There are 2 main definitions of root in English:

Share this entry

root 1

Line breaks: root


1The part of a plant which attaches it to the ground or to a support, typically underground, conveying water and nourishment to the rest of the plant via numerous branches and fibres: cacti have deep and spreading roots a tree root [as modifier]: root growth
More example sentences
  • But trees help control runoff by soaking water in through their roots and providing sturdy support against erosion.
  • When planted, the underground portion forms roots and the above ground portion forms branches and leaves.
  • Wood is composed of bundles of microscopic tubes that were used to transport water from the roots of the tree to the leaves.
1.1The persistent underground part of a plant, especially when fleshy and enlarged and used as a vegetable, e.g. a turnip or carrot: you should never wash roots before storing
More example sentences
  • A few sweet roots, parsnips, carrots and a stalk of celery will add flavour to the pan juices.
  • From the mid-16th century suckets were made in Britain from local fruits, vegetables, and roots of many kinds.
  • In this street market, celeriac, parsley root, arugula and frisée were available.
1.2Any plant grown for its root: roots like beet and carrot cannot be transplanted
More example sentences
  • Licorice root happens to look just like an old cheroot cigarette.
  • Sarsaparilla root contains saponins, which reduce microbes and toxins.
  • This way, when you buy some valerian root or St. John's wort, you'll know if there are any adverse reactions that you could get by using the herbal medication.
1.3The embedded part of a bodily organ or structure such as a hair, tooth, or nail: her hair was fairer at the roots
More example sentences
  • I feel Mother's cold smile, her fingers releasing Nikola and his face relaxing when the roots of his hairs snap back into place in his skin.
  • Start at the crown of your head, then flip your head upside down and lift your hair at the roots with your fingers.
  • She could feel the rough fingers gently cupping her neck and touching the roots of her hair.
1.4The part of a thing attaching it to a greater or more fundamental whole; the end or base: a little lever near the root of the barrel they disappeared from sight behind the root of the crag
More example sentences
  • When they experience pain in the middle of the night in bed or while sitting, this is due to interference in circulation to the nerve root and spinal cords where it has been compressed.
  • A little deviation, and you will hit the spinal cord or the nerve root or damage the pedicle that supports the screw.
2The basic cause, source, or origin of something: money is the root of all evil jealousy was at the root of it [as modifier]: the root cause of the problem
More example sentences
  • Perspectives are the root, the basic fiber, and the foundation of every social plague impoverishing us.
  • If I had not experienced some degree of disappointment and been determined to find the root cause, I may not have gained important knowledge about myself.
  • ‘Failure to address added services at the point of origin is the root of payment failure,’ he says.
cause, reason;
core, nucleus, heart, kernel, nub, essence;
2.1 (roots) Family, ethnic, or cultural origins: it’s always nice to return to my roots
More example sentences
  • It's about my background and about roots, family, music and manhood.
  • Joey had curly brown hair and was as dark as an African American, but his family roots originate from Spain.
  • They and their families have their historical roots in the original villages.
birthplace, native land, motherland, fatherland, homeland, native country, native soil
2.2 (as modifier roots) Denoting or relating to something from a particular ethnic or cultural origin, especially a non-Western one: roots music
More example sentences
  • The stage, however, plays host not to righteous roots reggae or foam-mouthed punk rock, but to a scattered group of girls in school uniform.
  • His output was a fusion of everything good in music at the time - chunky punk guitar, killer pop tunes and horns and baselines with a deep ska / roots influence.
  • After signing with Zoë, a division of roots label Rounder, they returned re-energized with Open in 2001.
2.3(In biblical use) a scion; a descendant: the root of David
2.4 Linguistics A morpheme, not necessarily surviving as a word in itself, from which words have been made by the addition of prefixes or suffixes or by other modification: many European words stem from this linguistic root [as modifier]: the root form of the word
More example sentences
  • Words combine with words, or prefixes and suffixes combine with roots, in ways that over time drift away from perfect sense.
  • It's pretty clear, based on Green's paper-doll explanation, that the root morpheme must have been puppet.
  • Significantly, the root of bahelawi is bahel, meaning culture.
2.5 (also root note) Music The fundamental note of a chord: in the sequence the roots of the chords drop by fifths
More example sentences
  • Where there is no figure under a note, the convention is that this denotes the most common chord, which Mr Protheroe describes as a root-position chord; i.e a triad with a root note, the third above and the fifth above.
  • I have an idea of the flavour now - the root note of the melody, gently picked electric guitar, a line or two of vocals.
  • This is all captured in the toy sax sound that just honks the root note as if someone who can't really play the sax has been given one lesson and one take to give it their best shot.
3 Mathematics A number or quantity that when multiplied by itself, typically a specified number of times, gives a specified number or quantity.
Example sentences
  • It's hard enough trying to remember cubed roots and the average lifespan of an amoeba.
3.1 short for square root.
3.2A value of an unknown quantity satisfying a given equation: the roots of the equation differ by an integer
4 [often as modifier] Computing A user account with full and unrestricted access to a system: make sure that these files can only be accessed by the root user I need to log in as root on my system to resolve an issue
More example sentences
  • The greatest threat to a typical Linux installation, in my opinion, is a careless root user.
  • I logged in as root and created an account for myself.
  • Run this command either with your normal user ID or as root; no command-line options are necessary.
5Australian /NZ & Irish vulgar slang An act of sexual intercourse.
5.1 [with adjective] A sexual partner of a specified ability.


