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How to Improve Your Vocabulary With Greek and Latin Word Parts


Memorizing the definitions of the most common Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes will exponentially expand your reading vocabulary. Academic reading, especially in the social sciences and natural sciences are filled with words with Greek and Latin word parts. The verbal section of the SAT I is largely comprised of academic words having these word parts. Knowing even one word part of an unknown word greatly enhances the reader’s ability to accurately and efficiently use surrounding context clues to figure out the meanings of these words. You will also increase your spoken and written proficiency by using Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes. But, outside of becoming fluent in Greek and Latin, which Greek and Latin word parts have the highest frequency?

Most Commonly-Used Prefixes

This list, compiled by White, Sowell, and Yanagihara (The Reading Teacher, 42, p. 306), has the twenty most frequently-used prefixes. In fact these largely Greek and Latin prefixes make up 97{7101d2215a6bd446fa679c57b3b56c91409a17080c01dc910257a9924d5d9b54} of all prefixed words. Prefixes listed are in frequency order.

1. un-not

2. re-again

3. in, im, il, ir-not

4. dis-away from

5. en, em-in

6. non-not

7. in, im-in

8. over-above

9. mis-not

10. sub-under

11. pre-before

12. inter-between

13. fore-in front from

15. trans-across

16. super-above

17. semi-half

18. anti -against

19. mid-middle

20. under-too little

Frequently-Used Greek and Latin Roots

Following are the roots, meanings, origins, and example words. The roots are not in order of frequency.

1. struct-build,form-Latin-instruct

2. aud-hear-Latin-auditorium

3. mis-send-Latin-mission

4. astro-star-Greek-astrology

5. ped-foot-Latin-pedal

6. bio-life-Greek-biology

7. phon-sound-Greek-telephone

8. dict-say-Latin-predict

9. port-carry-Latin-import

10. geo-earth-Greek-geography

11. scrib-write-Latin-scribble

12. meter-measure-Greek-thermometer

13. scrip-write-Latin-scripture

14. min-little-small-Latin-minimum

15. spect-see-Latin-inspect

16. mit-send-Latin-transmit

Adapted from Stahl, S.A. and Shiel, T.G., Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Disabilities, 8, 223-241

Fifteen Power Greek and Latin Words

These fifteen words have prefixes or roots that are part of over 15,000 words. That is as many words as most student dictionaries! Memorize these words and the meanings of their prefixes and roots and you have significantly improved your vocabulary.

1. inaudible (not, hear)

2. dismiss (away from, send)

3. transport (across, carry)

4. unsubscribe (not, under, write)

5. predict (before, say)

6. remit (again, send)

7. encounter (in, against)

8. offer (against, carry)

9. inspect (in, see)

10. epilogue (upon, word)

11. antigen (against, people)

12. empathy (in, feeling)

13. intermediate (between, middle)

14. destruction (apart from, build)

15. superimpose (over, in, put)

Adapted from Mark Pennington’s, Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary, ©Pennington Publishing


Source by Mark Pennington