Vocabulary Builder
Word Parts
Let’s take another look at the disadvantages of learning words from lists:
  1. Lists cannot provide all possible meanings for the words they provide. Only a dictionary can do that, and SAT vocabulary questions often turn on secondary or even tertiary meanings.
  2. When you learn from a list, your memory of the order in which the words appear in the list can interfere with your memorization of their definitions.
  3. Furthermore, this “false context” of order is the only one a list can provide. “True contexts,” such as “words that all mean hatefulness,” are impossible, since you can’t reshuffle a printed list.
  4. There’s a tendency to look at any list as “everything you could ever possibly need to know,” and thus it’s tempting to eschew all other methods for building vocabulary. In that case, you’re only as good as your list. Our list is as good as it gets, but it’s still only 92 words.
  5. Even the best list can only help you learn the words it contains, since you’re learning individual words.
You’ve seen how flashcards partially address the first four disadvantages. Flashcards:
  1. 1. Accommodate fuller primary meanings, as well as secondary and tertiary meanings.
  2. 2. Allow for shuffling.
  3. 3. Allow for categorization into groups of related words.
  4. 4. May be added to without limit.
What about the fifth disadvantage? Even the vaunted word-based flashcard cannot help you there. However, roots, prefixes, and suffixes give you more bang for your buck. What’s more efficient, learning one hundred words cold, or learning a few dozen word parts that will give you a decent shot at deciphering the meaning of hundreds of words? Exactly. (For those of you who replied, “Why not do both?” you get a special prize for prescience, or perhaps just for perspicacity. [Look them up!])
What follows are lists of common Greek and Latin roots, suffixes, and prefixes. Some obvious ones are purposely omitted—you most likely know what the prefix anti- means, for example, so you won’t see it listed below. Roots are listed in the first chart, prefixes and suffixes together in the second. Some roots also act as prefixes or suffixes, and vice versa; these are only listed once. Skim the charts; we’ll meet you on the other side to tell you what to do with them and how they will help you gain points.
Helpful Roots
Root What It Means Example
aco(u) to hear, hearing acoustic
act, ag to act, to do, to drive active, agent
agog(ue), agogy to lead, leader, guiding, inducing demagogue
agon, agonist struggle, content agony, antagonist
alg, algesia, algia pain analgesic
am, amat to love amiable, amorous
ambul to walk circumambulate, amble
andro, andry male android, androgynous
anim mind, feeling, life animate
anthrop man, human being philanthropy, anthropology
aqu water aquatic, aquarium
arch first, ancient, rule archaic, archive
aud to hear, hearing, aloud audible, audience
aug, auct, auth, aux to increase, to create augment, author, auxiliary
auto of, by, for, or in oneself autobiography, autocrat, autodidact
bene, bon good bonus, benefit
brac, brachi the arm brachiate, bracelet
cant, cent to sing canticle, chant, recant, incantation
cap, capt, cep, cept box, to take, contain, seize capture, receipt, capacious
capit, capt, cipit head, chief capital, precipitate, chapter, capitulate
carn flesh carnal, incarnate, carnivore
caus, cuse to cause causal, excuse, accuse
ced, cede, ceed, cess to yield, to go cede, accessible, necessary
cern, cert, cret, crim to separate, to distinguish discern, uncertain
chrom, chromat color chromatic, polychromatic
chron time synchronous, chronicle
cid, cide to kill regicide, suicide, genocide
cis, cise to cut excise, scissors
cog, cogit to think cognitive, cogent
coll glue, to stick together colloquy, collage
corp, cors body corporeal, corpulent
cosm universe, order cosmic, cosmopolitan
creant, cred, creed to believe, to trust credence, credit, incredible
cruc, crus cross, significant crux, crusade, crucial
de, div concerning God or deities divine, deity
dic, dict, diction to say, speech, word dictate, indicate, edict, benediction
doc, doct, dog, dox to teach, learning doctrine, dogma, orthodox
dom house, master domestic, dominate
