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The Vocabulary of Science


The Vocabulary of Science

Science learning involves lots of new vocabulary words. Focusing on root words, prefixes and suffixes can help your child learn new science words more quickly and become a word detective!

Science learning involves lots of new vocabulary words. When helping your child learn new science words, focus on words that allow you to teach more than just that one word. This can be done by considering a word’s morphemes.

A morpheme is a meaningful part or unit of a word that can’t be divided into smaller parts. It isn’t important that your child know the word morpheme itself, but it is helpful for your child to learn that words may be related if they share a morpheme. There are different types of morphemes, including root words, prefixes and suffixes.

Below you’ll find some science words, their morphemes, and some related words.

Common science words and morphemes

Science wordMorpheme (meaning)Related words
PhotosynthesisPhoto (light)Photography, photograph
ThermometerTherm (heat)Thermos
MicroscopeMicro (small), scope (see)Microwave, stethoscope
GeologyGeo (earth)Geode, Geometry
GraphGraph (write)Autograph, bar graph

How do I use this information?

Using morphemes helps you teach more about word meanings and families of related words. If they learn, for example, that micro means small and scope means see, they can figure out that a microscope is an instrument scientists use that helps individuals to see small objects. Once your child recognizes the meaning of a morpheme, she can use that information to learn other new words. When you’re reading and you come across another word that shares a morpheme, you can help your child make a connection. “The boy in this story is using a periscope to see over a fence. What do you think a periscope might be? How is that related to the word microscope?”

It isn’t necessary to break apart each new word into its morphemic parts. Try to focus just on the words for which you can develop a few related words. You and your child will have fun building your word families together.

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