Studying Root Words: Your Favorite Works of Fiction are Rooted in Root Words

Use some of your favorite fictitious words to unlock real words' meanings.

Use some of your favorite fictitious words to unlock real words’ meanings.

Many of our favorite authors use their knowledge of root words, Old English, and Germanic and Romantic languages to create meaningful names for fictitious people, places, and things. An understanding of words parts is essential to developing a great vocabulary, so delve into some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy to practice finding and decoding meaningful word parts!

Read on to see how some of your favorite words from Harry Potter, Pokemon, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars can help you on your next vocabulary quiz!

Harry Potter Spells and Word Roots

Did you notice the root words in the commands for spells in Harry Potter?
Study up on wizardry to really bring some magic to your vocabulary studying!

  • Expelliarmus – “expel” combines two word parts “ex” meaning out or from and “pel” meaning to drive or push and the root; “arma,” refers to weaponry
    • Related Words: excel, excellence, excite, exclude, exit, expect, excavate, exception, extend, pulse, compulsive, propel, impel, dispel, impulsive, repulsive, propulsion, expulsion, armada, army, armour, armistice, armory, armament
  • Wingardium Leviosa – “wing” and “arduus” means high or steep and “levo” means raise up or levitate and sometimes refers to things that are light
    • Related Words:  arduous, alleviate, levity, alleviate, levy
  • Petrificus Totalus – “petrificare” means to make into stone + “totalis” means entire
    • Related Words: petrify, totalitarian
  • Cruciatus Curse – “crucio” means to torment
    • Related Words: excruciating, crucible, crucify, crucial
  • Imperius Curse – “impero” means to order, govern, command
    • Related Words: imperious, imperative, imperial, imperium
  • Liberacorpus – “liber” means to free and “corpus” means body
    • Related Words: liberate, libertine, liberty, liberalize, libertarian, deliverance, deliberate, corporation, corpse, corporal, corpulent
  • Locomotor Mortis – “loc” means place, “mot” or “mov” means motion, and “mortis” means death
    • Related Words: location, local, locality, dislocate, allocate, locomotion, mobilize, motive, demote, promote, motivate mobile, momentum, motor, move, immortal, immortalize, mortality, mortuary, remorse, mortician, mortuous, post-mortem
  • Engorgio – in Old French “gorge” means throat and “engorgier” means to fill to excess (often referring to eating)
    • Related Word: gorge, engorge, disgorge, regorge
  • Reducto -“reducere” combines the Latin prefix “re,” meaning back or again, and the Middle English word “ducere,” meaning to bring or lead. This eventually turned into a similar word for to diminish.
    • Related Word: reduce, reductions, irreducible, nonreducing, reductional, reductants

Here are some more charms and spells to help you study for the SAT.

Pokemon and Word Roots

Have you noticed the connections between these roots and the Pokemon that use them? You don’t have to catch’em all, but your vocabulary would certainly evolve if you did!

  • Graveler – “grav” means heavy
    • Related Words: gravity, gravitas, aggravate, grave
  • Snorlax – “lax” means not tense
    • Related Words: relax, laxative
  • Doduo and Zapdos – “du” means two
    • Related Words: duplicate, duplicity, double, duality, diverge
  • Dodrio, Dugtrio, Moltres – “tri” means three
    • Related Words: triangle, triathlon, trilogy, tripod, triceratops
  • Victreebel – “vic” and “vinc” means conquer and “vic” or “vicis” can mean to change
    • Related Words: victor, victimize, convince, invincible, evict, convict, vicarious, vicar, vicissitude
  • Voltorb – “orb” means circle
    • Related Words: orbit, exorbitant, circumorbital
  • Regigigas – “regi” means of or relating to royalty
    • Related Words: regicide, regime, regiment, region
  • Larvitar and Pupitar‘tardus’ means slow
    • Related Words: tardy, retarder, ritard

For more meaningful Pokemon names, you can look forward to my next post with more Pokemon name origins!

Lord of the Rings and Old English Words

For RRL Tolkien fans, many of the names and places in Lord of the Rings are based on Old English words. Training your eye on meaningful word parts will help you when encountering new words on tests and while reading, so take a look at some of these interesting uses of Old English words.