equ, qui equal, even equate, adequate, equinox
esthe, esthesia to feel, sensation anesthesia, esthetics
fid, fidel faith, trust fidelity, confidence, infidel
fin, finite end, purpose infinite, definite
flu, fluor, flux, fluv to flow affluence, fluid, superfluous
for, fort strong fortress, enforce, comfort
fract, frag, frang, fring to shatter fracture, fragment, fragile, refract
gen, gon birth, race, kind genetic, gonad, congenital, gender
ger, gest to carry, to produce gestate, gesture, digest
grad, grade, gress to step, a degree or grade gradual, degree, progress
gram, graph a written record, to write telegram, autograph
grat pleasing, thankful gratitude, congratulate, ingratiate
greg society, group aggregate, gregarious
gynec, gyn, gynist female gynecologist, misogyny
hier, hieratic holy, sacred hierarchy, hieroglyphic
hol whole holistic, hologram
hydr, hydro water, liquid hydraulics, hydrant
ideo idea, philosophy ideology, idol, ideal
idi, idio personal, private idiosyncratic, idiom
iso equal, similar isometric, isotope
ject, jet to throw eject, inject, jettison, projectile
jud, jur, just right, law jury, judgment, judicious, injury, perjury
jug, junct a link, to join juncture, conjunction, conjugate
kine, kinesia, kinesis movement, energy kinetic, cinema
lat, late, lation to bear, to carry collate, correlate, legislate, translate
lect, leg, lig to choose, to read legible, intelligent, dialect, collect
lev, lieve, life to lift, light in weight alleviate, elevator, relief
lign, line line delineate, lineage
locut, loqu, loquy to speak, speech locution, circumlocution, eloquent, ventriloquist
log, logue, logy, lexico speech, word, study of logic, lecture, analogy
luc, lumin, lux light, to shine illuminate, lucent, luminary, elucidate
macro large macrocosm
mal bad malady, malcontent, malefactor
medi, meso, mid in the middle of intermediate, mediocre, medium
micro small microscope
mis hate misanthrope, misogyny
mor, mort death mortal, mortician, mortify
neg to deny negate, neglect, renege
neo new neologism, neonate
noct, nox night nocturnal, equinox
nom, num law nomad, economy, astronomy
od, odia smell odor, odious
opt, optic eye, vision panopticon, optics,
ov, ovul egg, egg-shaped oval, ovulate
par, pare equal pair, parity, peer, compare
part, patri father patriot, patronage, patriarch, paternal
path, pathic, pathy emotion, suffering pathological, pathetic, sympathy, empathy
pel, puls to drive, driven pulse, compulsion, expel, impulse
phil, philia love, fondness for philosophy, philanthropy, philander, philology
phob, phobo fear phobia
plaud, plaus, plod, plos to make a loud noise applaud, explode
plen, plet to fill, full plentiful, plethora, replenish
prim, prin first primary, primate, premier
pur, purg to clear of guilt, to get rid of something unwanted purge, pure, expurgate, purgatory
quest, quir, quisit to ask request, inquest, question, acquire, conquer
qui, quil, quit rest quiet, quit, acquiesce, acquit
rad, radic root radical, eradicate
rati, reas to think, calculate rate, ratify, rational, reasonable
rect, reg, rig to rule or guide, proper, straight rectify, regal, region, regulate, rigorous
rupt to break, to sever rupture, abrupt, disrupt, corrupt, interrupt
salu, salv safety, health salubrious, salvage, salutary
scrib, scribe, script to write, something written circumscribe, ascribe, describe, inscribe, prescribe
secut, sequ to follow, to ensue sequence, consequence, execute, consecutive
sen, senil old, old age senior, senator, senescence
ser, sor a series, attachment serial, desert, assert
solute, solv to release, to loosen, to free dissolve, absolute, insoluble
soph, sophy wisdom philosophy, sophisticated
spec, spect, spic to look, to see aspect, specific, spectator, spectrum, specimen
spir, spire to breathe, breath, spirit aspire, expire, conspire, transpire
stant, stat, stit to stand, to stay, to state assistant, consistent, constant, status, stance, destiny
stru, struct to build, a building or pattern destructive, instruct, obstruct, structural
tact, tang, teg, ting to touch tactile, taste, tangible, contact, contingent
temper, tempor, temp time, balance temporize, temporary, contemplate, temperature
ten, tain, tent, tin to hold tenable, tenacious, tenet, contain, detain
