-or, -er words

-or, -er words are in the family of easily confused endings and are often pretty annoying to spell and remember. “-ible and -able” words are like its slightly more evil cousins. However, there is a pattern to their spelling. However, as it is a pattern there may be some exceptions, but I haven’t seen any yet.

-or words tend to come from Latin and have much more Latin roots in general. On the other hand, -er words tend to have Middle English in the origin.


Respecter –> Middle English

Abactor –> Latin

Condenser –> Middle English

Investigator –> Latin

Dictator –> Latin

Lawyer –> Middle English

Root#5 chrys-

“Chrys-” means gold, golden or yellow. The root comes from the Greek word chrysos which means gold. The root is in 201 entries. There are many words related to flowers and valuable items.

  • chryselephantine- Chryselephantine means made of cold and ivory. You can see the word “elephant” in chryselephantine with signifies ivory.
  • chrysanthemum- A chrysanthemum is a flower also known as a corn marigold. It also comes from the Greek root “anth” meaning flower. Fun Fact: The chrysanthemum is used as the official seal of the Imperial Family of Japan.https://maxpull-gdvuch3veo.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/gold-mums.jpg
  • chrysemys- This is a breed of turtle also known as a painted turtle. It has yellowish markings.https://i0.wp.com/www.backwaterreptiles.com/images/turtles/western-painted-turtle-for-sale.jpg
  • chrysograph- A chrysograph is when someone writes in gold. It also comes from the Greek root “-graph” meaning to write.
  • chrysoprase- Chrysoprase is a apple-green variety of chalcedony which is a gemstone.


Root#4 chalc/o, chalk/o-

The root “chalc-” has various spellings. It comes from the Greek word chalkos meaning copper. However it can mean copper, brass or bronze.

  • aurichalcite– this a mineral that consists of a basic copper zinc carbonate. It is a very pretty shade of turquoise.Image result for aurichalcite
  • chalcogen– a chalcogen is any of the four elements oxygen,sulfur, selenium, or tellurium. Chalcogens, essentially meaning “copper creator” were called as such since those four elements were found in many ores.
  • leucochalcite– this is a basic arsenate of copper that crystallized as white needles. The root “leuco-” means white. Image result for leucochalcite
  • chalkography– this is the study of opaque minerals under the microscope. This also comes from the Greek root “-graphy” meaning the writing on a certain subject.
  • orichalc/h– this is a brass rich in zinc. This was considered precious by the ancient Greek. Orichalc also contains “ori-” meaning mountain.


Root#3 burs-

The root “burs” comes from the Latin word bursa which means purse. In turn, bursa came from the Greek word meaning hide or leather. This root is in many words of the English language as shown below.

Purse- this is a relatively simple word, but it is a direct translation from the Latin word.

Bursary- this is a treasury of a college, this is related to  a purse because they’re used for holding money.

Bourse- a place where merchants meet for business, Many words with the root “burs” have definitions related to money.

Bolson- a flat-floored desert valley, this is a little indirect, but the word bursa went from Latin to Spanish where it became bolsa.

Bursicle- this is a botanical term meaning a small pouch which is essentially a purse.



Root #2- sphingo-

The root “sphingo-” comes from the Greek word sphingein which means to to hold fast. There are 12 different entries containing this root.

  • glycosphingolipid- any of various lipids (such as a cerebroside or a ganglioside)
  • sphingometer- an instrument for measuring the bending of a strut (as by deflection of beams of light)
  • sphingomyelin- any of a group of crystalline phospholipids that are obtained especially from nerve tissue and that on hydrolysis yield a fatty acid
  • sphingosine- an unsaturated amino obtained by hydrolysis of various sphingomyelins, cerebrosides, and gangliosides
  • Sphinx- this word may not seem to contain the root, however, the Sphinx in Greek mythology would ask a riddle to any travelers and if they could not answer correctly, she would bind them with a curse.


Many words with the root “sphingo-” are related to lipids in some way. Going into a bit of chemistry, lipids are long chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms which are bound together.

Root #1- Omphal/o-

The root “omphal/o-” comes from the Greek word omphalos meaning “navel.” There are 14 entries in the dictionary containing this root.

  • omphalitis- Inflammation of the umbilicus
  • omphaloid- resembling an umbilicus
  • omphalomesenteric- of or relating to the umbilicus and mesentery
  • omphaloskepsis- meditation while staring fixedly at one’s navel
  • omphalion- the center of the umbilicus