Word Wednesday – Word Roots

It has been some time since we had a “Word Wednesday” post. Today’s GrammarBook.com email is the perfect antidote. Its title is “Word Roots” and its features precisely that – the roots or core words that make up many words common in the English language. Come along for a great vocabulary lesson on this subject. And take the “pop quiz” at the end if you wish (visit the link above for that)!

We use words constantly to express ourselves and exchange thoughts with others. We write, speak, hear, read, and listen to words. Some research suggests the average person can speak from 4,000 to 7,000 words in a day.

All words have origins that might date from days to millennia since their inception. The English language is about 1,400 years old; one of the earliest-known English dictionaries, The Elementarie (1582), contained 8,000 words. Today’s English dictionaries can include up to hundreds of thousands of them.

Words can be complex or simple. Different word parts also can combine to form new words with new meanings. The root of a word—also referred to by some as a base word—is its primary morpheme, which is the smallest grammatical unit that cannot be divided further into parts. Every word in American English has at least one morpheme.

The grammatical unit can be a free morpheme, which is a word that can stand alone, or a bound morpheme, which is an affix (a prefix or a suffix) that cannot stand alone but can form a word by combining with other morphemes.

More than half of English words have roots in Latin and Greek. Many words also have German, French, and Spanish origins, which often have their own Latin roots as well.

When standing alone, the foreign root words themselves might not always make sense to English writers and speakers, but we can quickly recognize their contributions to our lexicon when they are combined with other word parts.

carnflesh or meatLatincarnal, carnivore
decaten (10)Latindecade, decameter
teledistantGreektelephone, telegram
malbad, evilLatinmalice, malpractice
psychosoul, spiritGreekpsychic, psychology

In our contemporary English vocabulary, we can readily infer the different parts of words, including their roots and prefixes or suffixes.


Word Roots in Different Parts of Speech

You may have noticed that roots appear in parts of speech other than nouns. They also apply to verbs, adverbs, and adjectives, as in the following recognizable English words.

WordPart of SpeechRootPrefixSuffix
aimlesslyadverbaim-less, -ly

Those familiar with English know that in the preceding words, the root has an understood meaning, and the prefixes and suffixes offer much less meaning to us without the root. When combined, however, they form a word that can express.

Let’s look at a few more words with Greek and Latin roots:

WordPart of SpeechRootOrigin
bibliophilenounbiblio (book), phil (love)Greek
(to) chronicleverbchrono (time)Greek
benevolentadjectivebene (good)Latin
ambiguouslyadverbambi (both)Latin

Word Roots for Expanding Vocabulary

Being familiar with word roots and how words originate becomes a versatile tool in building vocabulary and interpreting unfamiliar words.

For example, many versed in English recognize that the Greek root “phobia” stands for “fear.” Sometimes that root is attached to prefixes we readily know, such as with claustrophobia (fear of small, confined spaces) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders).

We also might encounter words such as demophobia (fear of crowds) and anthrophobia (fear of flowers). We might not instantly recognize the fear the prefix identifies, but because we understand the word root, we’re halfway to comprehension.

Understanding roots also helps to better deconstruct words. For example, uncharacteristically is a 20-letter adverb common to English vernacular that means “not consistent with established or expected qualities or attributes” (e.g., James is uncharacteristically late).

This word contains four parts (morphemes): character (root, free morpheme), un- (prefix, bound morpheme), -istic (suffix, bound morpheme), and -ally (suffix, bound morpheme). Breaking the full word down this way can simplify the spelling of it as well as our initial insight into its meaning, even if we understand only a couple of parts as opposed to all of them.

(Character stems from the Greek charassein: “to sharpen, cut in furrows, or engrave.” This word also gave the Greeks charaktēr: “a mark; a distinctive quality,” a meaning the Latin character shared. English adopted character in the 14th century to express “a distinctive differentiating mark” as one of the word’s earliest English meanings.)

Published in: on March 29, 2023 at 9:03 PM  Leave a Comment  

Ordinary Means of Grace Ministry | Tabletalk

TT-March-2023The March 2023 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine, is focused on the theme of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, with a sub-theme of “A Manual for Kingdom Living.” There are many good articles developing this theme, and I encourage you to browse the contents and read those.

But in this post I wish to draw on an article from the regular rubrics in the back of the magazine. In “For the Church” Dr. Jon D. Payne has a valuable contribution on the “Ordinary Means of Grace Ministry” (see link below). He draws lessons for the modern church from the ministry of the great American pastor, missionary, and theologian, Jonathan Edwards.

