In our work on word origins, this past week we’ve learned two new root words from Latin and Greek that give rise to numerous English vocabulary words: cogn: “learn” and morph: “shape.” Let’s look again at the metamorphosis we went through in our cognition as it pertained to these root words which help learn English vocabulary. I will review the following English vocabulary words: cognition, precognition, cognoscenti, cognizant, connoisseur, reconnaissance, anthropomorphic, polymorph, morpheme, and morphology.
Cogn → Learn
Our cognition, or “learning” process, became enhanced as we “learned” about the Latin root word cogn: “learn.” If cognition is the “learning” process, precognition is the “learning” about something before it actually happens, sometimes via ESP or prophecy.
The cognoscenti of a given area of expertise are those experts who have deeply “learned” about it, whereas one who is cognizant of a problem is aware of it, that is, has “learned” about it.
We also learned that the root word cogn can also appear as conn. A couple good examples of this were the words connoisseur, or one who has “learned” a great deal about a realm of knowledge, particularly in the fine arts, and reconnaissance, which refers to an advance force sneaking into enemy territory and “learning” all about it before the main force attacks.
Morph → Shape
The second root we worked with this past week was the Greek root word morph: “shape.” We heard about the short story The Metamorphosis, which featured Gregor Samsa changing his “shape” into that of a hideous bug. We found out that an anthropomorphic deity has the “shape” of a human, and that a wizard who has a polymorph spell can change your “shape” into just about anything, including, well, yet another bug! We also dove a bit into linguistics, discovering that morphemes are the pieces that “shape” a word (such as the prefix poly: “many” + the stem morph: “shape”), and that morphologists study those “shapes” words take.
Stay tuned next week for the Greek root words chron: “time” and graph: “write.” Oh, and if you’ve missed any of our Word Root Of The Day podcasts or posts in the past, browse through our word root archive.
See you again next week!