Saturday, August 30, 2008

#2: forma: shape

On with more formative information on one of the more prolific Latin roots, forma. There are many different forms, or "shapes," in which this word is used, often as the suffix "-form". Aught cruciform is "shaped" like a cross (via the Latin crux, crucis: cross), whereas writing that is cuneiform is wedgelike in "shape" (via the Latin cuneus: wedge). Numerous anatomical descriptive terms use this suffix: penniform means "shaped like a wing or feather" (via the Latin penna: feather, wing), reniform is "shaped" like a kidney (cf. renal, pertaining to a kidney), arciform is "shaped" like an arch, plexiform is "shaped" like a network (such as in the retina of the eye), and pisiform is "shaped" like a pea, referring to a small bone of the 2o6 in the body (originally 350; many fuse in the odyssey towards adulthood). For more information on the roots used with the suffix "-form," check out .
Can a formula be deformed? Consider first what a formula is: a formula in mathematics is an
equation which gives ‘shape’ to a rule or fact. Something deformed in most cases refers to something "shaped from or down from" the way it should look, usually referring to something physical; so, an incorrect "formula" could be malformed, or "shaped badly," referring to no known rule or fact, or a warping thereof, a malignant serendipity, as it were. Imagine a scientist or mathematician, after having been misinformed or disinformed by such a rogue formula, attempting to apply it to solve the world's problems; after formatting it, or shaping it with countless myriads of data, his misguided and insidious formulaic approach would have to undergo a vast reformation, or "shaping again" after it wreaked vast havoc upon the fragile planet; any future attempts at world-saving schemes would have to be placed under the strictest reformatory preconformations before being allowed to be used on a Universal scale. Let us be glad that no Platonic Form, or Idea, ever took shape that embodied this aforementioned malformed formula. For more Greek and Latin root words examples, see this Greek and Latin roots site, at which you can see one of its Latin roots, forma, in all of its informative glory. 
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#1: forma: shape

A huge Latin root. Although Daniel Pink may disagree with my observation that this is the Information Age by saying in contradistinction that it is the Conceptual Age, we're still definitely in the mere limnings of the obsolescence thereof if Pink is correct (which I hope he is). In any case, what, etymologically speaking, is information, that is, what does it have to do with "shape"? When one informs another, one ‘describes’ something, thereby giving it ‘shape.’ Indeed, "information" is nothing but the act of giving "shape" to something, thereby delineating it, or drawing a boundary of words about it. When we conform, we give ourselves thoroughly to the "shape" of someone else's opinion or ideas, subsuming our own, for ulterior purposes or not, unless, of course, we conform to nonconformism, hence not giving "shape" to any idea or opinion, other than the absence thereof. Of all the independent schools at which I have taught, only one required uniforms, which give one "shape" to all, at least in terms of adolescent vestiture. Students there much have felt liberated once they went to college and could dress as they liked, having undergone a true transformation of personal haut couture, or etymologically "the act of crossing their (accustomed) shape" from one thing to another, in this case dress. See the shape of the forma tree at this Greek and Latin root words examples site.  Also check out animated trees at, the online site that uses a unique memory engine which keeps you from forgetting SAT and GRE vocabulary.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

#1: Contra: opposite, against

For such a contrary preposition, contra has made its gregarious inclinations felt in the English lexicon (English vocabulary words form the largest lexicon in the world) notwithstanding its contrarian nature, sometimes with surprising word histories. For instance, from an etymological point of view, a "country" is a land "opposite" another, in contradistinction to the land it is up "against." A "counter" is not only a piece of furniture that one leans "against" or stands "opposite" another person, but one can also "counter" another by speaking "against" her by holding an "opposite" point of view, perhaps by pointedly contradicting, or "speaking against" him. An "encounter," etymologically simply a coming up "against" someone or something, with a "con" might make you feel like the world is "against" you. Perhaps the "con," who does not hold your best interests in mind but rather is going to do something "against" you, might offer you some "counterfeit" money, or money "made against" authentic currency, the "opposite" of the real McCoy; if you did not recognize his devious and countermining contraband, you might have a real contretemps on your hands--bank officials would not be pleased at such an exchange "against" the normal course or "time" of customary fiduciary activity.
Would timepieces set in a "counterclockwise" mode really give us more time, or would they simply cause a great deal of discombobulation and "controversy," as if our linear notion of reality moving forward had "turned against" us by moving to the left? To tell you the truth, I could use some backward moving time, if only for about an hour or two per day. For more English derivatives of contra, check out a great Greek and Latin roots site which will show you, incontrovertibly, their power and influence over English vocabulary, a veritable Word Empire. And you can also view this root in a Greek and Latin roots poster.

