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How to Improve Your Vocabulary

Grades 4-8 Comprehensive Vocabulary

Comprehensive 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


For full-year vocabulary programs which include multiple meaning words (L.4.a.), Greek and Latin morphology with Morphology Walls (L.4.a.), figures of speech (L.5.a.), words with special relationships (L.5.b.), words with connotative meanings (L.5.c.), and academic language words (L.6.0), check out the assessment-based grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Comprehensive Vocabulary.

Get the Grades 4,5,6,7,8 Vocabulary Sequence of Instruction FREE Resource:

Get the Greek and Latin Morphology Walls FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic Academic Language Assessment FREE Resource:

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