Many words in the English language are formed by taking base words or root words and adding combinations of prefixes and suffixes to them.
A root word is the primary form of a word. While root words may contain the core meaning of the word, they cannot stand alone. For example, “bene” is the root in the word “beneficial.”
A base word is slightly different from a root because a base is the basic form of a word that can stand on its own. For example, “commit” is the base in the word “commitment.” To differentiate the two, just remember that a base can have affixes attached to it, but it does not have to; a root must have an affix (prefix or suffix), or another root, attached to it in order to make it a whole word.
A prefix is a word part that is placed at the beginning of a word to change or enhance its meaning. For example, “dis—” is the prefix of the word “disagree.”
A suffix is a word part that is placed at the end of a word to change or enhance its meaning. For example, “—ful” is the suffix of the word “thankful.”
Most English words are actually derivatives of ancient Greek and Latin words. Knowing Greek and Latin roots is an essential reading comprehension strategy for students because they could determine the meaning of an unknown word if they were familiar with any of the prefixes, suffixes, or root words attached to it. When context clues fail, breaking down words into their smallest parts can ensure your students will be successful.
For example, students might not know what the word “contradict” means, but if they know that “contra” means against and “dict” means speak, they can determine that contradict means: to assert the opposite against what someone has said. Another example is the word “incredulous.” If students know that “in” means not, “cred” means believe, and “ous” means having, then they could conclude incredulous means: not having a readiness to believe things easily.
Greek and Latin word parts are a tool you want your students to have in their academic tool belt because having a strong vocabulary helps students tremendously with reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Below you can find a FREE, downloadable copy of the 300 most commonly used Greek and Latin root words, suffixes, and prefixes. You can choose particular word parts from the list below to use in your classroom or provide students with this comprehensive list to keep for reference.