Root Words

Words can be puzzling for students as they are often pieced together by many different word parts (morphemes). A single word might contain a prefix, a suffix, root, and a base or root word, each part holding important information. A root word is a basic standalone word in which affixes can be added to create new words. A root is the basis of a word and it typically does not stand alone.

It is essential for students to develop an understanding of root words, roots, and other morphemes in order to deconstruct words and build word meaning.

Morphemes, also referred to as word-part clues, are units of language that hold meaning, but cannot be broken down any further into smaller meaningful parts. Two basic types of morphemes exist: bound and free. Bound morphemes cannot stand alone and must be attached to other morphemes to form a word. Affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and Latin and Greek roots are bound morphemes. Free morphemes, on the other hand, can stand alone. Examples of free morphemes include English root words, such as the root word “teach” in “teacher.” Two free morphemes can join to form a compound word, for example “dog” and “house” to form “doghouse.”

Prefixes and suffixes can be added to a root word to form many new words and change word meaning. Often the term base word is used interchangeably with root word. When affixes are added to them, they serve as the anchor of the word because they hold the word’s principle meaning.

While there are many conflicting definitions of root words and base words, teachers need to keep in mind the importance of teaching these topics. Knowledge of morphemes, like root words, helps with reading fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension.

Root Words

Root Words Spelling Lists

Root Words with Prefixes

  • disappear
  • reappear
  • disapprove
  • misbehave
  • discomfort
  • redirect
  • unhappy
  • unkind
  • unpack
  • replay

Root Words with Affixes

  • dishonesty
  • uncomfortable
  • unkindness
  • unworthy
  • abnormally
  • unhappiness
  • unreasonable
  • unlikely
  • disrespectful
  • unsuccessful

Root Words with Suffixes

  • appearance
  • breaking
  • breakable
  • careful
  • careless
  • hopeful
  • hopeless
  • kindness
  • loveable
  • lovely

Greek & Latin Root Words

Many words in the English language possess a Greek or Latin root. Below is a list of commonly used Greek and Latin roots, their meanings, and words containing these roots.

Greek and Latin Root Word Examples

Root Word Meaning Origin Example
astro star Greek astronaut
aud hear Latin audio
auto self Greek automatic
bene good Latin benevolent
cred believe Latin credible
dict say Latin dictate
meter measure Greek kilometer
micro small Greek microscope
form shape Latin formation
graph write Greek autograph
hydr water Greek dehydrate
liter letter Latin literature
multi many Latin multiple
pend hang Latin appendix
port carry Latin transportation
sect cut apart Greek dissect
struct build Latin construct
tele from afar Greek telephone
therm heat Greek thermometer
vac empty Greek evacuate

English Root Words

Root words are words in their own right, but are also the basis of many other words. Prefixes, suffixes, or both affixes may be added to expand upon a root word. Below are examples of words containing English root words. Access additional root word lists on VocabularySpellingCity and pair with learning games and activities for root word practice.

English Root Words Examples

Root Word Examples
appear reappear, appearance, disappear
break breakable, breaking, unbreakable
build rebuild, builder, unbuild
care caring, careful, careless
comfort discomfort, comfortable, uncomfortable
count counting, counter, countless
employ unemploy, employment, unemployment
faith faithful, faithfully, unfaithful
fear fearless, fearful, fearing
friend friendly, friendship, unfriendly
happy happiness, unhappy, unhappiness
hope hopeful, hopeless, hoped
joy joyful, enjoyment, overjoyed
kind unkind, kindness, unkindness
love loveable, lovely, loved
pack unpack, packed, packing
play replay, playful, played
read readable, reading, reader
use misuse, useful, used
worth worthy, unworthy, worthless