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 adapted article includes many of the most common examples.


Many English words are created from Greek or Latin root words. Root words hold the most basic meaning of a word. Most root words need a prefix and/or suffix to create a stand-alone word — for example, the Latin root word aud- meaning “to hear or listen” is not a word on its own, but it is the root of words such as audioaudible, or auditorium. Some root words can be stand-alone words — for example, the Greek root word scope meaning “viewing instrument” in the words microscope and telescope

Common Latin and Greek roots

Download a copy of the Common Latin Roots chart shown 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 shown 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


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.

Download a copy of the Common Prefixes chart shown 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 shown 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
-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

McEwan, E.K. (2008). The Reading Puzzle: Word Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


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