Root or Route – How to Use Each Correctly

root versus route

What is the Difference Between Root and Route?

Root and route are two English homophones. What this means is they have the same pronunciation but different definitions.

Both words can act as either nouns or verbs, but they have no overlap in meaning.

Root usually has to do with the underground part of a plant, although there are a few additional meanings.

  • Don’t damage the roots of the tree while transplanting it. They are necessary for the tree to get water.

Route has to do with a way that someone or something will go, or a path.

  • The map shows several routes to the castle, but this one looks the fastest.

Now, let’s go over the specific ways each of these words are used.

Using Root in a Sentence

When to use root: Root can act as a noun to mean the base of a plant that brings in water. However, it can also be used for the base of a hair follicle, or in an abstract way to talk about the base or source of a thing such as a problem.

As a verb, root means to pull up a plant by the roots or to remove completely. It can also mean to establish oneself firmly in an area or to cheer for a sports team.

For example,

  • This soil has great nutrients for the flowers’ roots. (Noun)
  • You never study! That is the root of your bad grades! (noun)
  • You must root out these weeds completely, otherwise they will just grow back again. (verb)
  • Although he wasn’t from here originally, he has rooted himself deeply into this town. (verb)

Phrases That Use Root

There are a couple different expressions using root.

For example,

  • to take root: This can be literal, to grow roots, but the metaphorical meaning is for an idea to grow and become established.
    • After people learned that the teacher had hit the student, a plan for revenge began to take root.
  • root and branch: all of something
    • We must destroy the rebel insurrection root and branch!

Using Route in a Sentence

When to use route: Route can also function as a noun or a verb.

When it’s used as a noun, route refers to the directions to get from one place to another.

When it’s used as a verb, route means to send something in a specific direction.

For example,

  • There are two routes to get to my hometown. One route is fast but boring. The other route is slow but very scenic. (Noun)
  • I’m moving, so here is my forwarding address. Please route all mail from my old address to my new address. (Verb)

Phrases That Use Route

There are several expressions and collocations that use route.

  • en route: on the way, already started on the route but not yet finished.
    • We’re running a little late, but we are en route.
  • along the route: visible on the side of the route.
    • There are so many beautiful wildflowers along the route to the national park.
  • route 66: a famous highway that people reference often in songs and other pop culture.
    • Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in the United States.

Remembering Root vs. Route

There’s an easy way to keep track of these two words using their spelling.

Root ends in oot just like the word foot. Also, roots are like the foot of a plant.

Route has the word out within it. To go on a trip, you must go out. You can’t stay inside your home. More specifically, you must go out and find a route.

Outside Examples

  • Just look at Uber, where a lack of oversight allowed a culture of bullying and harassment to take root. –LA Times
  • “Cracks in the foundation of a home are not always visible, but could be the root cause of potential flooding or plumbing issues,” said Glovan. –USA Today
  • Running the G train through the F line adds to an already congested route. –New York Daily News
  • Perhaps the most photogenic location is the Dark Hedges, a roadway leading to Gracehill House with a tree canopy that was planted in the 1700s by the Stuart family. In Season 2, a disguised Arya Stark is seen escaping King’s Landing via the route, known as the Kingsroad. –New York Post

Quiz: Route vs. Root

  • We are all going to the game on Friday to _______ for our team.
  • I’m lost. Can you explain the _________ to me one more time?
  • The tour bus got stuck in a traffic jam while en ____________ to the concert.

Article Summary

Should I use root or route? These two homophones sound the same when spoken, but they are never interchangeable.

  • A root is the underground base of a plant, or the action of taking a plant (or something abstract) out completely.
  • Route is the path from one place to another, or the action of sending something to a location.

Quiz Answers

  • root
  • route
  • route