  • Hobbit comes from the Old English word “holbytla” or “hole-builder”
  • Beorn (the name of the skin-changer in the Hobbit) means  “man,” “warrior,” or “hero.”
  • Ent (the name for the giant trees) means “giant” and often was associated with creatures of great and mysterious power
  • Smeagol (also known as Gollum) means “burrowing”
  • Frodo contains the word “Frod” which meant “wise”
  • Samwise means “half-witted”
  • Hamfast, Sam’s father, uses the Old English word hamfæst, which means “stay-at-home”
  • Theoden (the name of the King who is manipulated) is the Old English word for “ruler” or “lord.”
  • Edoras (where King Theodon lives) means a number of things relating to “dwellings” and “enclosures”.
  • Shadowfax combines two Old English words “sceadu” and “fæx” means “shadow-hair.”
  • Orthanc, the tower where Saruman lives is an Old English word meaning “skill” or “cleverness”
  • Isengard combines the Old English words for “iron” and “enclosure”
  • Shelob, the spider that attacks Frodo, uses the Old English word “lobbe,” meaning “spider”, so her name means “she-spider.”

Game of Thrones and Old English, French, German, and Latin Words

  • If you are obsessed with HBO’s Game of Thrones or if you’re a die-hard Song of Ice and Fire fan, you’ll see how George RR Martin crafts his character names from archaic words that can help you study for tests.

    • The Starks’ name is especially appropriate. It comes from Old English, “stearc” meaning stiff or firm, which relates to the German word, “stark” meaning strong. The word today can refer to a strong, willful man (as with Eddard Stark), a barren landscape (as the scenery at Winterfell can often be described), something plain or not glamorized (perhaps as Eddard’s post as the Warden of the North was not glamorous), or something stiff (as Eddard’s attitude sometimes verges on). It can also be used as an adjective to describe something that is completely or utterly (perhaps similar to Eddard’s utter commitment to his principles).
    • Related Words: stark
    • Baratheon combines the French word for “untamed,” “theon” and the French word for a belligerent or deceptive person. Robert Baratheon demonstrates these traits with his temper and obstinate personality. It may also relate to the Old French word “barat” for “to barter.” It may also relate to the Old English name “Barr” which indicates a person who guards a gateway.
    • Related Words: barrage, barricade, bar
    • The Lannisters’ name may be derived from “Lannis,” a name related to “Atlantis,” which may indicate something great that has since disappeared. This perhaps relates to Tywin’s preoccupation with his legacy and maintaining the greatness of his family name. It may also relate to an Old English word for a long hilltop or ridge, a Germanic word for a lance or spear, or a Latin word fro a bay leaf or laurel.

Star Wars Name Origins

  • If you geek-out for Star Wars, check out some of these name origins:
  • Jar Jar Bink‘s name may relate to the word “jar,” irritating or making an irritating sound, which is appropriate since many believe he is fairly annoying. Binks sounds like the word “jinx,” which is associated with bad luck.
      • Related Words: jarring, jinx
  • Darth Maul relates to the German word for (an animal’s) mouth, “maul,” which is appropriate since he is beastly and rarely speaks. This may also relate to the French and Spanish word for bad, “mal.”
    • Related Words: dismal, malady, malaria, malefactor, malevolent, malice, malignant, malnourished,
  • Anakin Skywalker‘s first name came from the film director, but “kin” refers to family or to a child (as in Kindergarten). Combine this with the prefix “an,” which means without, and this creates a name that means “without family,” which makes sense for this character since he has no father and must leave his mother.
    • Related Words: kindergarten, kinfolk, achromatic, apolitical, atheist, anarchy, anonymous, apathy, aphasia, anemia
  • Han Solo‘s name is fairly straightforward. “Solo” means alone, and “Han” in Swedish means he. If you combine this together, he is a man who is alone, which is appropriate since his a bit of a lone-wolf.
    • Related Words: desolate, solitary, solitude, solo, soliloquy, solitaire, isolate

If you’re looking for more tips on how to study vocabulary, check out my last blog post about some entertaining and research-supported methods to study for your next quiz!

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About Caroline

Caroline graduated magna cum laude from The College of New Jersey with a degree in English and Secondary Education. She taught 8th grade language arts and has enjoyed tutoring in a number of different contexts, including through volunteer opportunities, tutoring centers, and one-on-one tutoring. In her free time she enjoys applying literary theories to non-literary topics, faking athleticism fairly well, and pondering philosophical, political, and sociological quandaries. Since she lives to help others, she is looking forward to utilizing her education and experiences in order to help PT continue to make a difference in students’ lives.

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