Improve Your Vocabulary – Part 3

At least half of the words in the English language are derived from Greek and Latin roots.

Added to those there are also many words in the English Language that have evolved from Celtic, German, French, and Scandinavian languages. Knowing some of these roots will help to understand the meaning of unknown words that occur in 11+ tests as you cannot look them up in the dictionary in the middle of a Verbal Reasoning or English exam. 

Know the Roots – Grow Your Vocabulary 

Here are a few foreign word roots to explain how this works: 
manu (Latin) means hand → manuscript, manual, manufacture 
dict / dic (Latin) means to speak → dictator, dictionary, dictation 
graph (Greek) means to write → autograph, graphic, photography
geo (Greek) means earth → geography, geology, geothermal
ang (Scandinavian) means troubled → anger, angst, anguish 
bene (French/Latin) means well & good → benefit, beneficial, benefactor, benevolent

Many of the foreign root words above have been used as prefixes at the start of a word; they can also be used as suffixes. Once children are familiar with looking out for possible root words in unknown vocabulary they can then move on to look carefully at the prefixes and suffixes attached to words. 

Work with word lists and investigate what happens when you add prefixes or suffixes to words or word roots, for example: 


uni (meaning one) → uniformity, unilateral, unicycle 
dis (meaning to do the opposite) → disestablish, disengage, disburden 
contra (meaning against) → contraflow, contraband, contradiction 
il (meaning not) → illogical, illiterate


less (meaning without) → ceaseless, penniless, seamless 
ive (meaning being…) → repetitive, effective, reproductive, interactive 
ness (meaning being…) → preparedness, consciousness, belatedness 
ate (meaning cause/make) → liquidate, segregate, demonstrate

Knowing prefix and suffix meanings and definitions helps students to make educated guessesabout the meaning of unfamiliar words and greatly increases their vocabulary. This all takes time so try and make it fun by playing word games, wordsearches etc.

Have a look at these handy links:

Lively and carefully structured exercises mean that words are learned thoroughly, but enjoyably as well.  Here are some recommended workbooks…

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