Monday, August 18, 2008

#2: Caedo, caedere, cecidi, caesum: to cut, kill

Moving on with this prolific Greek and Latin root word, more English vocabulary words derived include "incision," which is nothing but a "cutting in," that is, during surgery; it can also be a "cut," or notch, in a leaf. To "excise" text from a book is to "cut" it out, perhaps for the purposes of being "concise," that is, a way of speaking or writing that is "thoroughly cut" for the purposes of elegant brevity. Note that Occam's Razor certainly would be an apropos allusion for practicing written "conciseness" and "excision." Is a surgeon being "incisive" when making an "incision"? Probably not; if one is "incisive," one is quickly "cutting" into the heart of a difficult matter, "killing" any extraneous substance or superfluous conjecture. So as not to make this entry any longer than a "precis," or concise summary, a brief introduction that is "cut before" a more expansive text which tells the reader what to expect, similar to a scientific abstract, I shall end. So as not to "cut" oneself off from other derivatives stemming from this not so "concise" root, see it in all its wonderful, colorful detail at Greek and Latin roots examples, or view it in a Greek and Latin roots poster format.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

#1: Caedo, caedere, cecidi, caesum: to cut, kill

Many, many words come from this prolific Greek and Latin root word. A "decision" is a cutting off of other possibilities to arrive at one, hence, if one is "decisive," one has killed all other options. If one has a great deal of "precision," one cuts beforehand is a skillful way, hence being "precise" by killing off all dubious answers prior to answering. Of course, the suffix "-cide" gives rise to multiplicitous English words, a few of which are listed below:

regicide: killing of a king
homicide: killing of a human
parricide: killing of a parent
fratricide: killing of a brother
sororicide: killing of a sister
uxoricide: killing of a wife
mariticide: killing of a husband
hippopotomonstricide: killing of a gargantuan hippopotamus
rodenticide: killing of a sharp-toothed mammal reeking with halitosis
herbicide: an agent that kills plants (thought I'd be fair to the animal kingdom to include at least one from the sessile demesne)

Moving on from morbidity, one more for this lesson: Julius Caesar:
"Caesar" was either a reference to being reputedly ‘cut’ from his mother’s womb, the first recorded ‘cesarean’ section, or to his “full head of hair,” a jocular cognomen since most busts of Caesar show him to be balding, his hair ‘cut’ away. Anyone out there know the definitive reason, or have alternative explications?

See more English derivatives from "caedo, caedere" at this Greek and Latin roots site. You can also view a Greek and Latin roots poster that contains this word root!   Studying for the SAT or GRE?  Check out, a site that teaches you all the SAT or GRE vocabulary that you need to do well on the verbal section of those tests.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fallo, fallere, fefelli, falsum--trick, deceive

A fair number of words come from this Latin root, all of which have to do with tricking or deceiving. Something "false" is deceiving, a "fallacious" answer has deviations from the truth, someone who is "infallible" cannot be tricked, and a "fault" in the Earth is a tricky spot from which earthquakes originate, that is, it's not solid, but deceptive. The most interesting etymology with this root is probably the word "faucet:" a faucet does not indicate the ‘true’ flow of water in the pipe, but rather regulates the flow by how much the valve is opened, thereby ‘deceiving’ the user as to its actual flow rate. Check out other word trees at Greek and Latin Roots examples.