Root Words in English
Many of the words we speak in English are made up of Latin and Greek words, but we have added prefixes and suffixes to them. Prefixes and suffixes are known as affixes.
The original word, before you add the affixes, is known as a root word. A root word can stand on its own as a complete word. For example the word reform. Re- is the prefix, and form is the root word. Form, by itself, is still a word. A root, on the other hand, does not typically make up a complete word on its own. For example, transmit. The trans is the prefix meaning across, and mit is the root meaning “to send.”
Now, let’s take a look at what prefixes and suffixes actually are.
Words can be long and difficult at times, but understanding root words and the affixes can help you to understand the meaning of those long words and make them less scary.
New words can be made by adding a prefix before or a suffix after a root or root word.
When an affix is added before the root or root word, it is called a prefix. A helpful way to remember this is by looking at the word prefix itself. Pre means “before,” and a prefix comes before the root or root word.
A prefix often changes the meaning of a word. For instance, the word usual just means that something is customary or habitual. However, when you add the prefix un-, meaning “not” or “opposite of,” to the beginning, it changes the meaning of the word. Now, we have the word unusual, which means that something is not usual, not common, or is rare. Prefixes have definitions of their own, so when we add them onto a root word or root, we have to understand that the meaning of the word has been modified.
Now, an affix that is added to the end of a root or root word is called a suffix. Unlike a prefix, a suffix typically does not change the meaning of the word, at least not in a major way. Instead, a suffix typically adds more specification. For instance, if I say that someone is tall, you think of a person who is above the average or normal height. However, when I say someone is taller, I’m letting you know that a person is tall in comparison to another person, but they may not be tall in general.
Take a look:
Mark is tall.
Mark is taller than Jeff.
The meaning of the word is still referring to the height of a person or an object, but adding the suffix has changed the specification.
A suffix can add plurality, which just means that there are more than one of something. The most popular suffixes are -s and -es. These are examples of suffixes that add plurality. I actually just did this with the word suffix. When I just say “suffix,” I am letting you know that there is only one, but when I say “suffixes,” I’ve added plurality, letting you know that there is more than one.
Words can have a prefix, root or root word, and suffix all in one.
Let’s look at the word destruction
De- is the prefix meaning “opposite.” Struct is the Latin root meaning “to build,” and -ion is the suffix meaning “act or process.” Understanding the meaning of prefixes, roots or root words, and suffixes helps us to understand the proper meaning of a word. With our definition of the prefix, root, and suffix, in the word destruction, we can see that the opposite of building is happening.
There are thousands of roots and root words out there that are used in the English language. There are fewer prefixes and suffixes combined than there are roots and root words. Practice finding the prefixes, roots and root words, and suffixes in the words you use in class and at home.
The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to understand the meaning of words that you have never even heard of.
I hope this video on prefixes, roots and root words, and suffixes was helpful for you!
See you next time!