English Root Words Recap: Variants of “Cept” and Eponyms from Literature

by Brett on September 11, 2011

In our ongoing educational etymology work on English word origins, this past week we learned three variants of the root word cept (take): cip, cap, and ceiv, and  explored three eponyms from world literature.  A disciple of English vocabulary becomes more capable of readily receiving information and storing it permanently by reviewing root words, which helps more efficiently remember and learn words.  Some of the words I’ll reinforce in this English vocabulary root words blog  are receptive, capacity, recipient, receive, stentorian, malapropism, and Machiavellian.

Cept, Cip, Cap, Ceiv → Take

sample words: receptive, accept, capacity, capable, recipient, disciple, perceive, receive     

Let’s first review variants of the Latin root word cept: “take:” ‘cip,’ ‘cap,’ and ‘ceiv’.  Latin root words often exist with varying spellings, but are in essence the same English root or stem with the same meaning.  When your brain is able to easily accept, or “take” in, a concept, it becomes receptive to it, or can “take” it back easily into its gray matter to form an idea.  Your brain’s capacity for information, or that amount of information which it can “take” in, is practically limitless; your brain is capable of “taking” in many terabytes of data, but recalling that data is the sticking point.  As a disciple, or student who “takes” in learning, you are a quotidian or daily recipient of information that you “take” back into your ever-growing verbal store of English words.  As you receive this information, “taking” it back into your memory, you are able to perceive the world, or thoroughly “take” it in, with a new lens each and every time new information is gathered.  Note how “reception,” “recipient,” and “receive” are really all the same word, just with different spellings of the root word “cept.”

Eponyms → Three Words Derived from Names in Literature

sample words: malapropism, stentorian, Machiavellian      

This past week we also discussed three eponyms from literature: malapropism, stentorian, and Machiavellian.  The word malapropism derives from Mrs. Malaprop, a famous character from Sheridan’s play The Rivals, who humorously misuses words.  For instance, instead of correctly using “comprehend,” she says ” … she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying.”   In this case, “reprehend” would be the malapropism.  Someone who speaks in a stentorian voice is extremely vociferous, able to be heard from a far range just like Stentor, the Thracian herald from Homer’s Iliad, whose voice surpassed the collective shouts of fifty vociferating men.  On a darker side, a Machiavellian individual’s credo in life is “the ends justify the means.”  Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince advocated the use of any means necessary to retain political control over the masses, no matter how shady or cruel.  A Machiavellian individual will stop at nothing to get what he wants, using trickery, deception and other dishonest methods to retain power or fulfill an ambitious nature.

Questions of the week (to be answered next week)
See answers

  • What  would the corresponding spelling variants of “perception” be, using “ceiv” and “cip”?
  • Can you name another eponym, or two, that come from names of characters in Homer’s Iliad?

Questions from last week:

    • Q:  What does the medical term “proprioception” have to do with “taken?”

A: Proprioception comes from two Latin root words: proprio: “one’s own” + perceptum: having been “thoroughly taken” in.  Hence, proprioception is the perception (notice that the “per” of “perception” has undergone the process of elision, otherwise we’d have “proprioperception”) or ‘thoroughly taking in’ of ‘one’s own’ internal bodily movements, or the sense of how each part of the body is positioned relative to the other parts, and the internal effort needed to move those parts of the body relative to each other.

    • Q:  What word would be formed from the following four morphemes: the prefix “in-” (not) + the prefix “re-” (back) + the stem “voc” (call) + the suffix “-able” (capable of), and what would its etymological definition be?

A:   Irrevocable.  The word “irrevocable” etymologically means “not able to be called back.”  An “irrevocable” decision cannot, therefore, be undone; it is both unchangeable and irreversible.


For more on word roots, refer to our archives»

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