[with object] Back to top  
1Cause (a plant or cutting) to grow roots: root your own cuttings from stock plants
More example sentences
  • With all of that said, today it is possible to grow Pink Dogwoods by rooting cuttings under intermittent mist.
  • The earlier the cuttings are rooted the taller will be the blooming plants.
  • It's a good time to root stem cuttings so you will have new plants for the garden next spring.
plant, bed out, sow
1.1 [no object] (Of a plant or cutting) establish roots: large trees had rooted in the canal bank
More example sentences
  • Dryland corn is rooting at the three foot depth and, even with high temperatures and lack of precipitation, it is looking good.
  • The cuttings root very easily in sand or in a rooting medium.
  • These include the ability of mother plants to produce plenty of wood, the ease with which cuttings root, and also the ease with which they can be grafted.
take root, grow roots, become established, establish, strike, take
2Establish deeply and firmly: vegetarianism is rooted in Indian culture
More example sentences
  • While his intentions are deeply rooted in exploring black masculinity, the context of his work becomes part of a larger dialogue concerning race in America today.
  • Third, the acceptance of despotic rule and the rejection of effective constitutional limitations on government are deeply rooted in tradition and religion.
  • After all, it is deeply rooted in discrimination.
embedded, fixed, firmly established, implanted;
2.1 (be rooted in) Have as an origin or cause: the Latin verb is rooted in an Indo-European word
More example sentences
  • Who I am now is rooted in where I began and has been developed by where I have been since, and to ask my fromness is to ask my identity.
  • The origins of the new disaster were rooted in Menem's years.
  • No, the whole lack of pre-marriage activity (to be blunt: the total lack of a social life) was what my puzzlement was rooted in.
3 [with object and adverbial] (often as adjective rooted) Cause (someone) to stand immobile through fear or amazement: she found herself rooted to the spot in disbelief
More example sentences
  • His only thoughts were to escape, but fear rooted him to the spot.
  • Stunned at this cover-up, I was rooted to the spot.
  • But for some reason she couldn't move, as though she were rooted to the spot.
stock-still, as still as a statue, as if turned to stone, motionless, unmoving
4 Computing Gain access to the root account of (a smartphone or computer): we explained how to manually root almost any Android device
More example sentences
  • The program allows you to customize your user interface without having to root the device.
  • I personally cannot wait to root the phone and run custom ROMs.
  • The proportion of people who want to recompile their phone OS is even smaller than the number who want to root their phone.
5Australian /NZ & Irish vulgar slang Have sexual intercourse with.
Example sentences
  • I guess you meant the sentiment expressed was predictable… you mean, in the same way a song about wanting to root girls is predictable?
5.1Exhaust (someone) or frustrate their efforts: (as adjective rooted) grab a pew—you must be rooted


at root

Basically; fundamentally: it is a moral question at root
More example sentences
  • Despite the length of my approach to it the question is, at root, quite a short one.
  • And if in spite or because of new learning people still inhabit that universe then it's going to have a very profound effect on whether you accept at root the fundamental principles of western psychology for dealing with your problems.
  • But because the subordination is inspired at root by anxiety and denial, it is not a peaceable subordination.

get rooted

[often in imperative] Australian vulgar slang Go away (used as an expression of anger or impatience): anyone who disagrees can go and get rooted
More example sentences
  • This is about leading the push in telling the poncey lot that have taken the game into a business to go and get rooted.
  • You can go and get rooted the lot of yas, I haven't got enough brains to worry.
  • The comedian told the shock jock to "get rooted" after an on-air interview went sour.

