Ever wondered why we say cat and dog for the animals, but feline and canine for the description? Think about these words too:
- sun but solar
- moon but lunar
- mind but mental
- tooth but dental
English is a curious language, and a mix of many others. Historically, though, Greek, Latin and old French have been the preferred languages of royal courts, politics, science and religion, Latin particularly was already established as the 'higher' language when there was an explosion in knowledge and science in the 17th and 18th centuries. This helps explain why so many academic words in English are very similar to French, Spanish, Italian and other Latin-based 'Romance' languages.
It also helps explain why prefixes, such as pre-, post-, anti-, for example; and suffixes such as: -ology, -ion, -ive, -ism, are preferred. Words that were created in this way, to follow or resemble Latin, are called Latinates.
So, do you need to know Latin to speak English well?
No, you don’t, but a basic understanding of how Latinates work, especially prefixes and suffixes, can help you understand academic and formal texts or even guess meaning. And when it comes to your own speaking and writing, familiarity with Latinates may help you in choosing the best word to use in your academic essay, or in an important business presentation. Typically, it will be considered more formal and more accurate in meaning, and therefore more appropriate for the context.
This will help in the workplace as well as in IELTS or academic study.