Preparation for an American University Program

Vocabulary Workshop
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Roots Prefixes Suffixes Vocabulary Exercises

Vocabulary: Roots, Prefixes and Suffixes
Most words used in the English language today were not originally English. These words were borrowed (taken) from other languages. The majority of English words have Latin or Greek origins. When taking the TOEFL* (Test of English as a Foreign Language), it is helpful to know some of these origins or "roots" of English vocabulary. It may be possible to guess the meaning of an unknown word when one knows the meaning of its root. Knowing prefixes and suffixes can also assist in the process. An English word can consist of three parts: the root, a prefix and a suffix. The root is the part of the word that contains the basic meaning (definition) of the word. The root is the base element of the word. A prefix is a word element that is placed in front of a root. A prefix changes the word's meaning or makes a new word. A suffix is a word element that is placed after the root. The suffix changes the word's meaning as well as its function (use). Prefixes and suffixes are called affixes because they are attached to a root. Students can explore this site by using the mouse and clicking on any blue underlined item. The primary areas are: roots, prefixes, suffixes, and vocabulary. Old English and vocabulary exercises will be added and updated.

Example:

Root: act means "do" or "perform" "do" verb; to perform, behave noun; a performance, a thing done

root (act): act (root): definition:

sentence:

You act like a child.

Prefix: remeans "back" or "again" "do back" verb; to act in response to something, to act in opposition to something How will she react when she hears the news?

Prefix (re-): react (prefix + root): definition: sentence:

Suffix: -ion indicates that the word has become a noun something done back noun; a response to something, an opposing action Her reaction to the news was childish.

Suffix (-ion): reaction (prefix + root + suffix): definition: sentence:

You can learn more about English vocabulary by exploring this website. There are lists of vocabulary, roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Exercises and links to other ESL sites will be added as well as a list of words with Old English roots. The following resources were used in creating this website.
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The Oxford English Dictionary. The ultimate source for English vocabulary and its etymology (history). Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition. Springfield, MA:Merriam Webster, 1993. A complete dictionary containing definitions as well as brief etymologies. Oxford American Dictionary, Heald Colleges Edition. New York: Avon Books, 1986. A helpful pocket dictionary. Does not contain etymologies. The American College Dictionary. New York: Random House, 1962. Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1990. Contains etymologies of approximately 8,000 words. Vocabulary for College and Beyond by Rhonda Holt Atkinson and Febbie Guice Longman. New York: West Publishing Company, 1990. A workbook for vocabulary development.

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A History of the English Language, third edition by Albert C. Baugh and Thomas Cable. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1978. A text book on the history of the English Language. Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test by Jolene Gear. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Contains an excellent section on vocabulary for the TOEFL test.

*TOEFL is a registered trademark of Educational Testing Services. There is no connection between the Preparation for an American University Vocabulary Workshop and Educational Testing Services. This workshop was created by Carla Caglioti for use in the Preparation for an American University Program at Southampton College of Long Island University. For information regarding this Web Workshop, questions or suggestions, contact: Caglioti@Southampton.liunet.edu

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