put down roots

(Of a plant) begin to draw nourishment from the soil through its roots.
Example sentences
  • Some varieties, however, will spend their first year putting down roots vis-a-vis growing stems and flowers.
3.1(Of a person) begin to have a settled life in a particular place: I think it’s time I put down some roots they have married, put down roots
More example sentences
  • Against this background, amid this natural wonder, men have chosen to settle themselves and put down roots.
  • World War II wrought the second transformation, when defence industries began putting down roots.
  • More than 1,300 a week may visit the site, but of those, only 530 bothered to sign up to request further information on the possibilities and practicalities of putting down roots in Scotland.
settle, become established, establish oneself, make one's home, set up home

root and branch

Pronunciation: /ˌruːt ən(d) ˈbraːn(t)ʃ/
Used to express the thorough or radical nature of a process or operation: root-and-branch reform of personal taxation
More example sentences
  • We need a council of the Church that includes both the laity and the bishops and the clergy to get at this problem root and branch.
  • Pakistan, which is not a member of this grouping, has also been expressing its resolve to destroy the menace root and branch.
  • The United States and other countries should be working to eradicate it, root and branch.
complete, total, entire, utter, thorough;

root someone's boot

Australian /NZ vulgar slang An exclamation of exasperation: root my boot, what a night
More example sentences
  • "Well root my boot," said Latham's email to me. "I wished I had known she was bisexual when I married her."
  • 'Oh, go root your boot,' I said, storming off.
  • "Root your boot, Mulby, if I hadn't seen him blown up, you'd still be hoofing it over the paddy."

strike at the root (or roots) of

Affect in a vital area with potentially destructive results: the proposals struck at the roots of community life
More example sentences
  • I see the ability to be alone in the wild as an achievement, something truly radical that strikes at the root of our increasingly presumptuous levels of socialization.
  • But, he went on to say that the recent events ‘are of far greater concern because they strike at the roots of our free society, one aspect of which is our market-driven economy’.
  • The objective is to strike at the root of psychosomatic problems.

take root

(Of a plant) begin to grow and draw nourishment from the soil through its roots.
Example sentences
  • Others spread aggressively by stolons (stems that creep along the soil surface, taking root and forming new plants at intervals).
  • Samphire extract is derived from the Samphire plant that takes root and thrives in rocky coastal areas.
  • Over time, the ivy will take root in the moss, and will continue to grow, so you'll need to continue pinning the ivy to the moss as it grows, and maybe cut it back if it starts to take over.
begin to germinate, begin to sprout, establish, strike, take
7.1Become fixed or established: the idea had taken root in my mind
More example sentences
  • Spatial sequences merging across the shifting levels prevent fixed identities from taking root anywhere.
  • Because he had little to say about social need and there was no legislative provision for subsidising loss-making services, the idea took root that the issue had simply been ignored.
  • Nevertheless, the idea took root in their minds.
become established, establish itself, become fixed, take hold;
develop, thrive, flourish

Phrasal verbs

root something out

(also root something up) Dig or pull up a plant by the roots: they are rooting up hawthorn bushes they make a mess, root up plants and flowers
More example sentences
  • He was told to root the plants out immediately.
  • If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.
uproot, tear something up by the roots, pull something up, grub something out
1.1Find and get rid of someone or something pernicious or dangerous: a campaign to root out corruption
More example sentences
  • We will either root it out and extinguish it wherever it may hide, or it will find us and strip us of our safety, happiness and everything we cherish.
  • Basically, the government should get tougher with those who send such e-mails for their own profits and a national campaign should be launched until the evil practice is rooted out.
  • But the breadth of corruption makes the challenge of rooting it out more difficult.



Pronunciation: /ˈruːtɪdnəs/
Example sentences
  • Mixed with the reminiscence of its unique history, the rootedness of traditional art and design, and dominant western design influence, it is still exploring and experimenting with new ways in design.
  • There is a real emotional rootedness to the style of the acting, and a whimsical fantasy element to it.
  • This thematic interest also informs her precise, measured lines, which unravel into music as they take hold of meaning, seeking at once rootedness and flight.


Pronunciation: /ˈruːtlɪt/
Example sentences
  • Below the cervical enlargement, the dorsal rootlets, roots and ganglia diminish rapidly in size.
  • The barley was first allowed to germinate, or sprout rootlets, in a moist environment.
  • The rootlet then drills into the branch and spreads its developing roots under the bark and into the living tissue.


Example sentences
  • Inside, the peas are more like little drums than perfect spheres, and as you pop them off they pull little root-like stalks with them, which you don't see on the frozen ones you get out of a bag.
  • It obviously never roots in the soil but has root-like structures which penetrates the bark of the tree and then extracts water and essential chemicals.
  • An image of a brain, with its root-like pathways, leads her to suggest that humans are ‘just like trees’.


adjective (rootier, rootiest)
Example sentences
  • It's a little rooty, a little mossy, rarely muddy - a mild recipe that would call for skinny semi-slicks, save for the frequent pockets of deep sand.
  • It is a branchy, brushy, rooty tree, without leaves.
  • Then a steep path, rooty and mountain-bike churned, led up to a main forest track of smooth crushed and compacted limestone.


