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Wordy Weekly XI

THREE for the price of one this week: one Latin, one Greek, and a suffix!

i) INNOCENT: ‘not guilty’, ‘not responsible’, ‘naïve’, or ‘not worldy-wise’. Innocent comes from the Latin adjective ‘INNOCENS’. It literally means not doing any harm. The word is formed as follows:


‘IN’ acts here as a negating prefix, i.e., it turns the adjective into a negative. We have this in English (deriving directly from Latin) with ‘immoveable’ (IN + MOVEABLE), ‘illegal’ (IN + LEGAL). The ‘N’ of ‘IN’ has been eaten by the ‘M’ and ‘L’ respectively, which then doubles

‘NOCENS’ is the present participle of the Latin verb ‘NOCEO’ – ‘I harm, cause harm’.

So put together, they form the word ‘INNOCENS’, which means ‘not causing harm’, I,e, ‘INNOCENT’.

ii) ISOSCELES: ‘a triangle with two sides of equal length and two equal angles.’ Many Maths and Science terms derive from Greek, and Geometry terminology is no exception.

ISOS (ἰσος) = equal

(one also finds this as a prefix in English in ‘isotope’, ‘isobar’)

SCELES (σκελος) = leg (from hip downwards, specifically)

So an ISOSCELES triangle is a triangle with two equal legs.

‘EQUILATERAL’ (a triangle with three sides of equal length) derives from LATIN, meaning ‘with equal sides’ (AEQUUS = equal; LATUS = side; pl ‘LATERA’).

iii) -IATRIST/-IATRIC: the suffix signifies a doctor with a specific specialism (-IATRIST) or to do with a specific area of medicine (-IATRIC). It comes from the Greek for doctor or physician ἰατρος (iatros). So, PAEDIATRICS is medicine relating to children, a PODIATRIST looks after feet.

Tune in next week for more exciting derivatives.

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