Preparation for an American University Program
Vocabulary Workshop

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.


root (act): means "do" or "perform"
act (root): "do"
definition: verb; to perform, behave
noun; a performance, a thing done
sentence: You act like a child.
Prefix (re-): means "back" or "again"
react (prefix + root): "do back"
definition: verb; to act in response to something,
to act in opposition to something
sentence: How will she react when she hears the news?
Suffix (-ion): indicates that the word has become a noun
reaction (prefix + root + suffix): something done back
definition: noun; a response to something,
an opposing action
sentence: Her reaction to the news was childish.

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.

*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: