Breaking Down Vocabulary

Published Friday, January 23, 2015 by Alina Krjukova

So you’ve been studying your vocabulary list for the last few weeks, and you have a pretty good hang of it. You know the definitions, and you feel pretty comfortable about understanding the words in context, but what about the other hundreds of thousands of words in the English language? One thing that you can do to prepare yourself for a run-in with the more remote words is learn to dissect words and figure out their meanings based on the roots. By dividing words into familiar parts, you can learn how to decode even the most mystifying vocabulary words. You already probably know that the prefix “mono-” means one and “poly-” means many. Well, take your knowledge a step further and dissect some vocabulary words that you already know into their roots, prefixes and suffixes. Do this with the help of a reference guide like the ones found in the first pages of most dictionaries.

As you begin to learn vocabulary word roots, you’ll find connections between words and learn to elicit meanings based on the words’ taxonomy. By making these connections you are training your brain and your eye to identify words with the knowledge that you already have! Isn’t that efficient?

For example, consider the word “compel”: the prefix “com-“ means fully, and the root “-pel” means to drive, push or urge, so compel means to fully urge. But don’t get carried away. Pay more attention to the longer roots, prefixes and suffixes because they are more consistent. Keep studying your vocabulary, but as you do, break the words down. You’ll be amazed at the connections you make.

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