Classics 120

CLSS 120: Etymology

Credit Hours: (3)

A vocabulary-building course with study of Latin and Greek stems, prefixes, and suffixes in English derivatives.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Topics of study will include: basic stems and meanings from Latin and Greek nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and numerals; the use of Latin and Greek prepositions as prefixes; suffixes used in the formation of nouns, adjectives, and verbs; Latin phrases and abbreviations used in English; Latin and Greek plurals used in loan words; technical and scientific terminology derived from Latin and Greek.

Suggested Text:

Donald M. Ayers, English Words from Latin and Greek Elements 2nd ed. (University of Arizona Press, 1986).


Eli E. Burriss and Lionel Casson, Latin and Greek in Current Use 2nd ed. (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1949).


C.A.E. Luschnig with U. Luschnig, ETYMA: An Introduction to Vocabulary-Building from Latin & Greek (University Press of America, 1982).


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The instructor will discuss the use of bases, prefixes, and suffixes derived from Latin and Greek as these elements are used to form English words. Students should memorize these bases, prefixes, and suffixes.

Textbook exercises will deal with word groups, synonyms and antonyms, the formation of scientific and technical terms, and derivatives used in actual sentences. Students will use their knowledge of Greek and Latin bases, prefixes, and suffixes to analyze English derivatives. With the aid of a dictionary, students will check current meaning of these derivatives and relate it to the ‘etymological’ or derived meaning. Some exercises will be prepared in advance for class discussion, and others will be done in class without outside preparation.

In addition, students will study the use of Latin and Greek plurals in English, Latin abbreviations used in English (handout), Latin words and phrases used in English

(textbook and handouts). Particularly interesting words or phrases drawn from ancient Greek or Roman culture (mythology, history, politics, philosophy, literature, art, science, etc.) will also be discussed in class.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Approximately sixty percent of common English vocabulary is Latin-derived, with a much smaller percentage of everyday English being Greek-derived; however, scientific and technical terminology is almost entirely Greek- or Latin-derived. With a knowledge of the elements of Greek and Latin derivation, a student should be able to understand English derivatives better and use them correctly. In addition, a student should be able to determine the meaning of new or unfamiliar words by analyzing the components of words based on Latin or Greek derivation and thus be able to continue to expand English vocabulary after completion of the course.


Specific objectives will include:

(a) knowledge of Latin-derived stems, prefixes, and suffixes which occur in English derivatives; the ways in which such derivatives are formed; Latin phrases and abbreviations used in English, and Latin-derived technical and scientific vocabulary;

(b) knowledge of Greek-derived stems, prefixes, and suffixes which occur in English derivatives, with special emphasis on scientific and medical terminology;

(c) a resulting improvement in students’ English vocabulary and the ability to understand unfamiliar words based on Latin or Greek elements.


Assessment Measures

(1) Students’ presentation of homework - ability to break words down, analyze elements, and associate etymological meaning with currently used meaning.

(2) Similar analysis done in class with words not prepared before class.

(3) Quizzes on Latin plurals, Latin abbreviations, Latin words and phrases used in English - knowledge of correct spelling, form, meaning of Latin and English usage.

(4) Major exams and final exam - knowledge of Latin and Greek-derived bases, prefixes and suffixes; use of such elements in English derivatives; analysis of derivatives based on these elements; knowledge of terms and phrases derived from Greek or Roman culture (history, myth, philosophy, literature, etc.); history and development of the English language as part of the Indo-European language family.

Specific test items will include:

matching, completion, multiple choice, short answer, brief discussion, and separation of words into elements (prefix, base, suffix) for analysis and explanation of meaning.


Other Course Information

CLSS 120 is one of the core courses for the Classical Humanities minor.

CLSS 120 is a very useful vocabulary-building course for students in many disciplines and has proven to be useful to students taking GRE’s and similar standardized tests. here is no prerequisite for this course.)


Approval and Subsequent Reviews

March 1998           Reviewed               Salle Ann Schlueter-Gill