7 Terms with the Root “-Vore”

By Mark Nichol

Are you a locavore? Probably not — it’s still a fringe movement — but you should know what it means, even if you do not consider yourself a member of the class. A discussion of locavore and six related words follows:

1. Locavore

The term was coined in 2005 by a group of San Franciscans who launched the website Locavore.com to spread the word about the conservationist concept of striving to restrict one’s diet to foods and ingredients produced locally. (Some locavores quantify the range as anywhere within a one-hundred-mile radius, but most are not exact in their limits.)

Locavore is based on other words in which the -vore root appears (the root word is from the Latin term vorare, meaning “to devour”):

2. Carnivore

A carnivore is a person or animal (or a plant) that eats meat; the prefix is from the Latin word for “flesh.” Other words sharing the root are carnal, meaning “of the flesh” and connoting sexual matters, and carnage, which comes from the Latin word carnaticum, meaning “tribute of flesh” and referring originally to the bodies of slain animals or people but now usually referring to slaughter in general.

Interestingly, these words are also etymologically related to carnival, which stems from an Italian term, carnelevare, meaning “removal of meat.” (Carnival referred originally to a celebration before Lent, during a period when Catholics were prohibited from eating meat.)

3. Herbivore

An herbivore is an animal that eats vegetable matter; the Latin root from which the prefix herb- and herb and other words based on it are derived, herba, means plant.” Human herbivores are generally referred to as vegetarians; if they refrain from eating anything derived from animals, from dairy products to gelatin, they are called vegans.

Terms of further refinement are “lacto-ovo vegetarian,” for a person who eschews rather than chews meat but does consume milk and eggs (the root lac- means “milk” — seen in lactate and lactic — and ovo-, the root of oval, refers to eggs) and “lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarian,” or, more simply, pescetarian, for one who eats fish but not meat. (The root pesc-, from the Latin term piscis, means “fish.”)

4. Insectivore

This self-explanatory term (insect is from the Latin term insecare, “to cut into,” and is related to incisive, scissors, and the like) is nearly synonymous with entomophage (from the Latin elements ento-, meaning “insect,” and -phage, meaning “eating”), though the latter term primarily refers to human practitioners.

5. Omnivore

An omnivore is something that eats both meat and plants (and often fish but not necessarily insects); omni- — seen also in omniscient and omnipresent — means “all.”

6. Piscivore

A piscivore, also called an ichthyophage (ichthy means “fish”), eats fish, though, like most other groups classified here, the term refers to the primary type of diet and does not imply exclusivity.

7. Voracious

Voracious, synonymous with ravenous or insatiable, means “having a great appetite” or refers to intense greediness or eagerness. The noun form is voracity.

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6 Responses to “7 Terms with the Root “-Vore””

  • Lena

    Locavore and Piscivore are new words for me, thanks!!

  • Curtis

    Now I have a question.

    In a science-fiction piece I’m working on, I gave the name “Petrophage” to an asteroid mining ship.

    Should I change that to “Petrovore?” Sounds awfully sinister . . .

  • Sally

    Er, Mark… ‘entomo-‘ (not ‘ento-‘) and ‘-phage’ are from Greek, not Latin, sources.

    ‘Entomos’ means ‘cut in pieces’ (its use to mean insect is a modernism, because insects have sgmented bodies) and ‘phagein’ means ‘to eat.’

  • Sally

    Similarly, ‘ikhthys = fish’ and ‘phagein.’

    In fact, ‘insectivore/entomophage’ and ‘piscivore/ichthyophage’ are simply pairs, with one member derived from Latin and the second from Greek.

  • Clint

    I thought a “Locavore” was a creature that ate only crazy women.

  • eternia

    Isn’t Locavore a folklore monster which only eats local kids?

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