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 seriously complied with 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 large Greek and Latin prefixes make up 97% 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
14.de -part 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, SA and Shiel, TG, 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

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