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How to Improve Your Vocabulary

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. 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 largely 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-apart 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, S.A. and Shiel, T.G., 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)

Pennington 2016


Here are FREE samples of vocabulary worksheets from this comprehensive program–ready to teach in your class today. Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

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