5th Grade - Using Word Origins To Find Meaning

 
     
 
     
 
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5th
Vocabulary
Using word origins to find meaning
Use word origins to determine the meaning of unknown words.
Knowing a word's origin or history (also called its etymology) will help your child to figure out the meaning of the word.
 

Sample Problems

(1)

The Latin word natus means born. What do you think the word native means in the following sentence?


Sarah is a native of New York.

a) Someone who is visiting a place.

b) Someone who is born in a place.

c) Someone who works in a place.

d) Someone who loves that place.


Correct answer: (b)

(2)

Many English words are based on the root poli, which comes from the Greek words polis meaning city and polites means citizen.


What does the word politician mean? (A person who is running for a position in the government to serve the people)


(3)

You probably have used a thermos to hold hot soup for your lunch. What do you think the word thermostat means in this sentence?


I’ll set the thermostat before going to bed so we don’t get too cold during the night. (A device for regulating heat)


(4)

Meter means measure and is a meaningful part of many words. Match the words on the left with what they measure on the right.


1. speedometer

2. barometer

3. thermometer

4. kilometer


a. Atmospheric pressure for predicting the weather

b. Miles per hour in a car

c. Distance between cities

d. The temperature outside


(1b, 2a, 3d, 4c)

(5)

Based on what you know about astronauts, what do you think astronomy mean? (the study of objects outside the earth’s atmosphere)


Learning Tips

(1)

Vocabulary

Etymology – the history of a word


Knowing a word's origin means knowing how that word got started in the first place. You can find out about a word’s history, called its etymology, from a dictionary. Using a print dictionary or Merriam-Webster online, http://www.m-w.com/, look up words and figure out how their history tells you about their essential meaning.


Example: Look up window. You'll find that it comes from the Middle English (ME) windowe, which came from the Old Norse (ON) vindauga, which itself was formed from the two Old Norse words vindr, which meant "wind," and auga, which meant "eye." So window once meant "wind-eye," a poetic description appropriately suggesting a window's function of letting in both air and light.



(2)

Choose five common words and write them in English. Find three of your family members or friends who are bilingual and have them write the words in another language. Then see what the words have in common.


Example:

English

Latin

Classical Greek

Spanish

one

unus

heis

uno

two

duo

duo

dos

three

tres

treis

tres

four

quattuor

tettares

quarto

five

quinque

pente

seis


You probably noticed some similarities among these languages. In fact, all belong to the Indo-European family. Latin and Spanish are the most closely related since Spanish is a Romance language that's derived from Latin.


(3)

Play a word game with friends. When it’s your turn, you open the dictionary to a random page and choose a word from that page to read out loud and spell. The other players make up definitions for that word and write it down while you write down the real definition. You mix up the pieces of paper and read them in any order. The other players vote for the definition they think is correct and get one point if they are right. Then pass the dictionary and start over with another word. You can also award points for the best sounding definitions or funniest ones!


(4)

All our English words originated from other words, whether Old English, French, Latin, Greek or elsewhere. Language as a dynamic and important element in our culture that changes all the time; we use pieces of words we already have to describe new things. Think of words or phrases that have entered our vocabulary because of computers (Examples: off-line, download, user, memory, on-line). What do you think these terms originally meant compared to their current meaning in every day language? How are these terms used outside of computer technology? Discuss this with your parents or look up your terms online.

(5)

Choose a common object to rename. Create a new word for it based on how you use it, what it looks like, or what it is similar to. Be creative and use your imagination. Then write a dictionary entry for the new words. Include a pronunciation key, part of speech, word origin, definition, and illustration.


Extra Help Problems

(1)

Why is it helpful to know the roots or history of a word? (it can help you figure out the meaning and think of similar words)

(2)

List all the words you can think of that use “tri” meaning three (tricycle, triangle, etc)

(3)

Give all the examples you can think of that come from “meter” (centimeter, millimeter, perimeter, speedometer, etc)

(4)

Give all the examples you can think of that come from “semi” (semicircle, semiprecious, semiformal, etc)

(5)

Give all the examples you can think of that come from “tele” (television, telescope, telephone, etc)

(6)

Give all the examples you can think of that come from “bi” meaning two (bicycle, biplane, etc)

(7)

Give all the examples you can think of that come from “therm” meaning heat (thermal, thermometer, thermostat, etc)

(8)

Give all the examples you can think of that come from “quad” or “quar” meaning four (quadrilateral, quart, quartet, etc)

(9)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word macaroni (late Greek makaria "food made from barley")

(10)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word aardvark (from aard “earth” + vark “pig”)

(11)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word house (from Old English hus "dwelling, shelter, house")

(12)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word chair (from Latin cathedra "seat")

(13)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word miracle (from Latin miraculum "object of wonder")

(14)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word rapt (from Latin raptus, rapere "seize, carry off")

(15)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word dandelion (from French dent de lion, lit. "lion's tooth" for its toothed leaves)

(16)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word puddle (Old English pudd "ditch")

(17)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word vivid (from Latin vividus "spirited, animated, lively")

(18)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word suspension ("temporary halting or deprivation," from Latin suspensionem)

(19)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word mystery (from Greek mysterion (usually in pl. mysteria) "secret rite or doctrine, which cam "from myein "to close, shut," perhaps referring to the lips or to the eyes since only initiates were allowed to see the sacred rites)

(20)

Look up in a dictionary the origins of the word map (from Latin mappa "napkin, cloth" on which maps were drawn)

(21)

What language does O. E. stand for in a dictionary definition? (Old English)

(22)

What language does Gk. stand for in a dictionary definition? (Greek)

(23)

What language does L. stand for in a dictionary definition? (Classical Latin)

(24)

What language does M. E. stand for in a dictionary definition? (Middle English)

(25)

What family of languages does I. E. stand for in a dictionary definition? (Indo-European)

 

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