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Instruction 1-2


Idioms, Analogies, Metaphors and Similes | Roots and Affixes | Word Meanings | Summary

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ceasar Roots and Affixes
CA GR8 R 1.2 & 1.3

Now that you know a little about how words are used, it's time to learn a little about how words are made. Many of our words come to us from Greek or Latin, the languages of ancient Greece and Rome. They don't come to us complete; they come in parts. Those parts are called roots and affixes. There are two different kinds of affixes: prefixes and suffixes.

In this instruction you're going to learn about word parts. If you can understand one part of a word, you can often figure out what the whole word means.


Here's how it usually works:

The part at the beginning of a word is the prefix. 
The part in the middle is the root. 
And the part at the end is the suffix.


In the original Greek or Latin, prefixes were words that stood alone. In English, they are usually adverbs or prepositions that can't be used alone. Here is a list of some common prefixes and how they combine with roots to make words:

Prefix Meaning Example
a without agnostic (without knowledge)
ab* away from abnormal (away from normal)
ad to adhere (to stick to)
ambi both ambidextrous (using both hands)
auto self autotoxin (self poisoning)
con with consent (with agreement)
epi on epidermis (outer layer of skin)
infra below infrastructure (below a structure)
*  ab is also sometimes considered a word root 


When it comes to figuring out unfamiliar words, it's often the root that gives you the best clue. Take the word epidermis, for example "epi," as the list above shows, is a prefix meaning "on." "Derm" is a root which means "skin." So the word epidermis means "on the skin" or "the outer layer of skin." Here's a brief list of some other word roots:

Root  Meaning Word Example
anthrop man anthropology (the study of man)
auto  self autotoxin (self poisoning)
brev  short abbreviate (to shorten)
chthon earth  chthonic (Greek myth: Underworld)
omni all omnipotent (all powerful)
pedo child pediatrician (children's doctor)
pnea respiration dyspnea (shortness of breath)
psyche mind, soul psychology (study of the mind)
tox poison toxic (poisonous)


Suffixes come at the end of words, usually joined to roots by connecting vowels. Here are some common suffixes: 

Suffix Meaning Word Example
able capable edible (capable of being eaten)
an, ian native of African (native of Africa)
en made of silken (made of silk)
ful  full of frightful (full of fright)
ic like metallic (like metal)
ish resembling foolish (resembling a fool)
ist one who does artist (one who does art)
logy study psychology (study of the mind)
ous full of nervous (full of nerves)
y inclined toward cheery (inclined toward cheer)

Put it All Together

Put prefixes, suffixes and roots together and you end up with words. Keep in mind that not all words have three word parts. Some words have just a root and prefix. Others have a root and suffix. Others are made up of two roots. Sometimes a root stands alone. And, of course, a lot of our words don't even come from Greek or Latin. Many have Anglo-Saxon origins.

Just for fun, let's take one big, weird, wonderful word and divide it into all its word parts.

"Anthropomorphism." We can break it apart like this:

anthrop - o - morph - ism

  • As you saw on the list, the root "anthrop" means "man."
  • Next there's a connecting vowel - "o."
  • Then another root: "morph," which means "change into."
  • And finally, "ism," a suffix which means "the manner or condition of."dog

Using the definitions of each word part you can define anthropomorphism as: "the manner or condition of giving nonhuman things a human form or characteristic." Like when a robot car turns into an action figure. Or when you insist that your dog can talk or smile.dictionary

For useful  information on word parts and how they go together, check out the web sites on the links page. And don't forget the word's best friend -- your dictionary!


Video Instruction
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for Students, Parents and Teachers

Now let's do Practice Exercise 1-2 (top).


Next Page:  Word Meanings (top)