I quote from the second part of the article, where Payne makes application to the church’s calling today with regard to God’s means of grace. On this Lord’s day, I believe you and I will profit from this powerful reminder of how God is pleased to work and preserve salvation in His people.

Edwards’ example of fidelity to the means of grace serves as a strong reminder to pastors and churches alike not to exchange God’s means of grace for the world’s strategies of growth. Too often in churches today, even among the Reformed, faithful preaching gets eclipsed by man-centered, sociology-driven, moralistic homilies. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper often receive little attention compared to praise teams and church programs. Prayer gets pushed to the margins of worship and congregational life. The vanishing of Lord’s Day evening worship further accentuates the need to recover God’s strategy for Christ-centered discipleship in our churches. Pastors are called first and foremost to be “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). Those mysteries of God are the Christ-instituted means of grace through which He gives us Himself.

Some might wonder why the means of grace are often referred to as ordinary. They are ordinary in that they do not possess the outward and visible glory of the signs, miracles, and wonders of the exodus, the public ministry of Christ, or Pentecost. The means of grace are simple, unadorned, and common. At the same time, the means of grace are quite extraordinary. Why? Because God has promised to work through them for the salvation of His elect, to bring guilty sinners into union and communion with Christ through faith. Therefore, to neglect the ordinary means of grace in the ministry of the church is not only to question the wisdom of God; it’s to disregard the saving power of Christ. This doesn’t mean, of course, that church ministry outside Lord’s Day public worship is never appropriate or beneficial to God’s people. Midweek church programs and various ministry activities can be a great blessing, but they must never overshadow the ordinary means of grace.

Finally, the ordinary means of grace are the tools through which God will gradually destroy Satan and the kingdom of darkness. In his famous History of the Work of Redemption, Edwards states that the destruction of Satan and his kingdom “will not be accomplished at once.” Instead, he explains that “this work will be accomplished by means, by the preaching of the gospel, and the use of the ordinary means of grace, and so shall gradually be brought to pass.”

Dear believer, sinners are saved and Satan is vanquished not through the visible glory of social activism, political victories, or cultural transformation. As beneficial as these pursuits might be to improve society, the saving power of Christ is not mediated through them. In fact, it’s one of Satan’s tactics to make us believe that it is. Rather, the saving power of Christ is operative, by the Spirit, through God’s chosen instruments of salvation: preaching, prayer, water, bread, and wine. Administered by lawfully ordained ministers of the gospel, the ordinary means of grace form God’s chief strategy for making disciples. God creates and confirms faith through them, and not apart from them. In the tradition of the Reformers, Edwards believed that an ordinary-means-of-grace ministry is a gospel ministry focused on the person and work of Christ and filled with the saving power of Christ. May we believe it as well.

Source: Ordinary Means of Grace Ministry | Tabletalk

Published in: on March 26, 2023 at 7:27 AM  Leave a Comment  

Knowing God: The Difference between Knowing God and Merely Knowing about Him – J. I. Packer

knowing-god-packer-2023Crossway has just published a new, beautiful hardcover edition of J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. In the article mentioned above and linked below, the publisher quotes the author himself on what it means to truly know God. There are plenty of good thoughts here for us to ponder.

I well remember reading this book for the first time and being captured by Packer’s ability to explain deep truths about God in a clear, biblical way that was also warm and pastoral. I learned to love the Puritans from him, often considered the last great Puritan himself.

After giving you a portion of that article, I post Crossway’s description of the book. As always, I encourage to visit the links to read more about this wonderful title and to think seriously about adding this edition to your library.

To focus this point further, let me say two things:

1. One can know a great deal about God without much knowledge of him. I am sure that many of us have never really grasped this. We find in ourselves a deep interest in theology (which is, of course, a most fascinating and intriguing subject—in the seventeenth century, it was every gentleman’s hobby). We read books of theological exposition and apologetics. We dip into Christian history and study the Christian creeds. We learn to find our way around in the Scriptures. Others appreciate our interest in these things, and we find ourselves asked to give our opinion in public on this or that Christian question, to lead study groups, to give papers, to write articles, and generally to accept responsibility, informal if not formal, for acting as teachers and arbiters of orthodoxy in our own Christian circles. Our friends tell us how much they value our contribution, and this spurs us to further explorations of God’s truth so that we may be equal to the demands made upon us.

