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“Root”, “Route”, “Rout”: What’s the Difference?

Updated on May 26, 2023Grammar

What do sports and agriculture have in common? One is an activity that provides endless hours of excitement and entertainment for people around the world to enjoy, and the other one is sports. But bad jokes aside, sports and agriculture indeed have one thing in common—rooting. In sports, rooting is something one would do at a ball game, and in agriculture, rooting is something plants do so they can live and thrive. And that would be the end of it, if there weren’t two more words that are commonly confused with rootroute, and rout

Root means to cheer for a sports team, the underground part of the plant, and to dig something up with a snout.

Route is a way from one place to another.

Rout is to defeat decisively, but is also used instead of root in some senses—after all, rout originated from root.

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Root definition and how to use it in a sentence

Root, when used as a noun, has multiple meanings. All of them are derived from the basic one: the underground part of a plant. Other meanings include “the cause” or “the part of something that’s attached to something else.”

The root of the fascination this disaster inspires is in that sense of separateness, of a people forcibly driven apart.


He explained that when mammal teeth grow, the enamel emerges from the root area and “races outward in all directions,” creating a 3D shape that may be better at keeping water inside.

—Scientific American

When used as a verb, root has the meaning of growing roots, but also of being based on something, removing with the roots, cheering loudly, and digging things up with a snout:

Rooted in Love means standing strong, with both feet on the ground, in the face of injustice and bigotry.

—The Huffington Post

She denounced the department’s “toxic, macho culture” and vowed to root out “the bad apples.”

—CBS Local

On the flip side, it might be a little hard to convince fans to root for a bunch of losers.

—ABC News

And their relentless rooting for food destroys crops while laying the way for invasive plants like fennel and the comely-but-devastating strawberry guava, whose impenetrable thickets choke out native forests.


Route definition and how to use it in a sentence

Route, pronounced as either ROOT or ROWT, is a word which, when used a noun, means a way between two places:

Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice.

—C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

When used as a verb, route means to dispatch someone, or something, on a selected route:

He then took $600,000 in NASA grant money awarded for math and science programs to an education nonprofit he controlled and routed it through his consultant to pay the balance, Kravis told jurors.

—Business Insider

Rout definition and how to use it in a sentence

Rout, pronounced ROWT, is the noun we use when we want to say that something is in retreat in a disorderly fashion, or is in a state of confusion:

Last year, the price rout continued in a slew of global commodity markets—oil, gold, silver, base metals, lumber and more.

—The Globe and Mail

When used as a verb, rout means to cause someone to retreat in a disorderly fashion or to defeat someone.

Just what the doctor ordered: Murray routs Karlovic to reach fourth round in Paris.

—Tennis Magazine

The last act was to infect me with nightmares and paranoid delusions that would take years of therapy and metabolism-wrecking medications to rout out.

—Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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