any other doctor) may prescribe drugs to treat them.


1. Psyche: Soul, personality, mind.

Usage: Analysts are constantly trying to understand the nation's psyche and why the U.S. often behaves so differently from other countries.

2. Psychosomatic: Caused by mental or emotional problems rather than by physical illness.

Usage: Her doctor assumed her stomach problems were psychosomatic but gave her some harmless medication anyway.

3. Psychotherapist: One who treats mental or emotional disorder or related bodily ills by psychological means.

Usage: He's getting medication from a psychiatrist, but it's his sessions with the psychotherapist that he really values.


CEPT comes from the Latin verb meaning “take, seize.” Capture, which is what a captor has done to a captive, has the same meaning. Captivate once meant literally “capture,” but now means only to capture mentally through charm or appeal. But in some other English words this root produces, such as those below, its meaning is harder to find.


1. Reception: (1) The act of receiving. (2) A social gathering where guests are formally welcomed.

Usage: Although the reception of her plan by the board of directors was enthusiastic, it was months before anything was done about it.

2. Intercept: To stop, seize, or interrupt (something or someone) before arrival.

Usage: The explosives had been intercepted by police just before being loaded onto the jet.

3. Perceptible: Noticeable or able to be felt by the senses.

Usage: Her change in attitude toward him was barely perceptible, and he couldn't be sure he wasn't just imagining it.

4. Susceptible: (1) Open to some influence; responsive. (2) Able to be submitted to an action or process.

Usage: She impressed everyone immediately with her intelligence, so they're now highly susceptible to her influence and usually go along with anything she proposes.


FIN comes from the Latin word for “end” or “boundary.” Final describes last things, and a finale or a finish is an ending. (And at the end of a French film, you may just see the word “Fin.”) But its meaning is harder to trace in some of the other English words derived from it.


1. Confine: (1) To keep (someone or something) within limits. (2) To hold (someone) in a location.

Usage: He had heard the bad news from the CEO, but when he spoke to his employees he confined his remarks to a few hints that sales had slipped.

2. Definitive: (1) Authoritative and final. (2) Specifying perfectly or precisely.

Usage: The team's brilliant research provided a definitive description of the virus and its strange mutation patterns.

3. Finite: Having definite limits.

Usage: Her ambitions were infinite, but her wealth was finite.

4. Infinitesimal: Extremely or immeasurably small.

Usage: Looking more closely at the research data, he now saw an odd pattern of changes so infinitesimal that they hadn't been noticed before.


JECT comes from jacere, the Latin verb meaning “throw” or “hurl.” To reject something is to throw (or push) it back; to eject something is to throw (or drive) it out; and to inject something is to throw (or squirt) it into something else.


1. Interject: To interrupt a conversation with a comment or remark.

Usage: His anger was growing as he listened to the conversation, and every so often he would interject a crude comment.

2. Conjecture: To guess.

Usage: He was last heard of in Bogotá, and they conjectured that he had met his end in the Andes at the hands of the guerrillas.

3. Projection: An estimate of what might happen in the future based on what is happening now.

Usage: The president has been hearing different deficit projections all week from the members of his economic team.

4. Trajectory: The curved path that an object makes in space, or that a thrown object follows as it rises and falls to earth.

Usage: Considering the likely range, trajectory, and accuracy of a bullet fired from a cheap handgun at 100 yards, the murder seemed incredible.


TRACT comes from trahere, the Latin verb meaning “drag or draw.” Something attractive draws us toward it. Something distracting pulls your attention away. And when you extract something from behind the sofa, you drag it out.


1. Traction: The friction that allows a moving thing to move over a surface without slipping.

Usage: The spinning wheels were getting no traction on the ice, and we began to slip backward down the hill.

2. Retract: (1) To pull back (something) into something larger. (2) To take back (something said or written).

Usage: She was forced to retract her comment about her opponent after it was condemned in the press.

3. Protracted: Drawn out, continued, or extended.

Usage: No one was looking forward to a protracted struggle for custody of the baby.

4. Intractable: Not easily handled, led, taught, or controlled.

Usage: Corruption in the army was the country's intractable problem, and for many years all foreign aid had ended up in the colonels' pockets.


DUC/DUCT, from the Latin verb ducere, “to lead,” shows up regularly in English. Duke means basically “leader.” The Italian dictator Mussolini was known simply as Il Duce, “the leader.” But such words as produce and reduce also contain the root, even though their meanings show it less clearly.


1. Conducive: Tending to promote, encourage, or assist; helpful.

Usage: She found the atmosphere in the quiet café conducive to study and even to creative thinking.

2. Deduction: (1) Subtraction. (2) The reaching of a conclusion by reasoning.

Usage: Foretelling the future by deduction based on a political or economic theory has proved to be extremely difficult.

3. Induce: (1) Persuade, influence. (2) Bring about.

Usage: To induce him to make the call we had to promise we wouldn't do it again.

4. Seduction: (1) Temptation to sin, especially temptation to sexual intercourse. (2) Attraction or charm.

Usage: The Company began its campaign of seduction of the smaller firm by inviting its top management to a series of weekends at expensive resorts.


SEQU comes from the Latin verb sequi, meaning “to follow.” A sequel follows the original novel, film, or television show.


1. Sequential: (1) Arranged in order or in a series. (2) Following in a series.

Usage: In writing the history of the revolution, his challenge was to put all the events of those fateful days in proper sequential order.

2. Subsequent: Following in time, order, or place; later.

Usage: Through all her subsequent love affairs, she never stopped thinking about the man who got away.

3. Consequential: (1) Resulting. (2) Important.

Usage: None of our discussions thus far has been very consequential; next week's meeting will be the important one.


Note: Not just read; practice also. Practice upon these words by using them in sentences. Engage yourself, then only you will learn!!