Monday, November 19, 2012

Prefixes, Roots & Suffixes, Oh My!

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Building Vocabulary: Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes Page 1 Developed by Judith Wilde, PhD for Beta Group – Albuquerque, NM and Arlington, VA (rev 8/06). Reprinted by NCELA with permission. Multiple copies permitted for educational purposes and with this credit line.

Building Vocabulary: Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

Many studies show the importance of building children’s vocabulary. One study has shown that a set of 20 prefixes and 14 roots, and knowing how to use them, will unlock the meaning of over 100,000 words. A similar study showed that a set of 29 prefixes and 25 roots will give the meaning to over 125,000 words. Imagine adding suffixes! Below are lists of prefixes, suffixes, and roots – with their meanings and example words.

Reviewing these also can help many ELL students to see relationships between and among languages. Many prefixes have a basis in Latin – also the basis for Spanish, French, and Italian – or Greek.

Table 1: 32 Prefixes

Example words and meanings

a, ab, abs

away from

  1. absent
  2. abscond
  1. not to be present, away
  2. abscond – to run away
ad, a, ac, af, ag, an, ar, at, as

to, toward

  1. adapt
  2. adhere
  3. annex
  4. attract
  1. to fit into
  2. to stick to
  3. to add or join
  4. to draw near


  1. antifreeze
  2. antisocial
  1. a substance to prevent freezing
  2. refers to someone who’s not social
bi, bis


  1. bicycle
  2. biannual
  3. biennial
  1. two wheeled cycle
  2. twice each year
  3. every two years
circum, cir


  1. circumscribe
  2. circle
  1. to draw around
  2. a figure that goes all around
com, con, co, col

with, together

  1. combine
  2. contact
  3. collect
  4. co-worker
  1. to bring together
  2. to touch together
  3. to bring together
  4. co-worker

away from, down, the opposite of

  1. depart
  2. decline
  1. to go away from
  2. to turn down
dis, dif, di


  1. dislike
  2. dishonest
  3. distant
  1. not to like
  2. not honest
  3. away

upon, on top of

  1. epitaph
  2. epilogue
  1. writing upon a tombstone
  2. speech at the end, on top of the rest
equ, equi


  1. equalize
  2. equitable
  1. to make equal
  2. fair, equal
ex, e, ef

out, from

  1. exit
  2. eject
  3. exhale
  1. to go out
  2. to throw out
  3. to breathe out
in, il, ir, im, en

in, into

  1. inject
  2. impose
  1. to put into
  2. to force into
in, il, ig, ir, im


  1. inactive
  2. ignoble
  3. irreversible
  4. irritate
  1. not active
  2. not noble
  3. not reversible
  4. to put into discomfort

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