All very fine—yet interest in theology and knowledge about God and the capacity to think clearly and talk well on Christian themes is not at all the same thing as knowing him. We may know as much about God as John Calvin knew—indeed, if we study his works diligently, sooner or later we shall—and yet all the time (unlike Calvin, may I say) we may hardly know God at all.

2. One can know a great deal about godliness without much knowledge of God. It depends on the sermons one hears, the books one reads, and the company one keeps. In this analytical and technological age, there is no shortage of books on the church book tables, or sermons from the pulpits, on how to pray, how to witness, how to read our Bibles, how to tithe our money, how to be a young Christian, how to be an old Christian, how to be a happy Christian, how to get consecrated, how to lead people to Christ, how to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (or, in some cases, how to avoid receiving it), how to speak with tongues (or how to explain away Pentecostal manifestations), and generally how to go through all the various motions that the teachers in question associate with being a Christian believer. Nor is there any shortage of biographies delineating the experiences of Christians in past days for our interested perusal.

Whatever else may be said about this state of affairs, it certainly makes it possible to learn a great deal secondhand about the practice of Christianity. Moreover, if one has been given a good bump of common sense, one may frequently be able to use this learning to help floundering Christians of less stable temperament to regain their footing and develop a sense of proportion about their troubles, and in this way one may gain for oneself a reputation for being quite a pastor. Yet one can have all this and hardly know God at all.

We come back, then, to where we started. The question is not whether we are good at theology or “balanced” (horrible, self-conscious word!) in our approach to problems of Christian living. The question is, can we say, simply, honestly, not because we feel that as evangelicals we ought to, but because it is a plain matter of fact, that we have known God, and that because we have known God the unpleasantness we have had, or the pleasantness we have not had, through being Christians does not matter to us? If we really knew God, this is what we would be saying, and if we are not saying it, that is a sign that we need to face ourselves more sharply with the difference between knowing God and merely knowing about him.


Knowing God by J. I. Packer is a modern Christian classic. Since its original publication in 1973, Packer’s insightful and practical approach has impacted countless Christians throughout the world as they are introduced to the wonder and joy of knowing God.

In this beloved work, Packer challenges readers that while they may know about God, it is not the same thing as knowing him. Organized into 3 sections, Knowing God explains the importance of theological study of the Lord, what the Bible has to say about God and his character, and the benefits of knowing him. From cover to cover, Packer teaches that each truth learned about God should ultimately lead to prayer and praise.

  • Accessible: Written for Christians of all backgrounds and denominations, as well as new believers

  • Practical and Insightful: Addresses many common questions about faith, including Who needs theology?What does it mean to be adopted into the family of God?, and Can God communicate his plan to us? 

  • Beautiful Hardcover Edition: Perfect for a lifetime of reading and for giving as a gift

Source: The Difference between Knowing God and Merely Knowing about Him | Crossway Articles

Published in: on March 21, 2023 at 10:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

St. Patrick – Worthy of Protestant Attention

Today, March 17, is the traditional St. Patrick’s Day, which as we know, the world has turned into another day of mindless and God-less revelry. And we may know what the Roman Catholic Church has done with this Christian character, turning him into another occasion for her ecclesiastical promotion.

But, as many Protestants have been advancing of late, we need to reclaim St. Patrick and rescue him from the worldly and the Romish uses of him. So let’s do that today by doing some healthy reading about the man and his mission.

Allow me to point you to a couple of good resources today. First of all, I show you my little display of items from the PRC Seminary library that I set out this morning. It includes a couple of articles I will link you to below. We have more books on St. Patrick in this library, but these are representative. And they are available for our readers.

Second, Ligonier Ministries has published on their website a fine introduction to St. Patrick by Steve Lawson. You may find “Who Was St. Patrick and Should Christians Celebrate St. Parick’s Day” here. Lawson opens this way:

When it comes to Saint Patrick, the true story is even more exciting than the legend and the myth. The facts are far better than the fable. This day that belongs to St. Patrick has become about leprechauns, shamrocks, pots of gold, and green—green everywhere. Famously, the City of Chicago dumps forty pounds of its top-secret dye into the river. A green racing stripe courses through the city. But long before there was the St. Patrick of myth, there was the Patrick of history. Who was Patrick?

