Teach Latin and Greek Prefixes
for Building Vocabulary

Understanding basic prefixes can help build vocabulary for all students. Thousands of important English words come from Latin and Greek roots. Teaching just one common preposition can have a significant effect on student performance in both reading and writing.

If you teach one new root word every week throughout a school year, your students will reap rewards for a lifetime.

Each Latin Root Helps Build Dozens of Words:

A short list of Latin prepositions can help build hundreds of new vocabulary words. Peruse the following short paragraphs for links to derivative lists. These lists will help you build vocabulary and create lesson plans for YOUR students, no matter what grade you teach.

The Latin preposition/prefix ab- or abs- means away from. It connotes motion from, and occurs in English words such as absent, abstract, abstemious and abhorrent.

On the contrary, ad- means to or toward. The -d- often attracts to the consonant of the word it is fixed to, doubling the consonant. See attract, accelerate, and approximate.

Circum is a preposition meaning around. It is connected to the beginning of verbs to connote circular motion. Many meanings are literal, such as circumnavigate. Others are abstract, such as circumspect.

Just as the preposition ad- often results in a double consonant, the Latin word cum, meaning with or together, changes form when combined with a root word. See words such as communicate, connection, cooperate, and computer.

De means down from, and is found in words such as demoted, demented, deposit, and declaim.

The prefix e- or ex- can mean out from, and occurs in English words such expectations, egress, education, and emissions.

Pro- can mean for or on behalf of in words such as pro-American or pro-life. It can also mean forward, before, and even instead of in words such as proceed, prosecute, prologue, progeny, and proliferate.

The Latin root in- has a long list of meanings and it often changes form. But four important meanings are in, on, against, and not. And so we have in English entrust, impose, inflict, and immutable.

In addition, in- can simply intensify the meaning of the root it is connected to, such as inflammable.

After the model of ad-, in-, and cum-, the prefix sub- often undergoes spelling changes. In means under or below, but also imperfectly. And so we have in English subliminal, submission, succor, and substandard.

Present These New Roots Slowly:

A trickle of prefixes is better than a flood. Overloading your students with dozens of new roots will not achieve the desired effect of stimulating their curiosity about language.

Take these roots one at a time. At first, present several easy derivatives of just one preposition. You may choose to call upon the students to make a preliminary list from their prior knowledge. Then your task is to add a few advanced English derivatives per day for the rest of the week.

And try using the Latin Word of the Week for teaching prefixes. Build vocabulary without stamping out the fun.

Before you know it, your students will be asking for more prefixes to explore and increase their knowledge.

See More Latin Roots

Return from Prefixes to Vocabulary Lesson Plans

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