Last week, I tried to separate the words compliment and complement, since we English-speakers often mix them up. It was a Word Nerd fail, since they come from the same root words…

 But not today!

 Today, I’m going to separate affect and effect. I always have to think twice when I use one of those words, don’t you? But the excellent derivation information from my handy-dandy Webster’s New World College Dictionary has come to the rescue.


Affect comes from the Latin word affectare, “to strive after,” which comes from afficere, “to influence, attack.” These words were made by combining ad- (meaning “to”) and facere (“to do”).

When you affect something, you are doing something to it, influencing it. It is a verb, and only a verb (unless you are obsolete, a psychologist, or an obsolete psychologist—but that’s a different story).

[ Bonus: You can also use affect as in “to like to have use, wear” (a farmer affects overalls), or as in “to make a pretense of being, having, feeling, liking, etc.” (she affects misery, but she really enjoys it)]


Effect also comes from facere, “to do,” but it took a different turn when the Romans added ex-out” in front of it.  [Ex- changes to ef- in front of the letter f, remember]. The resulting word, efficere, means “to bring to pass, accomplish.

But effect is almost always a NOUN. The Webster’s New World College Dictionary lists its first meaning as “anything brought about by a cause or agent; result.”

Simple as cause and effect!

Anything that comes out of an action is an effect of that action. In other words:

First you affect something, then you have the effects.

And that’s the Word Nerd difference.

[BONUS: Our word “do” comes from the same Indo-European base dhe as does facere…only “do” took a trip through Sanskrit and German instead of Latin to get to English]

 WORD NERD CHALLENGE: How many words can you come up with using the Latin root facere? I look forward to seeing your comments!