For example, the English words just (adj.), justify (verb), justification (noun), and justly (adverb) are all clearly a part of the same "family" although they each will have a separate dictionary entry because they are each different parts of speech.

How would I describe this "family" of words? I want to say...

The word just is a __________ of justification.


I always thought cognate was the correct word as you can tell from my ELU thread answer here: Technical term for a noun version of an adjective. But, apparently, the word applies to the case where you are comparing words from different languages. If so, what is the best term for words from the same language?

  • 3
    Words can be cognate in the same language. Cognate just means 'born together'. So, looking at the descendants of the Proto-Indo-European root *gen- , we would say that all of the words are Reflexes of *gen-, and all of the words are Cognate with each other. So English kind and gentle are cognates, and so are English kind (noun and adjective) and German Kind 'child'. There is no specific term for the entire "family", since etymology is not really genealogy. More important is borrowing vs descent. May 22, 2017 at 13:28
  • See also linguistic doublets.
    – tchrist
    May 22, 2017 at 13:42
  • "The word 'just' is a cognate of justification."
    – Mitch
    May 22, 2017 at 14:23
  • "The word 'just' is in the same word family as justification."
    – Mitch
    May 22, 2017 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


I think you are looking for the expression word family:

  • A word family is the base form of a word plus its inflected forms and derived forms made from affixes. In the English language, inflectional affixes include third person -s, verbal -ed and -ing, plural -s, possessive -s, comparative -er and superlative -est. Derivational affixes include -able, -er, -ish, -less, -ly, -ness, -th, -y, non-, un-, -al, -ation, -ess, -ful, -ism, -ist, -ity, -ize/-ise, -ment, in-.

  • The idea is that a base word and its inflected forms support the same core meaning, and can be considered learned words if a learner knows both the base word and the affix. Bauer and Nation proposed seven levels of affixes.


  • Just and justification belong to the same word family. Just is actually the root word of that word family.
  • Thanks, Josh. I think I will edit my question to include an expression rather than a single word request.
    – thomj1332
    May 22, 2017 at 13:27
  • 1
    You may also say just "family" if things are clear from the context, e.g. Just is in the same family as justification. May 23, 2017 at 3:42

root [root, roo t] noun

  1. Grammar. a. a morpheme that underlies an inflectional or derivational paradigm, as dance, the root in danced, dancer, or ten-, the root of Latin tendere “to stretch.”. b. such a form reconstructed for a parent language, as *sed-, the hypothetical proto-Indo-European root meaning “sit.”. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/root?s=t

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.