Late Old English rōt, from Old Norse rót; related to Latin radix, also to wort.

  • This is an Old English word related to Latin radix ( see radical) and wort, which is used in the names of plants such as St John's wort. Root and branch, used to emphasize how thoroughly something is dealt with, goes back to the biblical book of Malachi: ‘The day cometh that shall burn them up…that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.’ See also money. Root used of an animal turning up the ground with its snout in search of food is a completely different word, that may ultimately be linked to Latin rodere ‘gnaw’ ( see rodent). Someone backing a candidate for a post may be said to be rooting for them—perhaps with the idea of trying to dig up further support through their efforts.

Words that rhyme with root

acute, argute, astute, beaut, Beirut, boot, bruit, brut, brute, Bute, butte, Canute, cheroot, chute, commute, compute, confute, coot, cute, depute, dilute, dispute, flute, galoot, hoot, impute, jute, loot, lute, minute, moot, newt, outshoot, permute, pollute, pursuit, recruit, refute, repute, route, salute, Salyut, scoot, shoot, Shute, sloot, snoot, subacute, suit, telecommute, Tonton Macoute, toot, transmute, undershoot, uproot, Ute, volute

Definition of root in:

Share this entry


There are 2 main definitions of root in English:

Share this entry

root 2 Line breaks: root


1 [no object, with adverbial] (Of an animal) turn up the ground with its snout in search of food: stray dogs rooting around for bones and scraps
More example sentences
  • On the Bowling Green near Manhattan's southern tip, for instance, stood a vacant pedestal enclosed by an iron fence around which stray pigs often rooted.
  • At night we saw dogs rooting in the shadows, and men walking in the cold, their hands drifting out of warm pockets reaching for what?
  • We passed through a narrow gate, left open, and saw an empty cattle shed, and next to it a circular pig sty, with a few great swine rooting through the strawy mud.
1.1Search unsystematically through an untidy mass or area; rummage: she was rooting through a pile of papers
More example sentences
  • The girl rushes to join her mother, who is rooting through some old piles of lace handkerchiefs.
  • These young designers root through junk piles and garage sales to create one-of-a-kind, quirky pieces of furniture.
  • He turned and rooted through a pile of folders on a table beside him.
1.2 [with object] (root something out) Find or extract something by rummaging: he managed to root out the cleaning kit
More example sentences
  • I thought I'd rooted out all the hidden food in our kitchen.
  • It is a specialist search tool, specifically refined to root out the bargains you're looking for and leave out the items you're not.
  • The small band of loyal fans like me (I was born the same year as Myra) were reduced to rooting out his records only in 19-cent remainder bins.


[in singular] Back to top  
An act of rooting: I had a root through the open drawers
More example sentences
  • They had a bloody good root in all our stuff, just for the hell of it.

Phrasal verbs

root for

informal Support or hope for the success of (a person or group entering a contest or undertaking a challenge): the whole of this club is rooting for him
More example sentences
  • And yet… could they really trust the happy reaction of a hometown crowd so inclined to root for their success?
  • By the end you'll be rooting for our British hope and begging for the romantic payoff.
  • The room exploded with shouts and cheers as people rooted for their favorite.
cheer, applaud, cheer on, support, encourage, urge on, shout for

root someone on

North American informal Cheer or spur someone on: his mother rooted him on enthusiastically from ringside
More example sentences
  • I was rooting him on, along with the others in his small but fervent peanut gallery.
  • And Spencer Tracy, he told me once, would visit the set of other movies being shot and root them on.
  • Your father, who had won a bronze medal in the Olympics in 1956, was one of those rooting you on.


Old English wrōtan, of Germanic origin; related to Old English wrōt 'snout', German Rüssel 'snout', and perhaps ultimately to Latin rodere 'gnaw'.

  • This is an Old English word related to Latin radix ( see radical) and wort, which is used in the names of plants such as St John's wort. Root and branch, used to emphasize how thoroughly something is dealt with, goes back to the biblical book of Malachi: ‘The day cometh that shall burn them up…that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.’ See also money. Root used of an animal turning up the ground with its snout in search of food is a completely different word, that may ultimately be linked to Latin rodere ‘gnaw’ ( see rodent). Someone backing a candidate for a post may be said to be rooting for them—perhaps with the idea of trying to dig up further support through their efforts.

Definition of root in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources