Word Confusion: Root vs Rout vs Route

Posted March 23, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

“A dark tale full of the pain and devastation of war…and a couple of wounded protagonists worth routing for.” – Locus

Okay…routing for — defeat, poke, rabble, retreat, rummage, force… I don’t think so. The closest rout comes to root is to root something out, disturb it from the ground. Hmmm, did they use a proofreader?

Well, that’s rout. Root is the base of something, whether its a plant, family, or some type of origin. Route is the way.

If you can legitimately make worth routing for work with that quote above, let me know, and you may want to look at the phrasal verbs below before you spend too much time on it.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Root Rout Route
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: rout

 A scenic photo taken near Madison, Wisconsin of a red pine (Pinus resinosa).

“Wisconsin Scenery” is Emery’s own work under the CC BY-SA 2.5 license, via Wikimedia Commons

The setting is gorgeous, but those roots are rather scary looking.

Dancers at a rout

“Dancing at The Gaskell Ball” by Argyriou at English Wikipedia is under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Dancers at this rout are dancing “Strip The Willow”.


“Garden – Panoramio” is by Mark A Coleman under the CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Follow the brick route through the garden.

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1, 2;
Verb 1, 2, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: roots
Past tense or past participle: rooted
Gerund or present participle: rooting

Noun 3, 4;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 3, 5, 6

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: routs
Past tense or past participle: routed
Gerund or present participle: routing

Noun; Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: routes
Past tense or past participle: routed
Gerund or present participle: routeing

The part of a plant that 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 fibers 1

  • The persistent underground part of a plant, especially when fleshy and enlarged and used as a vegetable
  • Any plant grown for its edible root
  • The embedded part of a bodily organ or structure such as a hair, tooth, or nail
  • The part of a thing attaching it to a greater or more fundamental whole
  • The end or base

The basic cause, source, or origin of something

  • The essential substance or nature of something
  • [Roots] Family, ethnic, or cultural origins, especially as the reasons for one’s long-standing emotional attachment to a place or community
  • [As adjective roots] Denoting or relating to something, especially music, from a particular ethnic or cultural origin, especially a non-Western one
  • [In biblical use] A scion
    • A descendant
  • [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
  • [Music] The fundamental note of a chord

[Mathematics] A number or quantity that when multiplied by itself, typically a specified number of times, gives a specified number or quantity

  • Short for square root, √
  • A value of an unknown quantity satisfying a given equation
  • [Computing; often as modifier] A user account with full and unrestricted access to a system

[In singular] An act of rooting 2

Verb, intransitive:
Cause a plant or cutting to grow roots 1

  • [Of a plant or cutting] Establish roots

[Of an animal] Turn up the ground with its snout in search of food 2

  • Search unsystematically through an untidy mass or area
  • Rummage

Verb, transitive:
Cause a plant or cutting to grow roots 1

[Usually be rooted] Establish deeply and firmly

  • [Be rooted in] Have as an origin or cause
  • [Often as adjective rooted] Cause someone to stand immobile through fear or amazement
  • [Computing] Gain access to the root account of a smartphone or computer

[Of an animal] Turn up the ground with its snout in search of food 2

  • [Root something out] Find or extract something by rummaging
A disorderly retreat of defeated troops 3

  • A decisive or overwhelming defeat

[Law; dated] An assembly of people who have made a move toward committing an illegal act that would constitute an offense of riot 4

  • [Archaic] A disorderly or tumultuous crowd of people
  • A noisy rabble

[British; archaic] A large evening party or reception

Verb, intransitive:
To root 4

To poke, search, or rummage

[Archaic] To snore

Verb, transitive:
Defeat and cause to retreat in disorder 3

[Usually followed by out] To force or drive out

Cut a groove, or any pattern not extending to the edges, in a wooden or metal surface 5

Another term for root 2, 6

  • Find someone or something or force them from a place
A way or course taken in getting from a starting point to a destination

  • The line of a road, path, railroad, etc.
  • [North American] A circuit traveled in delivering, selling, or collecting goods
  • A method or process leading to a specified result

Verb, transitive:
Send or direct along a specified course

Cacti have deep and spreading roots.

