By author: Jeremiah Reedy
Product Code: 8563
ISBN: 978-0-86516-856-5
Publisher: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc.
Availability: In stock
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Three Abecedaria aims to equip readers to become logophiles, or lovers of words, by introducing them to the world of etymology. Reedy shares his own “logophilia” with readers as he leads them meandering through the world of words.

Most abecedaria are for small children—"A is for apple; B is for ball; C is for cat," etc. These abecedaria are for high school students, especially juniors and seniors, who may want to increase their vocabularies—"A is for Apocalypticism; B is for Benediction; C is for Cogito ergo sum," etc. The abecedaria are organized by language: Words Derived from Greek, Words Derived from Latin, and Words Derived from Latin Phrases.

Each abecedarium highlights English words derived from Latin or Greek, provides etymological explanations, and explores related English derivatives from the same roots.

Special Features

  • Introduction
  • Abecedaria • Words Derived from Greek • Words Derived from Latin • Words Derived from Latin Phrases
  • List of References
  • Appendix: Pricipal Parts of Latin Verbs
  • Lists of Greek and Latin Prefixes and Suffixes
  • Index of Words Derived from Greek and Index of Words Derived from Latin


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Review by: Irene Morrison-Moncure, New York University - Gallatin - December 1, 2018

Jeremiah Reedy's Three Abecedaria: An Alphabetical Approach to Vocabulary aims to turn readers into lovers of words with the explicit goal of increasing the vocabulary of high school juniors and seniors (xi). Nevertheless, Three Abecedaria will engage students and instructors beyond the high school classroom and has something to offer new and old logophiles alike.

Three Abecedaria is not a textbook, but a self-paced guidebook through the English language. As Reedy explains, an abecedarium is a book consisting of words arranged alphabetically, used historically to teach children their ABCs and literary basics. Reedy adapts this traditional model for the benefit of contemporary students. The whole of the book is divided into three parts: English words from ancient Greek words, English words from Latin words, and Latin phrases that "are sometimes found in English," such as cogito ergo sum. Though some will find this structure contrived, it is appropriate given the book's intended audience. The three-part focus on English words from ancient words (explained as "derivatives") marks Reedy's pedagogical approach as fundamentally etymological. Students are able to better understand and appreciate the English language when both common and uncommon vocabulary is broken down into constituent parts (prefixes, suffixes, and roots). In turn, identifying and defining these parts aids students in two ways: by preparing them for college admissions examinations, such as the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, and by facilitating their success in college and the workforce by granting them the tools "to do this by themselves" (xi), i.e. to tackle new or unfamiliar vocabulary.

The book's vocabulary is itself an eclectic collection. Section one, for example, "Words Derived from Greek," begins with "Apocalypticism" and ends with "Zoophobia." Under the heading "Apocalypticism," students are exposed to additional words that share similar etymological elements ("Eucalyptus," ''Apostasy," and ''Apotheosis"), as well as words that are linguistic cognates or similarly related (such as "Revelation," an "uncovering" just like ''Apocalypticism"). Some of the vocabulary does seem a peculiar choice though. "Eupeptic," "Rheostat," and "Frugivorous," for example, appear to have been chosen more for their roots than for their relevance. The average high school student is unlikely to encounter much of this vocabulary in his or her summer reading, or even on the SAT. Students nonetheless will benefit from the overall process of dissecting words into roots and noticing connections between ancient and modern languages.

Reedy's book excels at describing and demonstrating this process. Each vocabulary entry is well crafted, be­ ginning with a straight-forward breakdown of a word's prefixes, suffixes, and roots and the literal meanings they convey. As mentioned above, some words are questionable for inclusion in the collection, but many more are topical and illuminating (for example, "Dyslexia''). It is quite possible that many students have heard these words before but never explored them further or in any formal context. Reedy's book is therefore a good first step for students interested in word study. It also offers something for instructors and veteran logophiles too. Sprinkled throughout the units are linguistic asides to entertain advanced readers, including forays into Proto-Indo-European and Sanskrit. I myself learned that the variation in vowels in related word forms (e.g. sing > sang > sung > song) is called an ablaut, a fun fact my own students will enjoy learning as well.

Three Abecedaria thus provides a practical guide to etymology as preparation for life. For those busy making plans for their futures, Reedy's appendix is most useful for quickly reviewing common prefixes and suffixes. However, a more complete and more comprehensive list of roots from Latin and Greek nouns, verbs, and even numbers is needed for high school students preparing for admissions exams. College juniors and seniors, too, would find use in a more thorough appendix as they prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and careers in law, science, and medicine.

My praise for Reedy is based on his creative approach to exposing Greek and Latin roots to young audiences while at the same time expanding their English vocabulary. The book's sixty-six entries, which Reedy calls "units," invite students. to explore the technical side of language and the origins of English in particular. For rising freshmen, Reedy suggests tackling one unit a day in the summer before college, though advanced underclassmen will benefit from this book as well. Three Abecedaria would also make a wonderful supplementary reader for introductory English composition courses and, naturally, for etymology courses too. Similarly, I recommend that teachers of elementary Latin and Greek share the book's introduction with their students, perhaps on the first day of class, as it gives readers a brief overview of the English language, the similarities and differences between the Greek and Latin alphabets, and the many ways that etymology can be useful, from the practical to the poetic.

I admit it was disorienting at first that the author presented his units in ebullient prose, but I quickly found Reedy's energetic and engaging style the most endearing feature of his work. Reedy has mastered a wildly digressive style of writing that is entertaining rather than exhausting. The book's illustrations are sparse but charming, although here and there the author recommends to the reader looking up words in a picture dictionary (ex. "portcullis" in discussion of "cataract"), which is a missed opportunity for more charm.

In conclusion, teachers and instructors at both the high school and college level will find inspiration from Reedy's book. The author is undeniably enthusiastic about his topic and his approach to vocabulary is grounded in effective pedagogical practices. Even a casual reader will notice a persistent repetition of concepts and key words, references and direct referrals back to previous units (made through organic tie-ins with the current material), and a .clear, logical unfolding of all etymological explanations. In addition, humor is a frequent and favorite tool of the author and Reedy's delightfully groan-worthy asides -"don't diss these dys­ words" (9) -well suit the book's earnest, light-hearted tone throughout.

Irene Morrison-Moncure
New York University- Gallatin
The Classical Outlook Vol. 93, No. 4, 2018

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