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|
|aud||to hear||audience, audition|
|cent||one hundred||century, percent|
|dict||to say||dictation, dictator|
|duc/duct||to lead||conduct, induce|
|fac||to do; to make||factory, manufacture|
|fract||to break||fracture, fraction|
|mit||to send||transmit, admit|
|port||to carry||portable, transportation|
|rupt||to break||bankrupt, disruption|
|scrib/scribe||to write||inscription, prescribe|
|sect/sec||to cut||bisect, section|
|sent||to feel; to send||consent, resent|
|spect||to look||inspection, spectator|
|struct||to build||destruction, restructure|
|vid/vis||to see||video, televise|
|voc||voice; to call||vocalize, advocate|
Download a copy of the Common Greek Roots chart below.
|Common Greek Roots|
|anthropo||man; human; humanity||anthropologist, philanthropy|
|dys||bad; hard; unlucky||dysfunctional, dyslexic|
|gram||thing written||epigram, telegram|
|hypo||below; beneath||hypothermia, hypothetical|
|logy||study of||biology, psychology|
|morph||form; shape||morphology, morphing|
|psycho||soul; spirit||psychology, psychic|
|scope||viewing instrument||microscope, telescope|
|techno||art; science; skill||technique, technological|
|tele||far off||television, telephone|
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.
|dis-||not; opposite of||discover|
|en-, em-||cause to||enact, empower|
|fore-||before; front of||foreshadow, forearm|
|in-, im-||in||income, impulse|
|in-, im-, il-, ir-||not||indirect, immoral, illiterate, irreverent|
|over-||over; too much||overeat|
|semi-||half; partly; not fully||semifinal|
|un-||not; opposite of||unusual|
|under-||under; too little||underestimate|
Download a copy of the Common Suffixes chart below.
|-able, -ible||is; can be||affordable, sensible|
|-al, -ial||having characteristics of||universal, facial|
|-ed||past tense verbs; adjectives||the dog walked,|
the walked dog
|-er, -or||one who;|
person connected with
|-ic||having characteristics of||poetic|
|-ion, -tion, -ation,|
|act; process||submission, motion,|
|-ity, -ty||state of||activity, society|
|-ive, -ative, |
|adjective form of noun|| active, comparative,|
|-ly||how something is||lovely|
|-ment||state of being; act of||contentment|
|-ness||state of; condition of||openness|
|-ous, -eous, -ious||having qualities of||riotous, courageous,|
|-s, -es||more than one||trains, trenches|
McEwan, E.K. (2008). The reading puzzle: Word analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
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