A prefix is a letter or group of letters added to the beginning of a word to make a new word: In the word '”UNHAPPY”, 'UN-' is a prefix added to HAPPY. UN- is a Latin word for NOT.
A suffix on the other hand is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word to make another word. The suffix NESS added to the end of the word TOGETHER creates another word TOGETHERNESS. A good knowledge of English prefixes and suffixes will help students develop vocabulary without the need to always check their dictionary. Also a brief lesson to adult intermediate students about the etymology of English words can help a great deal.. Read about more vocabulary building techniques here >>
Prefixes and suffixes are generally known as affixes. Affixes create new words, usually by modifying or changing the meaning of a root word. If we take a root word like HAPPY, we can see how affixes can change the meaning as in this example: prefix = UN, root word = HAPPY and suffix = NESS. The end result is UNHAPPINESS.
Sometimes raising awareness to this word formation aspect of English can be the light that dispels the darkness of dictionary worship.
Since English is a language that has thousands of words from other languages, a brief etymology of commonly used prefixes and suffixes would do much good.
For example the OCT prefix comes from the Latin OCTO which means EIGHT. If you look at most English words beginning with OCT, the meaning is never too far from eight. So ask yourself for example: What is an octopus, octogenarian, octagon, octave, and octet?
In a similar line, TELE- has its roots in Greek, which means far or distant. So what do words like telecommunication, television, telephone and telex have in common?
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