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:
- BBC Bitesize – prefixes and suffixes
- Learning games for kids – suffixes and prefixes
- Root words games
- Prefix word games
- Suffix word games
Lively and carefully structured exercises mean that words are learned thoroughly, but enjoyably as well. Here are some recommended workbooks…