And third, just this morning Log College Press published a post about St. Patrick that is worth reading. “What to Think About St. Patrick?” may be found here. I include an excerpt to encourage you to read the rest:

Every year as Spring is about to commence, the world seems to turn green as celebrations of St. Patrick of Ireland take place (in some Protestant locales, such as Ulster, orange is the preferred color). But what are we to make of St. Patrick himself, a man who is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church but also greatly admired by Protestant historians too? Was he in fact, as Sheldon Jackson claimed in the Moderator’s Opening Sermon at the 1892 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, “Saint Patrick, Father of Presbyterianism in Ireland”? It may be challenging to discern, but in the words of George Macloskie, Princeton professor of biology and Presbyterian minister, “The St. Patrick of legend and superstition is not attractive, but the historical Patrick is a beautiful personage, whose memory should be revered by all Irishmen and by all Christians” (The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, Vol. 8, No. 8 (Apr. 1897), p. 330). A few of our Log College Press authors chime in with these further thoughts.

William D. Howard, A History of the Origin of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church (1872):

I would like to speak of Patrick, who was not, as many suppose, a Roman Catholic saint, but an earnest evangelical missionary, and his successful labors among the Druids of Ireland; and of his successors—Columba, Columbanus, and Gallus — who, long before Gregory the Great had, whilst yet an humble priest, seen the fair-faced Angles in the slave mart at Rome and, of course, long before as Pope he had sent Augustine as a missionary to Britain, had conveyed the Gospel to Scotland and England, Gaul and Germany, Switzerland and Lombardy.

Published in: on March 17, 2023 at 10:42 AM  Leave a Comment  

March 2023: It’s National Reading Month – What’s on Your Stack?

Yes, March is now annually designated as National Reading Month, in honor of Dr. Suess’ birthday (You do remember all those fun Dr. Suess books, don’t you?!). Local libraries and bookstores traditionally promote the month of reading, and that is good. And the purpose is especially to encourage reading in children, which continues to decline. And I hope you will certainly use this month to encourage the children in your life to read and to read widely.

But I also want to use this opportunity to encourage you as an adult to read and to read widely. You also know how I feel about reading (“read more, read better”) and you typically know what I’m reading from reading this blog. I have a stack of diverse books alongside my chair in the den, from the serious Christian and Reformed books to American and world history, from lighter fare that includes fiction and non-fiction (such as my annual baseball read!) to magazines and journals, religious (such as Tabletalk) and secular (Michigan History is one of my favorites).

Reading is hard work – no question about that. That includes setting time aside to read. I am not unaware of the challenges to that. In fact, I struggle with that daily. And yet I can and do commit to reading something for some part of the day. That includes, of course, reading the most important book in the world – God’s Word, the Bible.

But in this post I want to stress the importance of reading for sheer fun and enjoyment. Yes, I too admit that sometimes one of my favorite activities becomes a chore and I don’t want to give myself to it. But then I simply have to ‘change gears’ (or jump cars) a bit so as to get my passion for reading back. Which is why I keep a variety of books at my elbow, so that if my mood is to read for simple pleasure, I have a book ready to give me just that. I am always on the lookout for these types of books, and sometimes these kind of fall into your lap, providentially.

That happened again in the last few weeks. I was browsing some local thrift stores for some things for the seminary library, the bookstore, and for my own reading pleasure when I came on a brand new author (to me) and book: Jim Heynen’s The One-Room Schoolhouse: Stories about the Boys (Alread A. Knopf, 1993). What a delight this book has been to my winter reading! Simple, fun (and funny), real-life stories of boys growing up in Midwest farm country. Lots of wholesome outdoor animal and boyhood adventures! In short chapters with attention-grabbing headings (“Dancing with Chickens,” “Betcha Don’t Dare,” “Eye to Eye” (with pigs!), and “Church Bears”), and well written prose, Heynen has captured both my imagination and my love for reading for sheer enjoyment.

So, go out and find a good book (I highly recommend this one!) and set down in your easy chair, inside or outside, and read for pure pleasure. I promise it will do your soul good. And it will stimulate you to read more, and better.

Want a taste of the pleasure? Try this from “Dancing with Chickens.”

