homonyms (hä-mə-nims)

homonymsThe English language is full of homonyms, or more specifically homographs, homophones, heterographs, and heteronyms. This is enough to make your head spin! Such words serve to make English one of the most difficult languages to learn. They are the bane of my existence, and probably yours too.

Homonyms are words that are pronounced the same or have the same spelling but have different definitions. The word homonym comes from the Greek roots homo- meaning same and -nym meaning name.  Homographs and homophones are a subset of homonyms.

Homographs are words that have the same spelling, but have different meanings. The Greek root -graph- means to write, so homograph can be translated into “same writing.” An example would be “bat” (animal) and “bat” (baseball bat).

Heteronyms are a class of homographs. The Greek root hetero- means other or different so heteronyms are words  with “different names.” They share the same spelling, but have different pronunciations and meanings. An example is “minute” (time unit) and “minute” (pronounced mīn.yüt – meaning very small).

Homophones are words that sound the same but are defined differently. Homophones literally mean “same sound” (-phon is the Greek root for sound). If the homophones are spelled the same, they are also homographs but if they are spelled differently, they are called heterographs.

Heterographs are words that have “different writing”. They have the same pronunciation, but different spellings and definitions. “Knight” (soldier) and “night” (evening) are examples of heterographs.

For the next several posts, I’d like to delve further into this category of English words. To help me explore this topic, I’ve enlisted the help of some of my fellow National Spelling Bee participants who have volunteered to write about a pair of words that they find to be particularly irksome.

Are there any homonyms that always manage to trick you?

 

 

 

 

 

Name That Animal: Challenge #6

What would you name this mysterious creature? (Image from pinterest)

It’s time for a Name that Animal Challenge, so here’s Challenge #6!

Pretend that you are a scientist and you have just discovered this new species and you have the privilege of naming it. Scientists usually name new species by using Greek or/and Latin roots because the prefixes, stems, and suffixes are just like building blocks that you can utilize in countless ways.

Your challenge is to name the strange animal in the picture above using your knowledge of Greek and Latin roots. Keep in mind that you can use characteristics like size, color, or shape to name this animal. Feel free to search my blog to find root words to help you or use the list below!

Greek:

lago-                                                 hare

ornitho-                                           bird

cephal-                                            head

-cephalic                                         head

-cephaly                                          head

-pter-                                               wing

phag-                                                eat

-phyll-                                                leaf

Latin:

lepor-                                                hare

-corp-                                                body

cunic-                                               hare

-capit-                                               head

ali-, al-                                              wing

avi-, av-                                            bird

I came up with lagcephalopter. The letter “o” is the most common way to link Greek roots, and the letter “i” is used to link Latin roots. However, you can do whatever you like and enjoy!

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out  Name That Animal Challenge #1, Name That Animal Challenge #2, Name That Animal Challenge #3, Name That Animal Challenge #4, and Name That Animal Challenge #5.

Insider’s Guide to the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

I am excited to announce that I will be writing another Insider’s Guide to the Scripps National Spelling Bee! In March, I won the regional bee sponsored by the Louisville Spelling Bee Collaborative to qualify for the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee.  I am looking forward to returning to Washington D.C. for the fourth time to compete at the national level.

For the last two years, I have written a series of posts detailing Bee Week and my personal experience and I would love to do the same this year. I hope you all enjoy reading my Insider’s Guide to the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

This year, there will be 291 spellers from across the United States and abroad competing at the National Spelling Bee; I am speller #207.

If you would like to read about past National Spelling Bees, search Insider’s Guide on this blog.

Happy 3rd Blogiversary to me!

Artwork by my fabulous sister, Anya.

I can’t believe that I’ve been blogging for three years! A big thank you to all of my blog followers for your support, likes, and comments.

As you can see, I have set some lofty goals for this following year. If you know anyone who loves etymology, please refer them to my blog. If you are a frequent visitor, please consider following my blog so you never miss a word!

 

demiguise (demē-gīz)

A Demiguise is a peaceful creature who can make itself invisible at will. (image from www. harrypottercanon.wikia.com)

A Demiguise is a peaceful beast, according to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by Newt Scamander. They are found in the Far East, however, it is difficult to spot them because of their ability to make themselves invisible when they feel threatened. Since they are also able to predict immediate future events, it makes this creature hard to capture.

A Demiguise resembles an ape with fine silvery hair, which hides its big black eyes. The pelts of Demiguises are valued because they can be woven to make Invisibility Cloaks. The Ministry of Magic classifies these creatures as XXXX, meaning that they are fairly dangerous.

Demiguise contains the Latin root demi-, meaning half. It also contains the word guise, that which conceals the true nature of something. This name is fitting because a Demiguise can conceal itself by becoming invisible. Additionally, their ability to predict the future, which is always half-concealed and varying based on certain conditions, also makes this name relevant.

This concludes my series of posts on Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. I hope you enjoyed this theme!

lethifold (lēthə-fōld)

A Lethifold is shroud of darkness that preys upon sleeping wizards or Muggles. (image from www.moviepilot.com)

In Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Newt Scamander states that a Lethifold is a very rare creature that dwells in tropical climates. A Lethifold looks like a black cloak that floats along ominously during the night seeking victims who are sleeping. Once its prey has been suffocated thoroughly, it simply digests them in their beds, leaving no trace of its victims.

Since Lethifolds are stealthy killers, it is difficult to find much information about them. However, Flavius Belby, who survived a Lethifold attack, wrote the earliest account of Lethifolds in 1782. During the attack, Belby writes that he tried to overcome the Lethifold by using a Stupefying Charm and an Impediment Hex, neither of which worked. Finally, Belby cast the Patronus Charm, which repelled the Lethifold successfully.

The Ministry of Magic rates these highly dangerous creatures XXXXX, meaning that they are known to kill wizards and it is not possible to train or domesticate them.

Lethifold contains the Latin root leth-, meaning deadly or fatal. Leth- was probably influenced by the Greek word “lethe,” referring to the mythological river in the Underworld whose waters caused spirits to forget everything about their former lives. It makes sense that the word “lethe” would later influence the Latin “leth-” because if a person forgets who he is and loses all his memories, he loses his sense of self which is similar to death.  Since the Lethifold is a deadly creature, this name seems apropos.

Join me next week as we continue exploring fantastic creatures from the Harry Potter world. I hope you are all enjoying these posts as much as I am enjoying writing them!

augurey (ȯ-gyərē)

The augurey is a greenish-black bird that was once thought to foretell death. (image from playbuzz.com)

According to Newt Scamander, author of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the Augurey is a bird that primarily dwells in Britain and Ireland. This bird resembles a small, malnourished, greenish-black vulture. This melancholic bird is very shy and only comes out of its tear-shaped nest during heavy rains.

One can distinguish an Augurey by its low, throbbing cry that was once believed to foreshadow death. However, researchers have refuted that idea, and have discovered that the Augurey only sings when rain is approaching. The Ministry of Magic classifies the Augurey as XX, meaning that it is harmless and can be domesticated.

The bird’s name probably comes from the word “augury,” which is the practice of interpreting the flight patterns of birds. Romans believed that the gods expressed their will through various signs in nature. They believed that nothing important should be done without the blessing of the gods so they appointed augurs, a special group of priests, to divine the will of the gods by observing and interpreting the signals of birds.  “Augur” comes from the Latin word “auspex”, which literally means “one who takes signs from the birds.”

Come back next week for another fantastic beast!