Thursday, October 9, 2008

#2: in: not

Up to this point I have been focusing primarily upon stems of English vocabulary words, those primary morphemes from Greek and Latin roots that form the core of English words. There are, however, also highly important affixes, such as prefixes and suffixes, that help to form the meaning of English words, and that can be helpful in ascertaining their precise meaning. My last post focused on the Latin root word in when it means "in, on". To view in in its full prolific influence see this Greek and Latin root words page, and check out the importance in general of Greek and Latin roots as a whole. The Latin root in makes its presence felt in many words, where it disguises itself in multiple forms and contains multiple meanings (for a discussion of prefixes and their importance in the English language, see my introduction to word origin and etymology). Once, however, one pierces the tricky orthographic disguises of this prefix, it reveals itself in all its utility. One of the most useful meanings of "in" is "not;" this form also goes through many spelling changes:

il: illegal simply means "not legal." Note the clever changing of "n" to "l" before the main stem (from the Latin lex, legis: law) would be silly, of course, to have an English word "inlegal." Other words with "il" in them meaning "not" include: illiterate (etymologically "not lettered") and "illegible" (etymologically "not able to be read"). To check out roots like lex, legis: law, littera: letter of the alphabet, and lego, legere: to read, please see which fully discusses the primary roots of the English language; in fact, you can see a complete list of all the Greek and Latin root words here.

im: immortal (etymologically "of or pertaining to not (being susceptible, that is) to death": main stem here is Latin mors, mortis: death); immaculate (etymologically having "no spot", that is, being "spotless"); immovable (can you guess?); and immense (etymologically "without measure" or "not having measure," thus boundless in its size).

in: incalculable ("not" calculable); insatiable ("not" able to have "enough": from the Latin satis: enough); innocuous ("not harmful," from the Latin noceo, nocere: to harm) and invalid ("not" possessing "strength," hence void; from the Latin validus: strong)

In my next post I will discuss further permutations of in meaning "not," as well as some highly used Latin prepositional phrases, such as "in memoriam" that have filtered into everyday use in the English language.

Please check out my Greek and Latin roots word of the day column: if you find this blog interesting, you will love that daily post (entitled: Word Wizardry by Logophilus).