Greek and Latin Prefixes: A and B

Now that I finally finished up my series on English roots from Greek and Latin, it’s time for prefixes! In case you forgot, prefixes are little word bits that can be attached to the beginning of a word to alter its meaning. I’ve discussed prefixes earlier on the blog, mostly about how English prefixes relate to Swedish prefixes. This time I’m going to come at the topic from a slightly different angle: English prefixes derived from classical sources.

If you’re curious about how to use these prefixes, you can peruse the entire previous series on English root words derived from Greek and Latin and play a little mix and match. 🙂

As with my list of bases, the list here largely comes from Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary by Timothy Rasinski et al. I will make some small changes throughout, mostly in the choice of sample words. If you’re an English teacher (whether English literature or EFL) or a high-level student, I recommend picking up this book. EFL students may want to jump directly to any number of workbooks focused on Greek- and Latin-based English vocabulary. Or you can follow my series and take notes.

First up: Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “a” and “b”:

Prefix Meaning Example
a, ab, abs away, from avert, abduct, abstain
a, an not, without atheist, anemia
ad* to, toward, add to addition, aggregate, attract
ambi around, on both sides ambidextrous
ana back, again, apart analyze
ante before antecedent
ant(i) against, opposite antithesis, antonym
auto self automatic
bi two bicycle

Greek and Latin Roots: V and Z

Here it is, the last post in my series on classically derived base words! You can browse the rest of the series at these links:

Next week, I’ll take a look at English prefixes that come to us from Latin and Greek. Stay tuned!

Base Meaning Example
val be strong, be healthy valid
ven(t) come convene, advent
ventr(i) belly ventriloquist
ver true veritable
verb word verbal
vers, vert turn, change adverse, advertise
vest clothing vestments
via way, road viaduct
vid, vis see video, visual
vigil awake vigilant
vit, viv live, life vital, revive
voc, voke, voice voice, call, sound vocal, revoke, invoice
vol wish, will volunteer
volv, volu, volut roll revolve, volume, revolution
vor eat, devour voracious
vulp fox vulpine
zo(o) animal zodiac, zoology

Greek and Latin Roots: T and U Base Words

Next up in this series on classical root words in English: root words beginning with the letter “T” and “U”! You can refer to previous lists below if you’d like a refresher. We’re almost finished! The next installment will be the last one (“V”, “X,” and “Z”).

These are all base words; classical affixes will come in a later series.

Base Meaning Example
tang, ting, tig, tact touch tangent, contingent, contiguous, intact
taph grave, tomb epitaph
taur bull Minotaur
techn art, skill, fine craft technique
tempor time temporary
ten, tin, tent, tain hold tenacious, continent, contents, retain
tend, tens, tenu stretch, thin extend, tensile, tenuous
ter(r) land, ground, earth inter (verb), territory
test witness testify
tetra four tetrahedron
thanas, thanat death euthanasia
theater, theatr theater, watch theatrical
the(o) god atheist, theology
therm heat thermal
thes, thet put, place thesis, synthetic
tom cut anatomy
ton tone monotonous
trac(t), treat pull, draw, drag trace, tractor, retreat
trop turn tropics
trud, trus push, thrust intrude, protrusion
turb shake, agitate turbulence
urs bear (animal) ursine


I’m fairly sure that “inauguration” is only a spelling word for so many American schoolchildren because of its political associations. Likewise, I’m sure that most Americans hardly ever use it—usage probably spikes every four years, in January, and then probably fades out again.

The verb form is inaugurate:

1. to induct into an office with suitable ceremonies.

2a. to dedicate ceremoniously; observe formally the beginning of
2b. to bring about the beginning of

The word comes from the Roman practice of augury, which we more typically today call divination or (even more plainly, fortune-telling). This particular form was based on the flight of birds, and was one of variety different divination methods employed by the ancient Romans. The word augur itself is thought to have its roots in aug (“to increase; to prosper”). As in, it was a way to find out how to increase the nation’s good fortune and how they could prosper.

If an important action was to be undertaken in Rome, including ascensions to new political positions or some general public enterprise or project, an augures publicii was consulted in a ceremony of pomp and circumstance.

Today, in the United States, we keep the pomp and circumstance of inaugurate but not the superstition. Instead, the word has retained a sense of “first” and “beginning.” Curiously enough, without the in- prefix, augur still retains its divination-related meaning:

1. to foretell especially from omens
2. to give promise of; presage

So watch the birds today, during the Presidential inauguration, to see if they augur anything good.

Greek and Latin Roots: S Base Words

After a book break, I’m back with more linguistic roots from Greek and Latin. These are all of the base words that begin with S. (Suffixes and prefixes will come later.) For a review, you can browse old entries.

