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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.

Introduction

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 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 to 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


Download a copy of the Common Greek Roots chart below.

Common Greek Roots
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 thing written epigram, telegram
graph writing graphic, phonograph
hetero different heteronym, heterogeneous
homo same homonym, homogenous
hydr water hydration, dehydrate
hypo below; beneath hypothermia, hypothetical
logy 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 viewing instrument microscope, telescope
techno art; science; skill technique, technological
tele far off television, telephone
therm heat thermal, thermometer

Affixes

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
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


Download a copy of the Common Suffixes chart below.

Common Suffixes
Suffix Definition Examples
-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
-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
sleeping
-ion, -tion, -ation,
-tion
act; process submission, motion,
relation, edition
-ity, -ty state of activity, society
-ive, -ative,
-itive
adjective form of noun active, comparative,
sensitive
-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,
gracious
-s, -es more than one trains, trenches
-y characterized by gloomy

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

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Comments

Those who don't think the lists were sufficient because it didn't help them complete their homework need to grow up. You're right. The lists here aren't the most comprehensive lists you can find online, but this website is for teaching kids to read and those who struggle with reading to read better.You need more roots, suffixes, and affixes so you can finish your homework? Don't rely on someone else to do your work for you. Use a dictionary.

I have found that many roots can also be prefixes or suffixes. Is that correct?

to jbi moved recently and am not in possesion of a dictionary for the time being because it got lost

May be seen as a piece of long road to best learning of english and other languages

As a seventh grade English teacher, I have found that many of my students have forgotten the basic roots and are having issues breaking the words apart to find meaning. These are the most common and will be a great review for my kids - thanks!

This is cool and great for younger children to learn their root words and affixes.

I wonder if the suffix 'ize' creates a verb based on a noun. For example, hospitalize, memorize, harmonize, institutionalize and many other verbs have more to do with the noun on which the ize is added than with the noun's root word.

I teach pro bono at a local school to encourage children to develop their vocabulary by understanding root words, and affixes. Your lists have helped with a foundation for me and my students to build on. Many thanks for the excellent work you have done. I take Grades 6, u and 8, and the children have found this very useful.

This is excellent work, Elaine Many thanks. As you rightly wrote, readers should use this as a starting point and build on it. I created a Power Point presentation with each successive slide adding a root word, its meaning, and the next one adding the example of that root. This enables the children to be challenged to tell the meaning and then the examples. It works very well as it makes the kids think. Thank you so much.

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