What most people didn’t know is that chickens could dance. The boys thought this might have something to do with how stupid they were, though they actually seemed to have a knack for it. The boys didn’t bring music to dance with chickens, just a little rhythm, a little clapping of hands and shuffling of feet. Not so much that it would scare the chickens into piling in a corner and killing themselves, but hard and loud enough so the chickens’ heads would start keeping time. First in little jerky moves while the boys patted their heads, as if the chickens were sniffing the air in the direction of the boys’ soft clapping. Then the boys moved their shoulders as they clapped, and the chickens’ heads started turning from side to side – at the same time they kept doing their little pecks of the air. Just when everybody was together on this, a whole coop of chickens following the beat, the boys added some foot shuffling, careful not to move so fast that it scared the stupid chickens, never so loud that it sent them squawking into chicken bedlam. After a few seconds of this, one chicken would lift its foot from the straw and then, as if it was too dumb to know what to do with it, put it down again, probably because its head was turning and it wasn’t sure which direction it would go in if it did try and take a step.

In a while it was a flock of soft jerky dancing, the boys leading the way, keeping it up until they got dizzy – or until they heard someone coming. They didn’t want anyone to see them doing this. Dancing with chickens was the only dancing the boys ever did. How would they know for sure that someone watching them wouldn’t think the stupid chickens had started all this and they were just following?

Published in: on March 11, 2023 at 10:08 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Calculus of the Cross – G. Fluhrer

Some more good thoughts for you from the new title from Ligonier Ministries, The Beauty of Divine Grace: Gabriel N.E. Fluhrer.

This is taken from a section subtitled “The Calculus of the Cross” in chapter two, “One Way Back: Grace Alone.”

Paul’s message in Ephesians 2:8-9 is that we are saved by grace alone precisely because of our tendency to boast in the wrong things. So God, in His mercy, removes the ground of any kind of boasting in our salvation by offering [presenting] us a crucified Savior. Why would God do this?

Perhaps the main reason is that any human contribution to salvation immediately reduces the necessity of the cross. There is a kind of ‘cross calculus.’ Any kind of contribution on our part proportionately reduces both the effectiveness of and the need for the cross. So in a brilliant gospel mathematics lesson, Paul teaches us here that the value of our works relative to our salvation is precisely zero. Therefore, salvation by grace alone once and for all destroys the ground for our idolatrous boasting.

But our sin is insidious and even more cunning than we imagine. Our preference to boast in something other than Christ reveals this deviousness. We boast in other things so that we can keep Christ at a distance. Our pitiful works are just one more way that we avoid the cross.

Therefore, any attempt to save ourselves is, at the same time, a deadly avoidance of Jesus. We think our efforts will make us right with God when, in reality, they keep God and Christ at a distance from us. Ironically, what we thought would save us – our works – keep us from being saved.

Here is the altar at which we must sacrifice our pride. Once we grasp that our works contribute nothing to our salvation, we have come to the end of ourselves. And at the end of self, we always meet Jesus. We will never meet Him anywhere else. How could we? Blinded by our relentless doing, we miss the centrality of His dying and doing.

This is why every other system of salvation does not provide a savior that actually saves you. What do they provide for you? They provide moral guidance. They provide teachers. They provide ways and means and systems and rituals and things to obey and laws to follow. But what they do not and cannot provide is any meaningful assurance that you will actually be saved. [pp.38-39]

May our sovereign God’s gospel math drive us to our knees where we crucify our pride and place all our trust in our crucified Savior, Jesus Christ.

That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (I Cor.1:29-31)

Published in: on March 5, 2023 at 7:37 AM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Archives Feature! Mystery Photo Time *(Updated)

Good Thursday morning to you from the PRC archives center at the PRC Seminary in Wyoming, MI.

It is time for another mystery photo feature. This photo was actually just donated last evening through Prof. R. Dykstra who received it from the Hoksbergens (Don and Wilma) in Hull PRC (IA). We thank them for it, especially because it comes still in its original cardboard frame!

So, who can identify the photo – and if you are really good – the men in it?!

Just so you know, I do have the answer to these questions, thanks in part to the photo (love it when people send a picture AND identify it!) and Prof. R. Dykstra.


I realize this might be a tough one to place, so let’s move ahead and identify the photo above for our readers. It is a picture of the 1949 Consistory of Orange City (IA) PRC. Maybe you didn’t even know we used to have a church in that beautiful community with its own Dutch flavor, named after William of Orange. But here are the names of the men in the photo as it was submitted to us:

This photo also appears in the PRC 25th anniversary booklet, as seen below. Now the mystery is mysterious no more. If you have any memories of this congregation or of the men in the picture, please share them here or by email (cjterpstra@sbcglobal.net).

Published in: on March 2, 2023 at 10:24 AM  Leave a Comment