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Latin Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes

Latin Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes

Did you know that the English language is made up of many words derived from other languages? In fact, over 60% of English words are derived from Latin, French, and Greek. This article will explore Latin roots, suffixes, and prefixes. Not sure what they are? No worries, we will look at a definition of each of these terms, along with some examples and English words that use them.

Latin Roots, Suffixes, and Prefixes Definition

It's important to be aware of what roots, prefixes, and suffixes are, as they all help to determine the meaning of words. If you haven't heard of these terms before, here are some definitions and examples:

Roots Definition

A root (also known as a base) refers to the core form of a word. It has a distinct meaning and can make sense on its own.

An example of a root word is 'child.' This word makes sense on its own and has its own definition. Nothing has been added to it.

A root carries most of a word's meaning. Once you learn the root of a word, you will be able to construct new words. For example, take the verb 'slow.' This is a root word. You can add 'ly' to the end to turn it into the adverb 'slowly.' The ending 'ly' is known as a suffix.

Here's a definition of suffix:

Suffix Definition

A suffix refers to a letter or group of letters added to the end of a root word to create a new meaning. Suffixes can be added to a root word for a variety of reasons, such as:

1. To change tense

Take the root word 'paint' (e.g., I paint a picture). To change this to the past tense, you would add the 'ed' suffix, which changes it to 'painted.'

It is important to be aware that the grammar rules in English are not always consistent, and words are not always 'regular.' This means that the suffixes and prefixes added to words will not always be the same or follow the exact same pattern. For example, if you wanted to turn the verb 'run' into the past tense, you would not add an 'ed' suffix, as 'runned' does not make grammatical sense. Instead, you would say 'ran.'

2. To express plurality (more than one of something)

Take the singular root word 'cup.' If you want to make it plural, you would add the suffix 's' at the end, which changes it to 'cups.' This shows there is more than one cup.

The addition of 's/es' suffixes to create a plural does not always work... Take 'sheep' as an example - the plural of 'sheep' is still 'sheep.'

3. To change the word class

Take the root word 'agree' (verb). To change this to an adjective, you would add the suffix 'able,' which changes it to 'agreeable' (adjective).

When 'able' is used, sometimes letters from the root words get dropped. For example, adding 'able' to the root 'adore' does not make it 'adoreable' - instead, it's 'adorable.'

Prefix Definition

A prefix refers to a letter or group of letters added to the beginning of a root word to create a new meaning. Prefixes can be used for a couple of reasons, including:

1. To negate a word (make the meaning negative)

Take the root word 'legal.' To make this negative, you would add the prefix 'il', changing it to 'illegal.'

Latin Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes Negating a word using prefixes StudySmarterFig. 1 - Illegal has negative connotations, whereas legal has positive connotations.

Other prefixes used to create a negative meaning are:

  • in- (e.g., incorrect)

  • im- (e.g., impossible)

  • ir- (e.g., irresponsible)

  • un- (e.g., unimpressed)

  • dis- (e.g., disapprove)

2. To show repetition

Adding the 're' prefix to the root 'do' creates the word 'redo', which means to do something again/more than once.

Sometimes, prefixes can be hyphenated so as to not be misread or mispronounced. This is often the case if the last letter of the prefix and the first letter of the root word are the same. For example, the word 're-enter' is often written with a hyphen - otherwise, it may be pronounced as 'reen-ter.'

Latin Roots, Suffixes, and Prefixes Example

Let's look at some examples of roots, suffixes, and prefixes derived from Latin. Did you know these words came from Latin?

Latin Roots Examples

Latin RootMeaning
AudireTo hear
PacPeace
MensMind
AnnusYear/yearly
CavusHollow
DensusThick
FraterBrother
LinguaLanguage
SolusAlone/only

Latin Suffixes Examples

Latin SuffixMeaning
able/iblecapable/worthy of (used to form adjectives)
ationused to turn verbs into nouns
ty/ityused to turn adjectives into nouns
fy/ifyto cause/make/become (used to form verbs)
mentused to turn verbs into nouns
ic/ticused to create adjectives
ionused to turn verbs into nouns
ariumA place associated with a specified thing.

Latin Prefixes Examples

Did you know the 'pre' in the word 'prefix' is a Latin prefix itself? It derives from the Latin 'prae', which means 'before/prior to.'

Latin PrefixMeaning
co-together
inter-between
dis-not/not any
sub-under
pre-before
post-after
re-again
de-away/off
non-not

Latin Roots, Suffixes, and Prefixes Words

Now that you know some Latin roots, suffixes and prefixes, let's take a look at some English words that use them!

