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ROOT-WORD

ROOT-WORD, also root word. A term in WORD-FORMATION for a WORD, usually monosyllabic, that is prior or ancestral to one or more other words: blood the root-word of bloody, bloodily, bloodhound, bloodthirsty, bloodthirstiness, cold-blooded, cold-bloodedly, bleed, bleeds, bleeding, nose bleed. The term belongs in a group of related and sometimes overlapping terms with ROOT, BASE, and simple word, and implies that every language has a certain number or range of basic words and word elements, often presumed to be known by every user and listed somewhere. However, no one knows all the root forms of English or can easily decide whether certain freshly encountered items are new, old, meaningful, or meaningless. Such items as grise, quetch, and smidge conform to a pattern of what English words are like, in terms of syllable, sound, and spelling. Items like *tleen, *pwrg, and *xacs do not. However, as loans like axolotl from Nahuatl and cwm from Welsh indicate, alien structure is no bar to entry into English. See ROOT-CREATION, VOCABULARY CONTROL.

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