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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.
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:
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:
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.'
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.'
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.'
Let's look at some examples of roots, suffixes, and prefixes derived from Latin. Did you know these words came from Latin?
|able/ible||capable/worthy of (used to form adjectives)|
|ation||used to turn verbs into nouns|
|ty/ity||used to turn adjectives into nouns|
|fy/ify||to cause/make/become (used to form verbs)|
|ment||used to turn verbs into nouns|
|ic/tic||used to create adjectives|
|ion||used to turn verbs into nouns|
|arium||A place associated with a specified thing.|
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.'
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 Root||Used 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 suffix||English words|
|Latin prefix||English words|
Why does English have so many Latin words? One important term to discuss is...
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:
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.
The word 'indescribable' is made up of:
From this, we can tell that:
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:
inter - e.g. international
dis - e.g. discomfort
sub - e.g. subway
pre - e.g. preview
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.'
What is a root word?
the core form of a word
A root word is also known as what?
True or false?
Root words don't make sense on their own.
What is a suffix?
a letter/group of letters added to the end of a root word to create a new meaning
What is a prefix?
a letter/group of letters added to the beginning of a root word to create a new meaning
The word 'prefix' contains a prefix itself. What is it?
Fill in the blank:
Over ___ of English words are derived from Latin.
True or false?
Suffixes can be used to change the tense of a word.
________ can be used to change the word class of a word.
Suffixes can be used to express what?
Prefixes can be used to negate a word. What does this mean?
Make a word's meaning negative
Prefixes can be used to show what?
The word 'disapprove' contains a prefix. What is it?
The word 'entertainment' contains a suffix. What is it?
The Latin root word 'lingua' means what?
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