Daily Archives: April 19, 2012

19 Apr 2012

Charm your way to a perfect score: Harry Potter and Latin roots!

Tuesday’s blog post hinted that young adult literature is a surprisingly good place to pick up SAT vocabulary. As a follow up, I want to explore our most enchanting YA resource: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Brimming with Latin-based names and incantations, Harry Potter is a fun and helpful guide to Latin roots you’ll find on the SAT.

How many Latin roots can you find in Harry Potter? Here are the roots of 10 spells (with related SAT vocabulary!) to get you started:

1. Confundo (Confundus Charm) — This spell, which causes the victim to become confused, comes from the Latin root, con, which means “with.” In this case, con implies a mixing up of sorts. All things are thrown together to become muddled, enmeshed, and indistinguishable… confused.

SAT Words with the Root con:

  • contiguous: sharing an edge or boundary; touching
  • consensus: agreement, accord
  • conjecture: an inference based upon guesswork

2. Crucio (Cruciatus Curse) – This is a curse of torture or pain. Derived from the Latin root, cruci meaning “cross,” or “torture,” the Crucio curse should be avoided at all costs!

SAT Words with the Root cruci:

  • excruciating: very painful; extreme
  • crucible: a severe, searching test or trial
  • crucify: to treat with gross injustice; persecute; torment; torture

3. Deletrius – A spell that makes things disappear or vanish. This spell has the Latin root, de, which means “away from,” “removing,” or “down.”

SAT Words with the Root de:

  • deleterious: harmful; injurious
  • depreciation: a decrease in value
  • destitute: abandoned; forsaken

4. Expecto Patronum (Patronus Charm) – This spell is used to repel dementors. Patronum is based on the Latin root, patr, which means father. By extension, we can also take patr to indicate protectiveness and high rank.

SAT Words with the Root patr:

  • patrician: a person of noble rank; an aristocrat
  • patricide: the act of killing one’s father
  • patriarch: father

5. Expelliarmus (Disarming Charm) – A disarming spell; often used to force opponents to drop their wands. This spell contains the Latin roots ex, meaning, “off,” “away from,” or “out,” and arma, which means “weapons.”

SAT Words with the Root ex or arma:

  • exonerate: to free from blame or guilt
  • expunge: delete; remove
  • armistice: a temporary suspension of hostilities; a truce
  • armature: armor

6. Impedimenta (Impediment Jinx) – This jinx trips, freezes, binds, or otherwise blocks an opponent’s approach. Fittingly, this walk-stopping jinx contains the root, ped, Latin for “foot.”

SAT Words with the Root ped:

  • Expedite: to speed up the progress of; to accelerate
  • Pedestrian: Undistinguished; ordinary; conventional
  • Impede: To hinder the progress of

7. Imperio (Imperius Curse) – One of the three “Unforgivable Curses,” the Imperius Curse places the subject in a dream-like state in which he/she is completely subject to the will of the caster. Using this curse can result in life imprisonment in Azkaban. Imperio comes from the root impero, which means “command.”

SAT Words with the Root impero:

  • imperious: domineering and arrogant
  • imperative: absolutely necessary or required

8. Lumos – A spell that produces a narrow beam of light that shines from the tip of a wand, Lumos derives from the Latin, lum or luc, meaning “light.”

SAT Words with the Root lum or luc:

  • elucidate: to make clear or plain
  • luminary: a famous, inspiring person
  • pellucid: transparent; translucent

9. Morsmordre (Dark Mark) – Morsmorde is a spell that produces the Dark Mark—symbol of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters. It comes from the Latin root, mort, meaning death. Notice that mort is the root of Voldemort’s name, as well.

SAT Words with the Root mort:

  • mortify: to humiliate
  • remorse: sincere and deep regret
  • moribund: approaching death

10. Wingardium Leviosa (Levitation/Hover Charm) – One of the first spells taught to Hogwarts students, Wingardium Leviosa lifts objects so they float in the air. Wingardium contains the Latin root arduus, meaning “high” or “difficult,” and Leviosa sprouts from lev, which means “lift” or “light.”

SAT Words with the Root arduus or lev:

  • arduous: laborious; difficult; requiring great exertion
  • alleviate: to relieve; to lessen
  • levity: lightness of mind, character or behavior