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How can I figure out the root of a word, like for furniture or furnishings?

A root word is one of those ultimate elements of a language that cannot be further analyzed. It is a primary word or word form from which others are derived. Both furniture and furnishings come from the French fournir 'to furnish'. Furnish is the English root; fournir is the French origin. To determine the root of a word, most of the time the etymology will give clues, but will not make this information explicit. Most dictionaries offer the derivation of the words and, thus, the roots. There are books of word roots for those interested: Borer, Donald, Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms, Burr Ridge, IL: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 1960; Shipley, Joseph, The Origins of English Words, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984; Kennedy, John, Word Stems: A Dictionary, New York: Soho Press, 1996; and Cherry, R.L., Words Under Construction, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989.

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