Root Words, Roots and Affixes


Familiarity with Greek and Latin roots, as well as prefixes and suffixes, can help students understand the meaning of new words. This article includes many of the most common examples.


Many English words are formed by taking basic words and adding combinations of prefixes and suffixes to them. A basic word to which affixes (prefixes and suffixes) are added is called a root word because it forms the basis of a new word. The root word is also a word in its own right. For example, the word lovely consists of the word love and the suffix -ly.

In contrast, a root is the basis of a new word, but it does not typically form a stand-alone word on its own. For example, the word reject is made up of the prefix re- and the Latin root ject, which is not a stand-alone word.

Common Latin and Greek roots

Download a copy of the Common Latin Roots chart below.

Common Latin Roots
Latin RootDefinitionExamples
ambibothambiguous, ambidextrous
aquawateraquarium, aquamarine
audto hearaudience, audition
benegoodbenefactor, benevolent
centone hundredcentury, percent
circumaroundcircumference, circumstance
contra/counteragainstcontradict, encounter
dictto saydictation, dictator
duc/ductto leadconduct, induce
facto do; to makefactory, manufacture
formshapeconform, reform
fortstrengthfortitude, fortress
fractto break fracture, fraction
jectthrow projection, rejection
judjudgejudicial, prejudice
malbadmalevolent, malefactor
matermothermaterial, maternity
mitto sendtransmit, admit
mortdeathmortal, mortician
multimanymultimedia, multiple
paterfatherpaternal, paternity
port to carryportable, transportation
ruptto break bankrupt, disruption
scrib/scribeto write inscription, prescribe
sect/secto cutbisect, section
sent to feel; to sendconsent, resent
spectto lookinspection, spectator
structto builddestruction, restructure
vid/visto see video, televise
vocvoice; to call vocalize, advocate

Download a copy of the Common Greek Roots chart below.

Common Greek Roots
Greek RootDefinitionExamples
anthropoman; human; humanityanthropologist, philanthropy
autoselfautobiography, automobile
biolifebiology, biography
chrontimechronological, chronic
dynapowerdynamic, dynamite
dysbad; hard; unluckydysfunctional, dyslexic
gramthing writtenepigram, telegram
graphwritinggraphic, phonograph
heterodifferentheteronym, heterogeneous
homosamehomonym, homogenous
hydrwaterhydration, dehydrate
hypobelow; beneathhypothermia, hypothetical
logystudy of biology, psychology
meter/metrmeasure thermometer, perimeter
microsmallmicrobe, microscope
mis/misohatemisanthrope, misogyny
monoonemonologue, monotonous
morphform; shapemorphology, morphing
nymname antonym, synonym
phillovephilanthropist, philosophy
phobiafearclaustrophobia, phobic
phon soundphone, symphony
photo/phoslight photograph, phosphorous
pseudofalse pseudonym, pseudoscience
psychosoul; spiritpsychology, psychic
scopeviewing instrumentmicroscope, telescope
technoart; science; skilltechnique, technological
telefar offtelevision, telephone
thermheat thermal, thermometer


One method of understanding the meanings of new words is to analyze the different parts of the word and the meanings of those parts. Many new words are formed by adding an affix to the beginning or end of a Latin or Greek root or root word. When affixes are added to the beginning of roots or root words, they are called prefixes For example, the most common prefix is un-, which meant not oropposite of. If you add un- to the word happy, the new word becomes unhappy, which means not happy. When affixes are added to the end of roots or root words, they are called suffixes. The most common suffixes are -s and -es, which mean more than one (or the plural) of the word. Adding -es to wish, changes the meaning o the word to more than one wish.

Download a copy of the Common Prefixes chart below.

Common Prefixes
dis-not; opposite ofdiscover
en-, em-cause toenact, empower
fore-before; front offoreshadow, forearm
in-, im-inincome, impulse
in-, im-, il-, ir-notindirect, immoral, illiterate, irreverent
inter-between; amonginterrupt
over-over; too muchovereat
pre-before preview
re-again rewrite
semi-half; partly; not fullysemifinal
super-above; beyondsuperhuman
un-not; opposite ofunusual
under-under; too littleunderestimate

Download a copy of the Common Suffixes chart below.

Common Suffixes
-able, -ibleis; can beaffordable, sensible
-al, -ialhaving characteristics ofuniversal, facial
-edpast tense verbs; adjectivesthe dog walked,
the walked dog
-enmade ofgolden
-er, -orone who;
person connected with
teacher, professor
-estthe mosttallest
-fulfull ofhelpful
-ichaving characteristics ofpoetic
-ingverb forms;
present participles
-ion, -tion, -ation,
act; processsubmission, motion,
relation, edition
-ity, -tystate ofactivity, society
-ive, -ative,
adjective form of noun active, comparative,
-lesswithout hopeless
-lyhow something islovely
-mentstate of being; act ofcontentment
-nessstate of; condition ofopenness
-ous, -eous, -ioushaving qualities ofriotous, courageous,
-s, -esmore than onetrains, trenches
-ycharacterized bygloomy

McEwan, E.K. (2008). The reading puzzle: Word analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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