earth, land

Quick Summary

The Latin root word terr means “earth, land.” This Latin root is the word origin of a good number of English vocabulary words, including terrain, terrarium, and Mediterranean. The Latin root word terr is easily recalled through the English word terrain, for the terrain of an area is what the “earth” or “land” is like there.

Terrific Terra

The Latin root word terr means “earth” or “land.” So that words with terr in them shall “terrify” you not, “land” here for a small amount of time in terr learning territory!

Humans like to have their own territory, or piece of the “earth” in which they and only they live. People can be highly territorial about this “land,” and so they put up physical fences to mark their territory. The more valuable the territory, the better the terrain or general characteristics of the “earth” or “land” in which the territory lies, that is, whether it has mountains, fertile soil, rolling hills, forests, etc. The Mediterranean Sea, for instance, was once the territory of the Romans since they had conquered all the “lands” around it; the word Mediterranean was formed to mean “in the middle of the land” since it lies in the middle of Europe and Africa. All those territories had practically every terrain imaginable!

Have you ever wondered why all the planets are named after Roman gods (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, etc.) except Earth? If you were to look at a scientific map of the solar system, however, you would see Earth referred to as Terra Mater, which came from the Latin goddess of the “Earth.” Terra is a terrestrial planet, or planet made up of solid “land,” such as Venus and Mars. If astronomers were to find life on these other planets they would classify it as extraterrestrial since it would be outside of our own planet “Earth.”

Imagine that you had a tiny terrier, a dog that is so named because its breed hunts animals under the “land,” that is, in burrows. Your terrier is so tiny that it fits into a terrarium, or container which has plants and “earth” in it. The terrier would probably dig into that earth, perhaps to discover if anything had been interred or buried there, that is, put into the “earth.” And, if you didn’t watch out, that terrier might disinter or dig out of that “land” anything buried there!

You can now claim larger linguistic territory with your expanded knowledge of the root word terr!

  1. territory: “land” owned by a person or nation
  2. territorial: of being protective of one’s “land”
  3. terrain: the lay of the “land” in a particular area
  4. Mediterranean: sea in the middle of two “lands,” that is, Africa and Europe
  5. Terra: astronomical name for the planet “Earth”
  6. terrestrial: of the planet “Earth” or belonging to “land” rather than the sea
  7. extraterrestrial: of that which exists beyond planet “Earth”
  8. terrier: a breed of dog which searches for its prey in burrows, that is, inside the “earth”
  9. terrarium: container for “land,” like an aquarium is a container for water
  10. inter: to put into the “earth”
  11. disinter: to take that which has been buried out of or apart from the “earth”


  • disinter

    When a dead body is disinterred, it is dug up.

  • subterranean

    A subterranean place is underground or below the earth, often hidden or secret.

  • terrestrial

    Terrestrial refers to living or growing on the land as opposed to the sea; it can also refer to planet Earth as a whole in comparison with the other planets.

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