Root vs. Route – What’s the Difference?

In English, homophones are words that sound alike, but do not mean the same thing.

Route and root are two homophones that many writers confuse. While rout is not a homophone of these words, it is spelled similarly, and only adds to the confusion. If you learn the difference between these three words, your writing will be stronger.

What is the Difference Between Root and Route?

In this article, I will compare root vs. route. I will showcase each of these words in example sentences, so that you can see their proper contexts and meanings.

I will also show you a memory trick that will help you decide whether you need to use root or route in your writing.

When to Use Root

root versus routeWhat does root mean? Root can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, root refers to the underground part of a plant in the literal sense and the source or origin of something in a figurative sense.

Here are some examples,

  • You must pull a weed up by its root; otherwise, it will grow back.
  • The root of the problem is not the despot; it is the populace that believes the despot’s lies.
  • It’s a pungent, gently bitter tropical plant, related to ginger, with bulky, bright orange roots that have been used for centuries in kitchens across Asia, including India, where it is known as haldi. –The New York Times

As a verb, root means to poke or dig about or to plant oneself or establish a foundation.

Here are some examples,

  • I will root out the source of this corruption, and I will exterminate it.
  • Her defense of the criminal is rooted in her belief that he is innocent.

To root for someone is also to cheer them on, like in this sentence,

  • If you rooted for the Chicago Cubs in 2016, you were rewarded with a World Series championship.
  • I will root for my team no matter what.

When to Use Route

Definition of route definition of root definitionWhat does route mean? Route is also a noun. It means a way or road between things or the course one takes on a journey.

For example,

  • I am going to take a road trip on Route 66.
  • The route between anonymity and infamy is littered with the detritus of poor decision-making.

Route, which rhymes with boot, should not be confused with rout, which is a different word, and rhymes with bout.

What to Use Rout

Root for a teamWhat does rout mean? Like route and root, rout can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, rout means a chaotic retreat or a decisive loss, like in this sentence,

  • The French army suffered a rout at the hands of German forces.
  • Kassian turned it into a rout on a partial breakaway for his fourth goal with 16 seconds left, beating Gibson with a phenomenal backhand to the top near corner. –The Washington Post

As a verb, rout takes a similar meaning, namely, to force into chaotic retreat or to beat soundly.

For example,

  • The 2016 Chicago Cubs did not rout the Cleveland Indians, but they beat them nonetheless.

Route or Rout? Remember the Difference

Define route and define rootThere are many meanings to remember between these three words. This task will be easier if you remember that a root is in the ground, and a boot walks on the ground.

By remembering these rhyming words, you will always remember route vs. root.


Is it root or route? While these words sound the same when spoken, they are not interchangeable in text.

  • A route is a road or a routine way of travel.
  • A root is the underground part of a plant or the source of something. To root is to poke or dig around or to cheer for someone.
  • A rout is a chaotic retreat or a decisive loss.
  • To rout is to defeat soundly.

By remembering that roots are in the ground and that boots walk on the ground, you will be able to remember when to use the word root.

If you still need help, you can check this article for a quick refresher.