What do you call words that share the same root (e.g., "network", "networks", "networking"). Also, does the shortest one of them have a specific name (e.g., "network")?

  • Smart-alek kids quickly came up with co-etymological and iso-original and then things got silly 8-)
    – user62786
    Jan 19, 2014 at 20:12

3 Answers 3


I would call network a "stem", networks (noun or verb) an "inflected form", networking (participle) an "inflected form", and networking (noun) a "derived term".

"Root" is not the same as "stem" in my book; network has two roots, net and work.

  • As to the general term for all words that share the same root, I have no idea. In Russian, they are called "related words", but in English, that means something different.
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 29, 2010 at 12:09
  • 1
    Of course, words that share the same derivational root (usually in different languages) would be called cognates - not really what's being asked for here but I mention it because someone searching for that meaning would likely find this question.
    – psmears
    Apr 25, 2011 at 14:37
  • @psmears: that really should be an official answer.
    – Mitch
    Jul 14, 2011 at 16:53

A set of words that can be grouped together is called a word family. A word family can be form-based or meaning-based. The question describes a form-based word family and the shortest form is sometimes a root, however, I agree with RegDwight's answer that the word network is composed of two roots.

Form-based families are important because they reveal sometimes hidden patterns of spelling in words that children already know; for example, the verb root pronounced 'seev' is spelt ceive (receive, deceive, conceive), and always corresponds to ception in the corresponding noun (reception, deception, conception).

Meaning-based families are important because they reveal links and patterns of meaning in words that children already know; for example, many adjectives and nouns are related as in the trio big - little - size. The specific meaning relations they contain (see below) are also an important component of reasoning skills.

  • This is correct as far as it goes, but "word family" is not a standard term. It sounds like a grade school textbook explanation trying not to use big words like semantic and historical and cognate. Jan 19, 2014 at 22:21
  • @JohnLawler It may not be a standard term but I don't think it's fair to label it "grade school textbook", given that it was published in the International Journal of Lexicography. victoria.ac.nz/lals/about/staff/publications/paul-nation/…
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jan 20, 2014 at 2:24

In linguistics, words that share a common etymology are called cognates. Merriam-Webster gives this definition:

3a : related by descent from the same ancestral language

Cognates can be in the same language or two different languages. Wiktionary provides these examples:

English mother is cognate with Greek μητέρα ‎(mitéra), German Mutter, Russian мать ‎(matʹ) and Persian مادر ‎(madar).

English shirt is cognate with English skirt, short, and curt ... all of these are descended from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)ker-, meaning ‘to cut’.

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