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Why is a square root also called a radical?

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3 Answers

"A radical is a root of a number. A square root is a radical. Roots can be square roots, cube roots, fourth roots and so on."

http://www.wyzant.com/help/math/algebra/square_roots_and_radicals

Hope this is of some help! :)

-Jay

Comments

A radical is actually the square root symbol.  A leading superscript number can indicate a higher order root, such as a cube root, fourth root, etc.   3√ indicates a cube root. The dictionary doesn't show a source root word for this definition of the word radical, so I don't know where it comes from or why it's called that. Most English words are derived from Latin, Greek or ancient Middle European languages.

I guess I should have also pointed out that while the radical is the symbol, the math operation is taking a root. The operation doesn't have two names. You can think of "subtraction" and "minus sign" as a parallel.

Comment

I am not surprised you are confused, because it is a new term for an old operation.   We did not use the term "radical" in my math classes back in the 1950's or 1960's for anything.   Take the "square root," "cube root,"or "nth root" operations were both concise and consistent with each other.

Jay, that's a great resource! This concept is kind of like "all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares."