Are there any resources which, given a Latin or Greek word, reference modern English words derived from the word? I find it much easier to remember a root when I know a word derived from it.

For a specific example, I would like to remember that "Casus belli" means "a case of war". The root Casus -> Cause is easy to remember, but how shall I remember the meaning of "belli"? Are there any modern English words derived from "belli"?

Though I specifically ask about English, resources to other languages would be welcome in the lack of an English resource.

  • 3
    bellicose, belligerent….
    – fdb
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 12:33
  • @fdb: Belligerent, how did I not see that!
    – dotancohen
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 14:08
  • 4
    "Casus" is not the ancestor of "cause"; it's the ancestor of "case." "Cause" comes from Latin "causa," which apparently is of unclear origin. Though this doesn't affect the usefulness of "casus" = "cause" as a mnemonic. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


Wiktionary is a great free resource for inflection, meaning, pronounciation, etymology and other information on a large amount of words from many languages, and provides a "Descendants" section containing exactly what you are looking for:

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  • Thank you, that is perfect and has a ton of other information as well.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 14:07
  • 1
    Used paperback Latin dictionaries are cheap and useful -- in the US they can usually be found at any used bookstore for under $5. (Make sure they mark long vowels). Once you get one, look up any word and check out the words on the same page; many if not most of them will be related, and some will usually have been borrowed into English virtually unchanged. Once you learn a couple hundred roots, you can recognize the combinations easily.
    – jlawler
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 20:03

The book Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch by Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke contains the Romance descendants of Vulgar Latin words.

It does not include direct borrowings from Latin (such as Spanish causa in the entry for causa), but it is very comprehensive. It includes terms in little known languages, such as Dalmatian, and has entries for some Germanic, Gaulish, Arabic, etc. words that have many descendants in Romance.

  • Thank you, I will look for that book. Does it happen to have modern Hebrew words that are descended from Latin?
    – dotancohen
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 11:38
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    @dotancohen REW is in public domain, so you can find it in the Internet Archive (archive.org). I'm afraid it only lists the descendants in Romance languages; for Hebrew, you may be interested in this: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Hebrew_terms_derived_from_Latin Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 11:44
  • Thank you so much! That list is great, but it needs a lot of work. Most of the words listed are not actually derived from Latin but rather are direct English or Russian loanwords used in Hebrew (e.g. אטום "atom"). But with some work that could be a great resource.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 13:28

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