We'll begin with the Latin root words and the English words that use these roots:

Latin Roots and English Words

Latin RootUsed in English words
Audire (to hear)audible, auditorium, auditory
Pac (peace)pacifism, pacify
Mens (mind)mental, mentality
Annus (year/yearly)annual, anniversary
Cavus (hollow)cave, cavity, excavation
Densus (thick)dense, density, condense
Frater (brother)fraternal, fraternity
Lingua (language)linguistics, bilingual
Solus (alone/only)solo, sole, desolate

Latin Suffixes and English Words

Latin suffixEnglish words
able/iblepredictable, accessible
ationinformation, imagination
ty/ityequality, loyalty
fy/ifyintensify, purify
mentamazement, statement
ic/ticromantic, academic
ioncollection, invention
ariumaquarium, planetarium

Latin Prefixes and English Words

Latin prefixEnglish words
co-co-occur, co-operate
inter-international, intertwine
dis- discomfort, disbelief
sub-subway, submarine
pre-preconceive, preview
post-post-war, post-natal
re-rearrange, remake
de-decompress, deactivate
non-nonsense, non-verbal

The Influence of Latin on English

Why does English have so many Latin words? One important term to discuss is...

Loanwords

Loanwords are words that have been taken from one language and integrated into the vocabulary of another. This is often done when two countries/cultures come into close contact, usually due to migration, trade, and/or war between countries.

During the Roman Empire, Latin was the lingua franca in most of Europe - a lingua franca is a common language used between countries that have different native languages. This means it was widely spoken and other European countries were often exposed to Latin vocabulary. Many English words were either directly taken from Latin, or new words were created using Latin roots, suffixes, and prefixes.

Below is a pie chart of the languages with the most influence on English. This shows the percentage of words in the English language that derive from each of these languages:

Latin Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes Image of pie chart StudySmarterFig. 2 - Pie chart showing the percentage of words in English that derive from other languages

Latin Roots, Suffixes, and Prefixes Review

So, what do we now know about Latin roots, suffixes, and prefixes?

Here are a few key points:

  • A root is the core form of a word. It makes sense on its own.

  • A suffix is added to the end of a root word. This can be done to change the tense, express plurality, or change the word class.

  • A prefix is added to the beginning of a root word. This can be done to negate a word or show repetition.

If you are familiar with Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes, you can use them to help determine the meanings of unfamiliar English words.

For example:

The word 'indescribable' is made up of:

  • prefix: in
  • root: describe
  • suffix: able

From this, we can tell that:

  • The root word 'describe' means to give a detailed description or account of something.
  • But the prefix 'in' is used to negate the word - in this case meaning 'not able to be described.'
  • The suffix 'able' means that the word is an adjective, so is used to modify a noun.

Latin Roots, Suffixes, and Prefixes - Key Takeaways

  • A root refers to the base form of a word.
  • Examples of Latin root words include 'audire', 'mens' and 'lingua'
  • A suffix is a letter/group of letters added to the end of a root word, whereas a prefix is a letter/group of letters added to the beginning of a root word.
  • Examples of Latin suffixes include 'able,' 'ify,' and 'ment'
  • Examples of Latin prefixes include 'co,' 'dis,' and 're'

Frequently Asked Questions about Latin Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes

A suffix refers to a letter or group of letters added to the end of a root word -e.g. the 'able' in 'comfortable'


A prefix refers to a letter or group of letters added to the beginning of a root word - e.g. the 'dis' in 'disinfect.'

Here are some examples of prefixes and suffixes:


Prefixes:

  • co - e.g. co-operate

    inter - e.g. international

    dis - e.g. discomfort

    sub - e.g. subway

    pre - e.g. preview


Suffixes:

  • able - e.g. predictable

    ation - e.g. information

    ity - e.g. equality

    ify - e.g. intensify

    ment - e.g. amazement

An example of a root word is the word 'take.' The word makes sense on its own and cannot be reduced.

A prefix refers to a letter or group of letters added to the beginning of a root word to create a new meaning. An example is the 're' in the word 'replay.'


A root word is the core form of a word. It makes sense on its own. An example is the word 'play.'

An example of a suffix is the 'ible' in the word 'responsible.'

Final Latin Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes Quiz

Question

What is a root word?

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Answer

the core form of a word

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Question

A root word is also known as what?

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Answer

base word

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Question

True or false?


Root words don't make sense on their own.

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Answer

False

Show question

Question

What is a suffix?

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Answer

a letter/group of letters added to the end of a root word to create a new meaning

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Question

What is a prefix?

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Answer

a letter/group of letters added to the beginning of a root word to create a new meaning

Show question

Question

The word 'prefix' contains a prefix itself. What is it?

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Answer

pre

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Question

Fill in the blank:


Over ___ of English words are derived from Latin.

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Answer

60%

Show question

Question

True or false?


Suffixes can be used to change the tense of a word.

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

________ can be used to change the word class of a word.

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Answer

Suffixes

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Question

Suffixes can be used to express what?

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Answer

plurality

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Question

Prefixes can be used to negate a word. What does this mean?

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Answer

Make a word's meaning negative

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Question

Prefixes can be used to show what?

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Answer

repetition

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Question

The word 'disapprove' contains a prefix. What is it?

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Answer

dis

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Question

The word 'entertainment' contains a suffix. What is it?

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Answer

ment

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Question

The Latin root word 'lingua' means what?

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Answer

Language

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