The Latin root word centr means “center.” Let’s spend the next few minutes concentrating on this important word root!
I think it’s fairly evident why the English word “center” comes from the root centr—not only does the root word mean “center,” but there is a very obvious spelling similarity. Hence, we will not make that a central concern in this podcast!
Instead, we are going to concentrate, or fully “center” our minds on some words that you often hear when studying science. Perhaps you have read that during the Middle Ages people believed that the Universe was geocentric, or that the Earth was at its “center.” Nicolaus Copernicus contested that incorrect view, proving rather that the Earth was part of a heliocentric or sun-“centered” system, relegating the Earth to simply one planet of many that revolved around the sun. Talk about a blow for egocentric people who not only placed themselves at the “center” of everything, but believed that their beloved Earth held the most important spot in the Universe too. How demoralizing!
Physicists often talk about centripetal and centrifugal forces. Centripetal forces, such as gravity and tension, make objects moving in a circle seek the “center” of that circle, hence preventing those objects from flying off. On the other hand, centrifugal forces seem to make those same objects flee the “center” of the circle since they never crash into it; in actual fact, there is no such thing as centrifugal force, which is simply the inertia of motion. However, a centrifuge is a very real device that uses centripetal acceleration, which causes denser material in a solution to seek the bottom of a test tube, and less dense material to flee away from the “center” of the device.
When an earthquake strikes, it can be felt in a very wide area. Each earthquake, however, has a spot from which it originates, called the epicenter of the quake, or its very “center.” People, too, can behave at the “center” spot of what is considered to be normal behavior, or they can be eccentric, or more off-“center” as to what they do.
Now you no longer need be off-“center” when it comes to recognizing that the Latin root word centr means “center!”
- center: center
- central: pertaining to the “center”
- concentrate: “center” together thought processes
- geocentric: Earth-“centered”
- heliocentric: sun-“centered”
- egocentric: I-“centered”
- centripetal: of the force where objects seek a “center”
- centrifugal: of the force where objects flee a “center”
- centrifuge: device which causes less dense material to flee the “center”
- epicenter: the “center” over which an earthquake originates
- eccentric: a person whose behavior is off-“center” in comparison with others