root 1[root, roo t] Word Origin noun

  1. a part of the body of a plant that develops, typically, from the radicle and grows downward into the soil, anchoring the plant and absorbing nutriment and moisture.
  2. a similar organ developed from some other part of a plant, as one of those by which ivy clings to its support.
  3. any underground part of a plant, as a rhizome.
  4. something resembling or suggesting the root of a plant in position or function: roots of wires and cables.
  5. the embedded or basal portion of a hair, tooth, nail, nerve, etc.
  6. the fundamental or essential part: the root of a matter.
  7. the source or origin of a thing: The love of money is the root of all evil.
  8. a person or family as the source of offspring or descendants.
  9. an offshoot or scion.
  10. Mathematics.
    1. Also called nth root.a quantity that, when raised to the nth power (multiplied by itself n times), produces a given quantity: The number 2 is the square root of 4, the cube root of 8, and the fourth root of 16.
    2. a value of the argument of a function for which the function takes the value zero.
  11. Computers.
    1. Also called root directory.the topmost directory of a hierarchical file system.
    2. the UNIX account, having the username “root,” that allows administrator privileges.
  12. Grammar.
    1. a morpheme that underlies an inflectional or derivational paradigm, as dance, the root in danced, dancer, or ten-, the root of Latin tendere “to stretch.”
    2. such a form reconstructed for a parent language, as *sed-, the hypothetical proto-Indo-European root meaning “sit.”
  13. roots,
    1. a person’s original or true home, environment, and culture: He’s lived in New York for twenty years, but his roots are in France.
    2. the personal relationships, affinity for a locale, habits, and the like, that make a country, region, city, or town one’s true home: He lived in Tulsa for a few years, but never established any roots there.
    3. personal identification with a culture, religion, etc., seen as promoting the development of the character or the stability of society as a whole.
  14. Music.
    1. the fundamental tone of a compound tone or of a series of harmonies.
    2. the lowest tone of a chord when arranged as a series of thirds; the fundamental.
  15. Machinery.
    1. (in a screw or other threaded object) the narrow inner surface between threads.Compare crest(def 18), flank(def 7).
    2. (in a gear) the narrow inner surface between teeth.
  16. Australian Informal. an act of sexual intercourse.
  17. Shipbuilding. the inner angle of an angle iron.

verb (used with object)

  1. to fix by or as if by roots: We were rooted to the spot by surprise.
  2. to implant or establish deeply: Good manners were rooted in him like a second nature.
  3. to pull, tear, or dig up by the roots (often followed by up or out).
  4. to extirpate; exterminate; remove completely (often followed by up or out): to root out crime.
  5. Digital Technology.
    1. to gain access to the operating system of (a smartphone, tablet, gaming console, etc.), as to alter system files or settings.Compare jailbreak(def 3).
    2. to install a rootkit on (a computer, electronic device, etc.).

verb (used without object)

  1. to become fixed or established.
  2. Digital Technology. to manipulate the operating system of a smartphone, tablet, etc.Compare jailbreak(def 4).


  1. root and branch, utterly; entirely: to destroy something root and branch.
  2. take root,
    1. to send out roots; begin to grow.
    2. to become fixed or established: The prejudices of parents usually take root in their children.

Origin of root 1 before 1150; (noun) Middle English; late Old English rōt Old Norse rōt; akin to Old English wyrt ‘plant’, wort2, German Wurzel, Latin rādīx (see radix), Greek rhíza (see rhizome); (v.) Middle English roten, rooten, derivative of the nounRelated formsroot·like, adjectiveCan be confusedroot rout route British Dictionary definitions for root and branch root 1 noun

    1. the organ of a higher plant that anchors the rest of the plant in the ground, absorbs water and mineral salts from the soil, and does not bear leaves or buds
    2. (loosely) any of the branches of such an organ
  1. any plant part, such as a rhizome or tuber, that is similar to a root in structure, function, or appearance
    1. the essential, fundamental, or primary part or nature of somethingyour analysis strikes at the root of the problem
    2. (as modifier)the root cause of the problem
  2. anatomy the embedded portion of a tooth, nail, hair, etc
  3. origin or derivation, esp as a source of growth, vitality, or existence
  4. (plural) a person’s sense of belonging in a community, place, etc, esp the one in which he was born or brought up
  5. an ancestor or antecedent
  6. Bible a descendant
  7. the form of a word that remains after removal of all affixes; a morpheme with lexical meaning that is not further subdivisible into other morphemes with lexical meaningCompare stem 1 (def. 9)
  8. maths a number or quantity that when multiplied by itself a certain number of times equals a given number or quantity3 is a cube root of 27
  9. Also called: solution maths a number that when substituted for the variable satisfies a given equation2 is a root of x³ – 2x – 4 = 0
  10. music (in harmony) the note forming the foundation of a chord
  11. Australian and NZ slang sexual intercourse
  12. root and branch
    1. (adverb)entirely; completely; utterly
    2. (adjective)thorough; radical; complete

    Related adjective: radical


  1. Also: take root (intr) to put forth or establish a root and begin to grow
  2. Also: take root (intr) to become established, embedded, or effective
  3. (tr) to fix or embed with or as if with a root or roots
  4. Australian and NZ slang to have sexual intercourse (with)

See also root out, roots, root up Derived Formsrooter, nounrootlike, adjectiverooty, adjectiverootiness, nounWord Origin for root Old English rōt, from Old Norse; related to Old English wyrt wort root 2 verb (intr)

  1. (of a pig) to burrow in or dig up the earth in search of food, using the snout
  2. (foll by about, around, in etc) informal to search vigorously but unsystematically

Derived Formsrooter, nounWord Origin for root C16: changed (through influence of root 1) from earlier wroot, from Old English wrōtan; related to Old English wrōt snout, Middle Dutch wrōte mole root 3 verb

  1. (intr usually foll by for) informal to give support to (a contestant, team, etc), as by cheering

Derived Formsrooter, nounWord Origin for root C19: perhaps a variant of Scottish rout to make a loud noise, from Old Norse rauta to roar Word Origin and History for root and branch root n.

“underground part of a plant,” late Old English rot, from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse rot “root,” figuratively “cause, origin,” from Proto-Germanic *wrot (cf. Old English wyrt “root, herb, plant,” Old High German wurz, German Wurz “a plant,” Gothic waurts “a root,” with characteristic Scandinavian loss of -w- before -r-), from PIE *wrad- (see radish (n.), and cf. wort). The usual Old English words for “root” were wyrttruma and wyrtwala.

Figurative use is from c.1200. Of teeth, hair, etc., from early 13c. Mathematical sense is from 1550s. Philological sense from 1520s. Slang meaning “penis” is recorded from 1846. In U.S. black use, “a spell effected by magical properties of roots,” 1935. To take root is from 1530s. Root beer, made from the extracts of various roots, first recorded 1841, American English; root doctor is from 1821. Root cap is from 1875.

root v.1

“dig with the snout,” 1530s, from Middle English wroten “dig with the snout,” from Old English wrotan “to root up,” from Proto-Germanic *wrot- (cf. Old Norse rota, Swedish rota “to dig out, root,” Middle Low German wroten, Middle Dutch wroeten, Old High German ruozian “to plow up”), from PIE root *wrod- “to root, gnaw.”

Associated with the verb sense of root (n.). Extended sense of “poke about, pry” first recorded 1831. Phrase root hog or die “work or fail” first attested 1834, American English (in works of Davey Crockett, who noted it as an “old saying”). Reduplicated form rootin’ tootin’ “noisy, rambunctious” is recorded from 1875.

root v.2

“cheer, support,” 1889, American English, originally in a baseball context, probably from root (v.1) via intermediate sense of “study, work hard” (1856). Related: Rooted; rooting.

root v.3

“fix or firmly attach by roots” (often figurative), early 13c., from root (n.); sense of “pull up by the root” (now usually uproot) also is from late 14c. Related: Rooted; rooting.

root and branch in Medicine root [rōōt, rut] n.

  1. The embedded part of an organ or structure, such as a hair, tooth, or nerve, serving as a base or support.
  2. A primary source; an origin; radix.

root and branch in Science root [rōōt, rut]

  1. A plant part that usually grows underground, secures the plant in place, absorbs minerals and water, and stores food manufactured by leaves and other plant parts. Roots grow in a root system. Eudicots and magnoliids have a central, longer, and larger taproot with many narrower lateral roots branching off, while monocots have a mass of threadlike fibrous roots, which are roughly the same length and remain close to the surface of the soil. In vascular plants, roots usually consist of a central cylinder of vascular tissue, surrounded by the pericycle and endodermis, then a thick layer of cortex, and finally an outer epidermis or (in woody plants) periderm. Only finer roots (known as feeder roots) actively take up water and minerals, generally in the uppermost meter of soil. These roots absorb minerals primarily through small epidermal structures known as root hairs. In certain plants, adventitious roots grow out from the stem above ground as aerial roots or prop roots, bending down into the soil, to facilitate the exchange of gases or increase support. Certain plants (such as the carrot and beet) have fleshy storage roots with abundant parenchyma in their vascular tissues. See also fibrous root taproot.
  2. Any of various other plant parts that grow underground, especially an underground stem such as a corm, rhizome, or tuber.
  3. The part of a tooth that is embedded in the jaw and not covered by enamel.
  4. Mathematics
    1. A number that, when multiplied by itself a given number of times, produces a specified number. For example, since 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 16, 2 is a fourth root of 16.
    2. A solution to an equation. For example, a root of the equation x2 – 4 = 0 is 2, since 22 – 4 = 0.

root and branch in Culture root

In biology, the part of a plant that grows downward and holds the plant in place, absorbs water and minerals from the soil, and often stores food. The main root of a plant is called the primary root; others are called secondary roots. The hard tip is called the root cap, which protects the growing cells behind it. Root hairs increase the root’s absorbing surface.


The part of a tooth below the gum. The root anchors the tooth to the jawbone.

Idioms and Phrases with root and branch root and branch

Utterly, completely, as in The company has been transformed root and branch by the new management. Alluding to both the underground and aboveground parts of a tree, this idiom was first recorded in 1640.


In addition to the idioms beginning with root

  • root and branch
  • rooted to the spot
  • root for
  • root of the matter
  • root out
  • also see:

  • put down roots
  • take root
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