Greek and Latin Roots, English for Native Korean Speakers

English is a Germanic language with more Latin words than German words.

Approximately 60% of English words have a Latin or Greek component. The percentage increases with multisyllabic or “fancier” words. Words with Greek and Latin roots are used in all academic subjects in the English speaking world. Three quarters of medical terminology is of Greek origin, because the Greeks were the founders of rational medicine. The Greek language is also well suited for building compound words. Latin was the language of science up until the beginning of the 18th century (1700’s). Latin and Greek are used in English medical and scientific terminology. The terminology of anatomy is almost exclusively Latin. Using classic languages means that new words are based on old components with stable meanings. Greek and Latin were also revered and held sacred as languages of the Christian bible.

It’s important to learn Greek and Latin roots for sophisticated vocabulary building and to do better on English language tests. Your English listening, comprehension, and speaking skills will improve. It will also help you break down words into syllables.

More layers of Latin. English also borrowed heavily from French and Italian, two romance languages that evolved from Latin. French and Italian loanwords are often used in the realm of arts, culture, cuisine, and social order (hierarchies). For example, French is found in many architectural, artistic, military, and diplomatic terms. English speakers think of French as the language of love and romance; hence its use in literature. French is the language of fine dining. Italian is used in English music vocabulary and a few food related words. Italian words are used in classical music and opera.

When the Normans from Northern France conquered England in 1066, French became the language of “polite society” and elites. Approximately 30% of everyday English words are from French. So, Latin entered English in many phases. In the 17th and 18th centuries, English literati and intellectuals made up new English words (neologisms) with Latin roots, prefixes (before the root), and suffixes (after the root).

Greek and Latin inform academic subjects, math, medicine, science, and technology. French and Italian inform “high culture”. The more sophisticated your English vocabulary is, the more you are using words with Greek and Latin roots. “High culture” is splattered with French and Italian loan words. Advanced, specialist, academic, or distinguished English has much higher percentage of foreign loan words or words with Greek or Latin roots than everyday English.

Spanish, another Latin derived language (Romance), makes its way into everyday life and things that are native to the Americas (these words are sometimes Spanish borrowings from Native and indigenous languages). As a side note, Spanish also has many Arabic loanwords that are found in English-Spanish cognates. Arabic also influenced other European languages.

Here are some examples:

English= tomato, Spanish= tomate, Aztec (Nuatl)=tomatl and jitomates

English=potato, Spanish=patata, Indigenous words=batata and papa

English= outdoor dining, Italian= al fresco

English= main course, French=entree

English=appetizers, small bites; French=hors d’oeuvres, amuse-gueule, amuse-bouche

English=face, Latin/French=visage

English= hear, Latin=auditory

English= second home, French= pied-a-terre

English= light beige, French= ecru

English= pale purple, French=mauve

English=deck, Spanish=patio, Italian=balcony, French= terrace

English= orthography, French=orthographie, Latin=orthographia, Greek=orthos (correct) and graphien (to write)

English=arsenal, French=arsenal, Italian=arsenale, Arabic=dār aṣ-ṣināʿa, “manufacturing shop”




Asian Americans for Housing and Environmental Justice for links to Susan Park’s public speaking, interviews, panel discussions, etc..

Gidra Podcast (Susan Park in conversation with community organizers)

Conversation and speaking tips.

I use Naver English to Korean dictionary

Past, Present, and Future Tense


  • 1. Adjective 지나간(시간상으로 과거에 해당하는) 
  • 2. Adjective (얼마 전인) 지난, 최근의 
  • 3. Noun 과거, 지난날


  • 1. Adjective 현재의, 현 … (→the present day) 
  • 2. Adjective 있는, 참석[출석]한 (↔absent) 
  • 3. Noun 선물


  • 1. Noun 미래 
  • 2. Noun (…의) 장래[앞날] 
  • 3. Adjective 미래의, 향후의, 장차

Elements of Good Speaking and Conversation. Be descriptive.

  • 1. Verb (~이 어떠한지를) 말하다[서술하다], 묘사하다 
  • 2. Verb 격식 또는 전문 용어 (움직임으로 특정한 형태를) 만들다[형성하다] 
  • 1. Noun (~이 어떠한지에 대한) 서술[기술/묘사/표현] 
  • 2. Noun 일부[어떤], 온갖 종류 등의 
  • 1. Adjective 서술[묘사]하는 
  • 2. Adjective 언어 기술적인(언어에 대해 정해진 규칙을 제시하는 것이 아니라 실제 사용 현황을 보여주는), (↔prescriptive)

How Can You Be More Descriptive?







Common Grammatical Problems For Native Korean Speakers in English:

  1. Singular/Plural
  2. Omissions of Prepositions

Common Pronunciation Problems for Native Korean Speakers in English:

”V” vs. “B”

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