Base Meaning Example
sanct(u) holy, sacred sanctuary
scend, scens step, climb descend, ascension
scop look, watch microscope
scrib, script write scribe, scripture
sec(t) cut, slice secant, section
secut, sequ follow prosecute, sequel
sed, sid, sess sit, settle sediment, reside, session
semi one half semicircle
sent, sens think, feel sentence, sensation
seps, sept infection sepsis, antiseptic
serv, servat save, keep, serve servile, reservation
sex six sextet
sist stand persist
sit food, feed parasite
sol(i) alone, only, one solitaire
solv, solut free, loosen dissolve, solution
somn(i) sleep insomnia
son, sound sound resonate, resound
soph wisdom, wise philosophy
sorb soak absorb
spec, spic, spect watch, look at specimen, conspicuous, spectacle
(s)pir breathe perspire, expire
sta, stanc, stat stand stable, stance, static
stle, stol send epistle, apostle
strain, strict, string tie, bind, squeeze restrain, restrict, stringent
stru, struct build construe, destruction
sui (swi) pig, hog swine

Greek and Latin Roots: Q and R Base Words

It’s time for the next installment in this series on classically-derived roots in the English language! Q and R are both small categories, so I’ve put them together. Remember, these are word bases, not prefixes or suffixes.

If you would like to review previous entries, you can browse the links below:

Base Meaning Example
quadr, quart four quadrilateral, quarter
quint five quintillion
ras scrape rash, erase
reg, rig, rect straight, guide regular, incorrigible, correct
rupt break interrupt

Greek and Latin Roots: “P” Base Words

Next up on our tour of English’s classical base words is “P.” Remember, the following list does not include affixes (prefixes or suffixes); just the core, base words to which affixes are often attached!

If you would like to review previous entries, you can browse the links below:

Base Meaning Example
pac peace pacify
pan(t) all, every panacea, pantomine
p(e)ar appearance, seem apparition, disappear
par(t) produce, beget separate, post partum
past(or) shepherd pasture, pastoral
path(o) feeling, suffering sympathy, pathology
pati, pass feeling, suffering patient, compassion
patr(i), patern father, fatherland patriot, paternity
ped foot, feet pedal, impede
pel, puls, peal drive, push dispel, impulse, repeal
pend, pens weight, hang, pay pendant, suspense
penta five pentagon
petr stone petrify
phem word, saying euphemism
pher bear, go periphery
phil(o), phil(e) love, friend philosophy, Anglophile
phon voice, call, sound telephone
photo light photograph
phragm block, enclose diaphragm
phyt plant neophyte
plac calm, please placate
ple, plex, ply fold, multiply multiple, duplex, imply
plur, plus more plural, plus
pne(um) breathe apnea, pneumonia
pol(is)(it) city, citizen acropolis, political
pon, pos, post, pound put, place components, positive, compound
port carry import
poss, pot power impossible, potentate
preci price, value precious
punct(u), pung pierce puncture, pungent


Greek and Latin Roots: “O” Base Words

Apologies for my sudden disappearance! I clearly overestimated how much time I’d have to blog during this academic quarter. I’m back on an even keel now, so let’s continue with our list of “O” base words based on Greek and Latin sources.

Base Meaning Example
oct(a) eight octave
ocl(e), ocul eye monocle, binoculars
od song parody, ode
odont tooth orthodontist
omni all, every omnivore
onym word; name pseudonym
ortho straight orthodoxy
ov sheep ovine


Greek and Latin Roots: “N” Base Words

Halfway there! Today’s post features classical base words that begin with “N.” If you want to review previous entries, here they are:

Base Meaning Example
navig sail navigate
neo new neonatal
nihil nothing annihilate
noc, nox harm innocent, noxious
non, nov nine nonagon, November
noun name pronoun
nov new innovate


Greek and Latin Roots: “M” Base Words

I’m back from vacation, and now that I’m relaxed and refreshed it’s time to continue my series on classically derived base words. (Again, these are not prefixes or suffixes. Those are coming later.) Today is brought to you by the letter “M.” For a refresher course in past installments, you can refer to past entries.

Base Meaning Example
m(eridiem) noon, midday ante meridiem (A.M.)
magn big magnify
mal(e) bad, wrong malevolent
man, main stay, remain permanent, remain
man(u) hand manual
mast round bump, protrusion mastoid
matr(i), matern mother matrimony, maternal
me(a) wander, go meander
medi middle medium
meter, metr(o), metri(i) measure centimeter, metronome, metric
mill one thousand millimeter
miss, mit send missile, permit
mnem, mnes memory mnemonic, amnesia
mole mass molecule
mon(o) alone, only, one monologue
mord, mors bite mordant, morsel
morph shape, form amorphous
mor(t) dead moribund, mortal
mov, mot, mobil move move, promote, mobile
mur wall mural