eradicate (ə̇ˈradəˌkāt) vs. irradicate (ə̇ˈradə̇ˌkāt)

Hello everyone! To continue our homonym theme, let’s take a look at this confusing pair of homophones – eradicate and irradicate. You may remember from an earlier post that homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.

Both eradicate and irradicate come from the Latin word radix, which means root. However, these words have opposite meanings due to their prefixes. Eradicate contains the Latin prefix e- which means out of, giving rise to its meaning “to uproot” or “root out”. One could use the word “eradicate” in terms of a cure for a disease (the disease was completely eradicated).

Irradicate on the other hand means to root deeply within. It refers to something that cannot be “rooted out” or “destroyed.” This word has gone through assimilation, the process by which the final letter of the prefix is dropped, and the first letter of the root is doubled. In this case, the prefix “in” (meaning in or within), has changed to ir-radicate. Even though assimilation has occurred, the meaning of the original prefix remains. Assimilation often occurs with words derived from Latin in which a prefix is linked to a root. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about this interesting pair of words!