21 Words Stemming from the Latin Word for “Look At”

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A surprising number and array of English words derive from the Latin verb specere, meaning “look at.” Each word, and its meaning and related forms, appears below.

1. aspect: a part or quality of something, the way someone or something appears, or the direction that something faces (adjectival form: aspectual)

2. circumspect: reflective about the consequences of doing or saying something (noun form: circumspection; adverbial form: circumspectly)

3. conspicuous: easy to see, or attracting attention (noun form: conspicuousness; adverbial form: conspicuously)

4. despicable: obnoxious or worthless (verb form: despise; noun form: despicableness; adverbial form: despicably)

5. expect: look forward to something or think that something will happen, consider something necessary or reasonable, or, as expecting, being pregnant (noun forms: expectedness, expectation, expectancy; adjectival form: expectable; adverbial forms: expectably, expectedly)

6. frontispiece: an illustration opposite the title page of a book, or the front of a building, or an architectural feature over a window or other opening (the final syllable is not cognate with piece)

7. inspect: look at something carefully (noun forms: inspector, inspection; adjectival form: inspective)

8. introspection: examination of one’s own feelings or thoughts (verb form: introspect; alternate noun form: introspectiveness; adjectival forms: introspective, introspectional; adverbial form: introspectively)

9. perspective: point of view, a literal or figurative view, or a way to represent an image by using converging parallel lines to give an illusion of depth and distance (or such an image) (adjectival form: perspectival)

10. prospect: as a verb, scout, or search for mineral deposits; as a noun, an opportunity or possibility, or someone likely to be chosen (alternate verb form: prospecting; alternate noun forms: prospector, prospecting; adjectival form: prospective)

11. respect: as a verb, to admire or regard; as a noun, admiration or regard (adjectival form: respective)

12. retrospect: as a noun, review; as an adjective, relating to the past or a past event (alternate noun form: retrospective; alternate adjectival form: retrospective)

13. species: related living things capable of interbreeding with other members of the species, one of several kinds of atomic particle, or a thought or mental image, or, loosely, synonymous with kind or sort (adjectival form: species)

14. specimen: a thing typical of its kind, or a remarkable example of something, or a minuscule amount or piece of a substance to be examined or tested

15. spectacle: an impressive show or sight; in plural form, a synonym for eyeglasses (adjectival form: spectacular; alternate noun form, spectacular)

16. spectator: a person who watches an event (verb form: spectate; adjectival form: spectator or spectatorial; alternate noun forms: spectatorship, spectatory)

17. specter: a ghost or spirit, or something that bothers or haunts one; British English spelling is spectre (adjectival form: spectral)

18. spectrum: range of light or sound waves, or range of people or things; scientific plural form: spectra

19. speculation: guess or idea, or financial activity with high risk but possibility of high profit (adjectival form: speculative; adverbial form: speculatively)

20. speculum: a medical instrument inserted into a body passage, or an image showing the relative positions of the planets, or a patch of color on a bird’s wing

21. suspect: as a verb, think that a crime has been committed or someone has done something wrong or that something is the cause of something bad; as a noun, someone or something that has caused something bad to happen; as an adjective, causing doubt or a feeling that someone did something wrong or that something bad is likely or true (alternative noun form: suspicion)

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3 thoughts on “21 Words Stemming from the Latin Word for “Look At””

  1. Ha, I always associated the “piece” in “frontispiece” with the use of “pieces in reference to a work of art. That’s what you get when you presume.

  2. Is “respective” really the adjective form of “respect?” I thought it would have been “respectful” and that respective, as in “they each returned to their respective homes” was different.

  3. ApK:
    I neglected to include respectful as well; both that word and respective are appropriate adjectives in their respective contexts. I also left out the adverb respectively and a few other adverbs in other entries.

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