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Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
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Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

Latin & Greek Roots & Affixes

The United States of America is well known as the ‘Land of the Free’ and a place where liberties are protected. Now, what is liberty?

To understand the meaning of this word, and a lot more, we can take a look at the parts that form them. In this lesson, we will learn how to increase our vocabulary by understanding the meaning of words through their Latin and/or Greek roots and affixes.


The root of a word is the minimum unit with meaning and cannot be broken down any further. ‘Bio’ is an example of a root. It has its own meaning, but when we add other parts, it forms more words with the same root, as in ‘biology,’ ‘biography’ and ‘bionic.’

Here are some common roots you may be familiar with:

root language meaning example
bio Greek life biology
cele Latin honor celebrate
crac Greek govern democracy
dur Latin to hold durable
ethn Greek nation ethnicity
hydr Greek water hydrated
hyper Greek above hypertension
hypo Greek below hypotension
ign Greek fire ignite
leg Latin to choose legislature
liber Latin free liberty
micro Greek small microscope
multi Latin many multiple
neg Latin deny negative
simil Latin likeness similar
therm Greek heat thermometer

Affixes: Prefixes & Suffixes

Affixes are parts of words that can be added to words to change the meaning. Add the affix ‘un’ to the word ‘real’ = ‘unreal.’ Affixes can be added to words or roots. If affixes are added at the beginning, they are called prefixes. If they are added at the end of a word, they are called suffixes.

Look at this example:

Correct: From the Latin correctus, and it means ‘free of error.’

What do you think the next one means?

Incorrect: We add the prefix ‘in’ from Latin that means ‘not.’ So ‘incorrect’ means: ‘not free from error.’

Let’s take a look at the first word we brought up:

‘Liberty’: This word is formed by two parts: ‘liber-‘ from the Latin root ‘liber’ that means ‘free’ and ‘-ty,’ from the Latin ‘-tas’ or ‘-tat,’ that is a suffix which means condition. So ‘liberty,’ putting together the meaning of both parts, can be defined as the ‘condition of being free.’

Here are some common prefixes you may be familiar with:

prefix meaning example
de, dis opposite develop, discover
in, im not indiscreet, improper
mis wrongly miscalculate
pre before prefix
re again review
semi half semifinal
un opposite unreal

Here are some common suffixes you may be familiar with:

suffix meaning example
able can be disable
en made of wooden
er more stronger
est most strongest
ful full regretful
ion process caution
less without worthless
ness condition business

Let’s take the word ‘view’ and add affixes. ‘Review,’ ‘preview,’ and ‘viewable.’ Notice how each word has a different meaning because of the affix. Can you think of some examples from the word ‘cover?’ (‘recover,’ ‘discover,’ ‘uncover,’ ‘coverable,’ ‘uncoverable’)

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, we learned many roots from Greek and Latin and also prefixes and suffixes that we can add to these roots to create different words. Many English words have roots from Greek and Latin, and with the memorization of common roots and affixes, you will be able to understand words you have never seen before.

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