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  • English vocabulary quick reference: A comprehensive dictionary arranged by word roots by Roger S. Crutchfield
  • Lisi Oliver
English vocabulary quick reference: A comprehensive dictionary arranged by word roots. By Roger S. Crutchfield. Leesburg, VA: LexaDyne Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0965913805. Pp. xiv, 364. $39.95.

This book is designed ‘to increase your knowlede of word roots and begin the lifelong process of vocabulary building’ (i). Crutchfield assumes a target audience of students studying for SATs or college entrance exams; he could have included TOEFL exams. The book would be described more accurately as a morphological word list than as a dictionary (despite C’s exaggerated claim that it shows ‘the complete etymology for each word’ [i]). It ‘begins with a primary root index that lists 260 word roots [including] prefixes and suffixes . . . In the dictionary section, each root is followed by a comprehensive list of words that contain that root’ (iii). Yet, these entries are ‘limited to those words found in a standard desk dictionary’ (iii). Words ‘likely to appear on the SAT and other college entrance exams’ (iii) are highlighted in red.

For simplicity, C has developed his own ‘Pronunciation guide’ using only standard English characters. A sample entry in the ‘Primary root index’ is ‘astro-aster . . . star 27 (Greek)’ (v). Page 27 in the dictionary proper contains the heading ‘astro, aster . . . star’, followed by 23 listings. Among these are ‘astrogeology [astro, star + geo, earth + -logy, study of] The scientific study of the origin, history and structure of celestial bodies in the solar system. (as’troh jee OL uh jee)’. Astrogeology itself is in red, indicating that it is a common word (more so, apparently, than astrodynamics or astronavigation, which are not so marked). The words I have boldfaced are printed in blue, showing they are ‘keywords . . . the most important part of the definition’ (iii). A section on keywords follows the dictionary. Under ‘celestial bodies’ are listed quintile and sextile (although, interestingly, not astrobiology or, indeed, any other aster- entry). This section basically inverts the usual dictionary order, matching the word to the definition. For example, the keyword string ‘mental disorder characterized by belief in one’s omnipotence’ is followed by megalomania (273). But actually finding this if needed requires a degree of sophistication which the average user of this book might not possess. And where are the astro- roots under ‘celestial’?

The final section is the ‘Main entry index’. Here ‘astrogeology’ is followed by three page references: for aster-, geo- ‘earth’, and -logy ‘study of, science’. A ‘Secondary root index’ is supplied as an appendix; this consists of 500 additional, ‘generally less common roots’ for which no individual entries were made although they are still ‘very important to the etymology of the main entries’ (iii). This index includes roots like audi- ‘hearing’ and -cele ‘tumor’.

This book neither is, nor purports to be, a scholarly reference tool. The page layout is clear and easy-to-read, and with its profusion of red, blue, and black ink, it is a cheerfully colorful tool. It will probably serve its target audience well.

Lisi Oliver
Louisiana State University


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