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Root Words, Roots and Affixes

Corwin Press

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.

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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 roots

Download a copy of the Common Latin Roots chart below.

Latin Root Definition Examples
ambi both ambiguous, ambidextrous
aqua water aquarium, aquamarine
aud to hear audience, audition
bene good benefactor, benevolent
cent one hundred century, percent
circum around circumference, circumstance
contra / counter against contradict, encounter
dict to say dictation, dictator
duc / duct to lead conduct, induce
fac to do; to make factory, manufacture
form shape conform, reform
fort strength fortitude, fortress
fract break fracture, fraction
ject throw projection, rejection
jud judge judicial, prejudice
mal bad malevolent, malefactor
mater mother material, maternity
mit to send transmit, admit
mort death mortal, mortician
multi many multimedia, multiple
pater father paternal, paternity
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

Common Greek roots

Download a copy of the Common Greek Roots chart below.

Greek Root Definition Examples
anthropo man; human; humanity anthropologist, philanthropy
auto self autobiography, automobile
bio life biology, biography
chron time chronological, chronic
dyna power dynamic, dynamite
dys bad; hard; unlucky dysfunctional, dyslexic
gram the thing that is written epigram, telegram
graph writing graphic, phonograph
hetero different heteronym, heterogeneous
homo same homonym, homogenous
hydr water hydration, dehydrate
hypo below; beneath hypothermia, hypothetical
ology study of biology, psychology
meter / metr measure thermometer, perimeter
micro small microbe, microscope
mis / miso hate misanthrope, misogyny
mono one monologue, monotonous
morph form; shape morphology, morphing
nym name antonym, synonym
phil love philanthropist, philosophy
phobia fear claustrophobia, phobic
phon sound phone, symphony
photo / phos light photograph, phosphorous
pseudo false pseudonym, pseudoscience
psycho soul, spirit psychology, psychic
scope see microscope, telescope
techno art; science; skill technique, technological
tele far off television, telephone
therm heat thermal, thermometer

Affixes: Prefixes and Suffixes

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 or opposite 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.

Common Prefixes

Download a copy of the Common Prefixes chart below.

Prefix Definition Examples
anti- against anticlimax
de- opposite devalue
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
inter- between; among interrupt
mid- middle midfield
mis- wrongly misspell
non- not nonviolent
over- over; too much overeat
pre- before preview
re- again rewrite
semi- half; partly; not fully semifinal
sub- under subway
super- above; beyond superhuman
trans- across transmit
un- not; opposite of unusual
under- under; too little underestimate

Common Suffixes

Download a copy of the Common Suffixes chart below.

Suffix Definition Examples
-able, -ible is; can be affordable, sensible
-al, -ial-ed having characteristics of universal, facial
-ed past tense verbs; adjectives the dog walked,
the walked dog
-en made of golden
-er, -or one who;
person connected with
teacher, professor
-er more taller
-est the most tallest
-ful full of helpful
-ic having characteristics of poetic
-ing verb forms;
present participles
-ion, -tion, -ation,
act; process submission, motion,
relation, edition
-ity, -ty state of activity, society
-ive, -ative,
adjective form of noun active, comparative,
-less without hopeless
-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
-y characterized by gloomy


Publication Date:

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

The Reading Puzzle: Word Analysis