Most English words can be traced to their Latin, Greek, or other roots in any common dictionary. However, is there a Latin-to-English counterpart that would list current English words that are derived from a specific Latin word?

The question stems from coming across the terms "Servatis a periculo" and "Servatis a malefico" from an Evanescence song. After discovering that the English word "saviour" is derived from "servatis" the meaning of the phrases becomes easier to grasp. I am not actively studying Latin so access to such a resource would help greatly in the few times that I need to understand a Latin word.


  • 1
  • Thank you. This is rather close to what I am looking for, and the "servatis" word root does show up there. Thanks! – dotancohen May 2 '12 at 20:03
  • The "list type" questions are not fit to the Q&A format. I suggest you try to reword it, otherwise I have no choice but to close it. – Alenanno May 2 '12 at 20:53
  • Mind you - saviour is not actually derived from the same Latin root as servatis. The root of servatis underlies words like conserve, preserve, and reserve. Saviour derives from the root of salvare (whence also salvation, salvage, and save). – Muke Tever May 3 '12 at 16:10

Yes there is, and it's simple.

Go to a used bookstore and buy a used paperback Latin dictionary. There are always lots of them; if you have a choice, pick one that marks long vowels with a mācron, since that turns out to be important. (There are online resources, too, but this is simpler, unless you're doing statistics. )

Open your Latin dictionary to any page. Glance down the wordlist. When you recognize a connection between some Latin word and its meaning because you know an English word with sort of that form and sort of that meaning, then Bingo.

If you get in the habit of looking up English words in Latin dictionaries, you'll see a lot of regular extensions of the words with prefixes and suffixes that you recognize, too. Generally if one Latin root is borrowed, there are several more that came from the same place, and are recognizable.

For instance, on the page in my Latin dictionary with significant on it (as signi-ficō 'to make a sign', significanter 'plainly, clearly', and significātionis 'pointing out, showing, indicating'), one finds also the noun signum 'a sign' and the verb signō 'to mark, to sign', which shows where they all come from. Also on this page is the noun silentium 'silence' and the verb sileō 'to be silent'. And that's just one page.

This should work for about half of the words in English (though at first you might not recognize the Latin words in English that passed repeatedly through the gullets of French speakers for centuries before English got hold of them). The other half of the words in English come from Germanic sources and have passed through Grimm's Law, so their relations with Latin cognates are complex. But this is an easy way to start.

  • 1
    +1. I think you mean significātio. And actually Latin stems are preserved in English better than in most languages, including French, because spelling reforms were so rare. – Cerberus May 2 '12 at 18:30
  • Thanks, jlawler, but although this approach may work for you it certainly does not work for me! For one thing, as stated I do not often need to research Latin, and this method depends on a strong knowledge of both Latin and English. I claim no deep knowledge of either! I will invest in a secondhand Latin dictionary, though, but I would also appreciate and links to relevant online resources. My 10 minutes of Googling did not crop up anything really useful for me (though there are many Latin resources online), hence this post. Thanks. – dotancohen May 2 '12 at 19:23
  • One more thing: from the last paragraph I think that I failed to explain what I am looking for. The reason for this post is exactly that I cannot recognise the current English words for looking at the Latin word. It is exactly that feature which I am requesting! – dotancohen May 2 '12 at 19:36
  • Oh, you just want a list of English words so you can match them up to a Latin dictionary? Try this one. That's 69,903 for starts, anyway. Details and provenance here – jlawler May 2 '12 at 21:47
  • 1
    Haha. I am imagining a resource in which one can take an arbitrary Latin word, and be returned a list of English words derived from that Latin word. public static String[] derivedWords(String latinWord) { String[] englishWords; return englishWords; } – dotancohen May 3 '12 at 17:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.