This list contains some of the common roots and prefixes that make
up the building blocks of numerous English words. Following the table
of general roots and prefixes is a table of number prefixes.
The very words prefix and suffix are good examples, too. Pre means before and fix means to fasten or attach, so quite literally, a prefix is something attached to the beginning of something else. Suf is a variant of sub, below or under, so a suffix is something fastened underneath something else (in this case, behind the root).
By learning the common roots and prefixes (and a few
will be able to discern the meaning of many new words almost
immediately. (But do look them up for confirmation.) Take the word abject, for example. If you know
that ab means away or down and ject means to throw, you can easily figure
out that abject doesn't mean
something happy. Rather abject's
root meaning of thrown down
is quite close to the dictionary defintion of cast down in spirit or sunk into depression.
Now that you have learned that ject
means to throw, think how
many words you can define almost immediately: reject, project, inject,
subject, eject, and so on. Roots are a real key to understanding the
meaning of new words you come across in your reading.
Note that some modern words are formed by using abbreviated forms of other words. Thus, we see the use of the letter i for Internet in iPhone, iPod, iPad, and iTunes, indicating that these items or services work with the Internet. Similarly, the use of e for electronic appears in words such as elearning (and various forms: eLearning, E-Learning, and so on), e-commerce, and e-business. The "e-terms" seem to have been coined before the "i-terms" became popular. And note that most of the "i-terms" are trademarks, while the others are general descriptors: "I'm going to download some iTunes from Apple's e-commerce site because I love e-music." At any rate, these abbreviated forms are not traditional prefixes, but because they are indeed attached to the front of what amounts to root words, they could be considered functional prefixes.
Enjoy this list, together with the discovery of new words and the secret code behind much of the English language.
When you are ready, try the Word Roots
Worksheet 1 to see how well you understand how roots and prefixes
Then try Word Roots Worksheet 2 for more fun.
And for a number challenge, try the Number Prefixes Worksheet. You'll love it.
Want to turn these roots into vocabulary learning?
Learn creatively! See Creative Ways to Learn Vocabulary Words. It's really fun. I'm not kidding.
|Root or Prefix||Meaning||Examples|
|a, an||not, without||atheist, anarchy, anonymous apathy, aphasia, anemia, atypical, anesthesia|
|ab||away, down, from, off||absent, abduction, aberrant, abstemious, abnormal, abstract, absorb|
|acro||high, tip, top||acrobat, acrophobia, acronym,
|act||do, move||action, react, transaction, proactive, activity, activation, deactivate|
|ad||to, toward||admit, addition, advertisement, adherent, admonish, address, adhesive, adept, adjust|
|alt||high||altitude, altimeter, alto, contralto, altocumulus, exalt
|ambul||to walk||ambulatory, amble, ambulance, somnambulist, perambulate, preamble|
|anima||soul, life||animation, inanimate, animal, anime, equanimity, animism, animus|
|ante||before||anteroom, antebellum, antedate antecedent, antediluvian|
|anti, ant||against, opposite||antisocial, antiseptic, antithesis, antibody, antichrist, antinomies, antifreeze, antipathy, antigen, antibiotic, antidote, antifungal, antidepressant|
|arm||weapon||army, armament, disarm, rearm, armistice, armor, armory, arms|
|audi||to hear||audience, auditory, audible, auditorium, audiovisual, audition, audiobook|
|auto||self||automobile, automatic, autograph, autonomous, autoimmune, autopilot, autobiography|
|be||thoroughly||bedecked, besmirch, besprinkled, begrudge, begrime, belie, bemoan|
|bell||war||belligerent, antebellum, bellicose, rebel|
|bene||good, well||benefactor, beneficial, benevolent, benediction, beneficiary, benefit|
|bi||two||bicycle, bifocals, biceps, billion, binary, bivalve, bimonthly, bigamy, bimetal, biathlete, bicarbonate|
|bio||life, living||biology, biography, biodiversity, bioavailability, bioflavonoid, biofuel, biohazard, biomass, biorhythm|
|cede, ceed, cess||to go, to yield||succeed, proceed, precede, recede, secession, exceed, succession, excess|
|chron||time||chronology, chronic, chronicle, chronometer, anachronism|
|cide, cis||to kill, to cut||fratricide, suicide, incision,
excision, circumcision, precise, concise, precision, homicide,
|circum||around||circumnavigate, circumflex, circumstance, circumcision, circumference, circumorbital, circumlocution, circumvent, circumscribe, circulatory|
|clud, clus claus||to close||include, exclude, clause, claustrophobia, enclose, exclusive, reclusive, conclude, preclude|
|con, com||with, together||convene, compress, contemporary,
converge, compact, confluence, concatenate, conjoin, combine, convert,
compatible, consequence, contract
|contra, counter||against, opposite||contradict,
contrary, counterspy, contrapuntal, contraband, contraception,
contrast, controversy, counterfeit, counterclaim, counterargument,
counterclaim, counterpoint, counterrevolution
|cred||to believe||credo, credible, credence, credit, credential, credulity, incredulous, creed, incredible|
|commun||to share||commune, community, communism, communicable, communication, commonality, incommunicado|
|cycl||circle, wheel||bicycle, cyclical, cycle, encliclical, motorcycle, tricycle, cyclone|
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End note: In my second year of Latin in high school, we were required to find twenty-five Latin word roots and for each root to find five English words containing the root. This exercise not only helped to increase my vocabulary, but it gave me a valuable insight into the way many English words are constructed. As technology advances, new words are coined to cover some new idea or thing, and often these words are created from existing roots. A little root knowledge here can therefore help us to begin to understand a new word even before we read about its meaning.
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