Those tree roots can be quite invasive.

We’ve got a good crop of turnips and carrots this year.

Her hair was fairer at the roots.

Love of money is the root of all evil.

Jealousy was at the root of it.

Her stupidity was the root cause of the problem.

There were matters at the heart and root of existence.

It’s always nice to return to my roots.

“The increasing influence of the Rastafari movement after the visit of Haile Selassie to Jamaica in 1966 played a major part in the development of roots reggae” (Roots Reggae).

“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (The Revelation of St John the Divine 5:5).

Many European words stem from this linguistic root.

Torture is the root form of the word torturous.

“In inverted triads, the root is directly above the interval of a fourth, in inverted sevenths, it is directly above the interval of a second (Root (Chord)).

The roots of the equation differ by an integer.

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.

I had a root through the open drawers, but couldn’t find anything.

Verb, intransitive:
Large trees had rooted in the canal bank.

Stray dogs were rooting around for bones and scraps.

She was rooting through a pile of papers.

Verb, transitive:
It’s easy to root your own cuttings from stock plants.

Vegetarianism is rooted in Indian culture.

The Latin dubitare is rooted in an Indo-European word.

She found herself rooted to the spot in disbelief.

We explained how to manually root almost any Android device.

He managed to root out the cleaning kit.

The retreat degenerated into a rout.

The army was in a state of demoralization verging on rout.

The party lost more than half their seats in the rout.

The police managed to halt the rout before it progressed to a riot.

The army was in a state of demoralization verging on rout.

The party lost more than half their seats in the rout.

It was a rout of strangers who ought not to be admitted.

Lady Hennington beamed with delight at the success of her rout.

Verb, intransitive:
That damn Henry’s pigs were routing in the garden again.

She routed through his briefcase, looking for evidence.

Verb, transitive:
In a matter of minutes, the attackers were routed.

Bob routed each plank all along its length.

Simon routed him from the stable.

They routed him out of bed at midnight.

The most direct route is via Los Angeles.

The path follows a route that goes over hill and under dale.

They chose the route for the railroad partly through bribery and partly through common sense.

Mary Ellen’s sales route took her through the midwestern states.

The many routes to a healthier diet will be described later in the book.

Verb, transitive:
All lines of communication were routed through Atlanta.
We’ll have to re-route the tour to get around the flooding.

The post office is pretty reliable about routing mail to its proper destination.

Adjective: rootless, rootlike, rootsy, rooty
Noun: root ball, root-knot, rootball, rootedness, rooter, rootkit, rootlessness, rootlet, rootkit, rootstock, rootworm,
Verb: rootle
Noun: router Verb, transitive: misroute, misrouted, misrouting, preroute, prerouted, prerouting, reroute, rerouted, rerouting
Phrasal Verb
root something out
root something up
root for
root someone on
History of the Word:
1 Late Old English rōt, from the Old Norse rót is related to the Latin radix, also to wort.

2 Old English wrōtan is of Germanic origin and related to Old English wrōt meaning snout, the German Rüssel meaning snout, and perhaps ultimately to the Latin rodere meaning gnaw.

3 Middle English is ultimately based on the Latin ruptus meaning broken, which is from the verb rumpere (the verb is late 16th century) are from the obsolete French route, probably from the Italian rotta meaning breakup of an army.

4 Middle English and ultimately based on the Latin ruptus meaning broken, which is from the verb rumpere and via the Anglo-Norman French rute.

5 Early 19th century.

6 Mid-16th century is an alteration of the verb root 2.

Middle English from the Old French rute meaning road is from the Latin rupta (via) meaning broken (way); it is the feminine past past participle of rumpere.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Roadside Attractions | Route 66” is a post by Forward Look at Chrysler.com.