5th Grade - Using Roots, Greek And Latin To Find Meaning

Using roots, Greek and Latin to find meaning
Know abstract, derived roots and affixes from Greek and Latin and use this knowledge to analyze the meaning of complex words (e.g., controversial).
Learning the common prefixes, suffixes, and roots from Greek and Latin help your child break complicated words into pieces that they can recognize; this helps them understand the meaning of the more complex word.

Sample Problems


Identify the root and affixes of invisible. (prefix= in, root=vis, suffix=ible)


Identify the root and affixes of unlikely. (prefix= un, root=like, suffix=ly)


Identify the root and affixes of subversive. (prefix= sub, root=vers, suffix=ive)


Add a suffix to act to make a adjective. (active)


Add a suffix to make act a noun. (action, actor, or activism)

Learning Tips



Affix- a linguistic unit that is added either before (prefix) or after (suffix) a stem

Derivational affixes- Prefixes and suffixes that result in different words (such as different parts of speech and different functions), not just a different form of the same word (for instance, plural instead of singular).

Structural analysis- use of word parts to help determine meaning

Suffix- an affix placed at the end of the word

Prefix- an affix placed at the beginning of the word

Latin-based words make up about 50% of English words; these usually containing prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Approximately 10% of our English words come from the Greek language. Learning Greek and Latin roots and suffixes is like taking a shortcut to improve your vocabulary!


Derivational suffixes can change the part of speech:

words ending with –tion are often nouns

Examples: conviction, distraction, consideration

words ending with –ive are often adjectives

Examples: creative, aggressive, sensitive

words ending with –ity are often nouns

Examples: simplicity, purity, inferiority

words ending with –ment are often nouns

Examples: inducement, enrollment, impediment

What about –ous, -ness, -ism? (adjectives, nouns, nouns)


Choose five Latin or Greek roots. Then find five English words containing the root. You can use a dictionary, other people, or online resources to help you. Identify which parts of speech the words are.

Why might they have similar meanings? (They share a root)

Why might they have different meanings? (They are different parts of speech)


Common Prefixes

Write the common prefixes on slips of paper. See if you can sort them into two piles: “Negative” and “Positive (or Neutral)”. Write an example that you know using that prefix on the back.



dis-, de-













en-, em-

anti-, contra-




Remembering Roots

Make flashcards by writing twenty Latin roots on one side of index cards and their meaning (and an example if you’d like) on the other side. Study them and see if you recognize them when you are reading textbooks or for fun.

Extra Help Problems


List all the words you can think of that end with graph.

(photograph, polygraph, mimeograph, phonograph, telegraph, paragraph)


List all the words you can think of that begin with graph.

(graphite, graphologist, graphic, graphically)


List all the words you can think of that contain either onym (Greek) or nom (Latin) for “name”.

(anonymous, pseudonym, synonym, homonym, nominee, nominate, misnomer, ignominious)


List all the words you can think of that contain tract (Latin root, meaning to pull).

(tractor, contraction, attractive, traction, intractable, retractable, distraction)


Compare pedestrian and pedal. (They both have to do with feet; they both have the root ped)


Compare duplicate and duplicity. (They both contain the root dupli; they both have to do with making a second copy, as in duplicate, or having two version, duplicity)


List all the words you can think of that contain support.

(supporter, supportive, unsupportive, supportively)


Identify the part of speech for the following as the suffixes change:

rely (verb)

reliance (noun)

reliable (adjective)

reliability (noun)


What Greek root appears in these words: graphology, biographer, autograph? (graph)


What does the root agri mean (as in agriculture)? (field)


What does the root ann mean (as in annual)? (year)


What does 8a8n8t8i- mean (as in antithesis)? (against)


What does 8 8a8u8t8o- mean (as in automatic)? (self or alone)


What does 8b8e8n8e- mean (as in benefit)? (good)


What does cent- mean (as in century)? (one hundred)


What does chron- mean (as in chronological)? (time)


What does dys- mean (as in dysfunctional)? (bad or abnormal)


What does geo- mean (as in geography)? (earth)


What do graph or gram mean (as in autograph)? (write or record)


What does hemi- mean (as in hemisphere)? (half)


What do 8i8n-,8 8i8m-,8 8i8r-,8 8i8l- mean (as in irrational or incorrect)? (not)


What does inter- mean (as in international)? (between)


What does intra- mean (as in intramural)? (within)


What does -logy mean (as in geology)? (study of)


What does trans- mean (as in transport)? (across)



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