Monday, October 13, 2008

#3: in: not; into; common Latin phrases

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 "not;" here I continue with other spelling changes of "in" which mean "not," as well as "into" and the use of "in" in common Latin prepositional phrases.
You will recall that in my last post I discussed the spelling permutations of "in" as "il," "im," and "in;" the surfeit appear below:

ir: irrevocable: etymologically "not" able to be "called back;" irregular: "not" regular, or etymologically "not standard;" and irresistible "not" able to be resisted.

ig: ignoble: "not" noble; ignoramus: "not" knowing; ignominious: pertaining to having a "not" (good) name

"In" as a Latin root can also mean "into," a prefix which also contains orthographic permutations. Examples of this meaning appear below, which give rise to a fair number of English vocabulary words:

inflammable: able to burst "into" flame
incarnation: the act of coming "into" flesh
illumination: the act of bursting "into" light
incarceration: the act of putting "into" prison
imprison: putting "into" prison
encourage: act or process of putting heart "into" someone (from the Latin root cor, cordis: "heart").

As a last note for the heavy influence of the Latin root "in," note that numerous prepositional phrases have come over wholesale from Latin into English, for example:

in memoriam: the process, via commemoration, or putting someone or something "into memory."
in situ: "in" a place, that is, doing something "in situ" is doing it in the original position
in loco parentis: "in the place of a parent"

For more information on English vocabulary words deriving from Greek and Latin roots, check out the word origins dictionary on CD-ROM as described at, which not only contains a vast amount of SAT and GRE level vocabulary words, but also helps with teaching vocabulary and has a fine Greek and Latin roots library source page.

Stay tune for my next post, which will continue the enthralling saga of Billy and Morgan as they negotiate the thorny etymological thicket of the Latin root word medius: middle.

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).