tend, tens to stretch extend, distend, tension, tendril
top, tope, topy place topic, topology, utopia
tract, treat to draw, to extend, to attract extract, treatise, contract, retreat, subtract
trib, tribe, trit to rub, to wear down tribulation, trite, attrition
trop, tropic, tropy to turn, a change or turn trope, tropic, entropy
troub, turb confusion, whirling disturb, perturb, turbine, turbulence
vac, van, vast, void empty, desolate vacuum, vacant, vanity, devastate, avoid
vail, val to be strong, to be worthy valiant, valor, validate, valence
ver, veri true veracious, verdict, verify
vit, viv life, to live vital, survive, viable, vivify
voc, vok, vow voice, to call or summon vocalize, vociferous, avow, equivocate
vol will, desire, wish volition, volunteer, involuntary
vor, vorous, vour to eat, to swallow voracious, carnivorous
xene, xeno, xeny foreign xenophobe, xenogamy
zoa, zo, zoo, zoon life, living zoo, zodiac, metazoan
Helpful Prefixes and Suffixes
Prefix or Suffix What It Means Example
a, an not, without apathy, analgesic
ab, abs away, from, separated abdicate, abort
ac, ad to, toward acclaim, accrete, adhere, adjoin
ambi, amphi both, around ambiguous, ambidextrous, ambiance
ante, anter before, prior, in front of antebellum, antechamber, anterior, antique
ap, apo away from, detached apology, apostate, apostle
cata, cat, cath downwards, against, contrary to cataclysm, catapult, catharsis
circum around circumscribe, circumspect, circumference
co, com, con with, together cohabitation, comfort, collude, colloquy
contra against contradict, contrast
de down from, reverse, remove, out of, derived from decapitate, declare, deface, delegate, delineate
di, dif, dis separation disable, dispute, decrease, divert
dys bad, difficult dysentery, dysphoria
ec, ecto, ex outside of, external, away from eclectic, ecstasy, excursion, excuse, explode
em, en, ent in, into, within encourage, endemic, embryo, embargo, enchant
epi over, above, around epilogue, epitome, epidemic
eu, ev well, good euphoria, eulogy, euphemism
hyper more, beyond normal, excessive hyperkinetic, hypersonic
hypo less, under, below hypochondria, hypothesis
in, im, em, en in, on, amongst, within incarnate, insert, inspire, instruct, immolate, employ, enchant
in, im not immeasurable, improper, inadequate
men, ment result, means of or product of an action instrument, ailment, compartment, entanglement
meta, meth after, along with, transfer, changed metabolism, metaphor, metaphysics, method
mis worse, badly mischief, misadventure, mistake
ob, of, op toward, against, face-to-face object, obnoxious, occupy, oppose
par, para beside, near, faulty paradox, parasite, parody
per through, thoroughly perceive, permit, perpetrate, persuade
peri around, near, beside perimeter, peripheral
pre before, in front of precept, precede, prediction, predominant, pregnant
pro earlier, before, forward proclivity, pronounce, propose
re back, backwards recant, recount, recur
se aside, away secede, seclude, sever
syl, sym, syn united, together with, same synonym, sympathy, syllogism
tra, trans beyond, across, through transact, traverse, transport
un not unable, undeniable, undone
Okay, now what do you do with these lists?
First: make them into flashcards. Any example word you don’t know should be added to your word flashcards.
Second: memorize them.
Third: use them in the following exercises. Your flashcards should look like this:
The back of your flashcards should include a definition for each root, example words, and a word-grouping.
Remember the Target Model?
Studying word flashcards will help you expand the “know well” circle. However, you can gain a lot of points with less certain knowledge. If you know you need a “positive” word in a Sentence Completion, you can eliminate any “negative” words in the answer choices. Say you need a word that has something to do with the human body. Well, you can look for the root corp; if any answer choice contains that root, there’s a very good chance that’s your word. You may not be able to define it, but “barely know” can equal a point on the SAT. This is where knowledge of word parts (and of foreign languages) will give you an advantage. Word parts expand the outer circles of the target.
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