While writing the Word Up series, I often consulted the book Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis.  (Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the book to students.  There are, oddly enough, too many innuendos in this book.) 

In the introduction Mr. Lewis writes this:


“Etymology deals with the origin or derivation of words.  When you know the meaning of a root (for example, Latin ego, I or self), you can better understand, and more easily remember, all the words built on this root.

Learn one root and you have the key that will unlock the meanings of up to ten or twenty words in which the root appears.

Learn ego and you can immediately get a handle on egocentric, egomaniac, egoist, egotist, and alter ego.

Learn anthropos (Greek, mankind) and you will quickly understand, and never forget, anthropology, misanthropy, anthropoid, anthropocentric, anthropomorphic, philanthropy, and anthrophobia. Meet any word with anthropo– in it, and you will have at least some idea of its meaning.

In the etymological approach to vocabulary building

  • you will learn about prefixes and suffixes
  • you will be able to figure out unfamiliar words by recognizing their structure, the building blocks from which they are constructed –
  • you will be able to construct words correctly by learning to put these building blocks together in a proper way – and
  • you will be able to derive verbs from nouns, nouns and verbs from adjectives, adjectives from nouns, etc. – and do all this correctly.

Learn how to deal with etymology and you will feel comfortable with words – you will use new words with self assurance – you will even be able to figure out thousands of words you hear or read even if you’ve never heard or seen these words before.

That’s why the best approach to new words through etymology.”


I happen to agree with Mr. Lewis.

If you want to learn vocabulary through etymology, and if you want to watch me make a fool of myself, you may enjoy the series Word Up.