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Roots The base of words

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Word roots, along with prefixes and suffixes, are a useful way to build vocabulary. This page explains what word roots are and gives examples of some common roots. At the end there are some exercises to help you practise.

What are word roots?

As noted in the section on vocabulary building, word roots are the base of the word which gives the word its main meaning. Prefixes and suffixes can be added, respectively, to the beginning and end of the root. Many words in English are based on words from ancient Greek and Latin. For example, the root phon, from Greek, means sound, and can combine with prefixes tele- (distant, from Greek) and micro- (small, from Latin) to make the words telephone and microphone. Likewise, the root vis or vid, from Latin, means see, and leads to words like vision (sight) and video (visual media with moving images). This Latin root can also combine with the Greek prefix tele- to make television.

Common roots

The following table shows some common roots, along with their meaning and some example words. There are fifty roots in total. The majority of these are of Latin or Greek origin. They are colour-coded according to language of origin: Greek roots in green, Latin roots in red, other roots in black.

ann(u), ennyearlyannual, annuity, anniversary, millennium
archchief, first, rulearchitect, archaic, monarchy
audhearingaudio, audience, audition, audiovisual, auditorium, inaudible
ced(e), ceed, cess, ceasto go, to yieldsucceed, proceed, process, precede, recede, exceed, succession, accessible, cease, cessation
chrontime chronic, chronology, chronicle, synchronize, anachronism
dem(o)the people democracy, demography, demagogue, endemic, pandemic
dic(t)speak, tell dictate, dictation, diction, dictator, verdict, predict, contradict, dictionary
finend, ended, finishedfinal, finite, finish, finale, confine, refine, define
fixrepair, attachfix, fixation, fixture, affix, prefix, suffix
flex, flectbendflex, reflex, flexible, inflexibility, reflect, deflect
fortstrength, strongeffort, fort, forte, fortify, fortitude
formshape, resembleform, format, formulate, formal, formula, conform, perform
fract, frag, fraibreakfracture, infraction, fraction, refract, fragile, frail
genbirth, race, producegene, genesis, genetics, eugenics, genealogy, generate, generous, antigen, pathogen
geoearth geology, geologist, geometry, geography, geographer, geopolitical
grad, gress, greego, stepgrade, gradual, graduate, digress, progress, degree
graphto write, to draw graph, graphic, autograph, biography, photograph, telegraph, demographic
gravheavy, weightygrave, gravity, aggravate, gravitate
her(e), hesstickadhere, cohere, cohesion, inherent, hereditary, hesitate
hydr(o)water dehydrate, hydroelectric, hydrogen, hydropower
liber, liverfreeliberty, liberal, liberalize, deliverance
literlettersliterary, literature, literal, alliteration, obliterate
metermeasure meter, thermometer, diameter, barometer
mob, mov, motmovemotion, remove, mobile, motor
pel, pulsdrive, push, urgecompel, dispel, expel, repel, propel, pulse, impulse, pulsate, compulsory, expulsion, repulsive
pend, penshang, weighpendant, pendulum, suspend, appendage, pensive, append
phonsound microphone, phonograph, telephone , symphony, phonetic
photolight photograph, photocopy, photon, photosynthesis, telephoto, photometer, photosensitive
plu(r)moreplural, pluralist, plus
policitymetropolis, megalopolis, acropolis, police, politics
pon, pos, poundplace, putcomponent, opponent, proponent, expose, impose, deposit, postpone, posture, position, expound, impound
poppeoplepopulation, populous, popular
portcarryporter, portable, transport, report, export, support, import, important
prin, prim(e)firstprimary, primitive, primacy, primal, prince, principal
ruptto break disrupt, interrupt, rupture, corrupt, abrupt
sciknowscience, conscious, omniscient
sec(t)cutintersect, transect, dissect, secant, section
sent, sensfeel, thinksentiment, consent, resent, dissent, sentimental, sense, sensation, sensitive, sensory, dissension
sequ, secu, suefollowsequence, consequence, sequel, subsequent, prosecute, consecutive, second, ensue, pursue
servsave, serve, keepservant, service, subservient, servitude, preserve, conserve, reservation, deserve, conservation, observe
sign(i)sign, mark, sealsignal, signature, design, insignia, significant
simil, simullike, resemblingsimilar, assimilate, simulate, simulacrum, simultaneous
solv, solu(t)loosen, explainsolve, solvent, absolve, resolve, soluble, solution, resolution, resolute
spectsee respect, inspection, inspector, spectator, spectacles, prospect, aspect
stru(ct), str(o)ybuild, form instruct, instruction, construction, reconstruction, obstruct, destruction, infrastructure, construe, instrument, instrumental, industry, ministry
tem(po)timetempo, temporary, extemporaneously, contemporary,
ver(i)truevery, aver, verdict, verity, verify, verisimilitude, veracity
vid, visseevideo, evident, provide, visible, revise, supervise, vista, visit, vision
viv(i), vitaalive, liferevive, survive, vivid, vivacious, vitality, vital, vitamins, revitalize
volv, vol(t)turn about, rollrevolve, convolution, revolt, evolution


Oakton Community College List of Greek and Latin roots in English. Available at: (accessed 23 August, 2018).


Like the website? Try the books. This extract from Unlock the Academic Wordlist: Sublists 1-3 contains all sublist 1 words, plus exercises, answers and more!



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Sheldon Smith

Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 20 September 2019.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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