Glossary: root word


Root words are words that can stand alone, unlike prefixes and suffixes, which cannot stand alone.

Morphology breaks words down into root words, which can stand alone, and suffixes or prefixes which can’t. For example, help is the root word for other words in its word family such as helpful and helpless, and also for its inflections such as helping. Compound words (e.g. help-desk) contain two or more root words. When looking in a dictionary, we sometimes have to look for the root word (or words) of the word we are interested in.

  • played [the root word is play]
  • unfair [the root word is fair]
  • football [the root words are foot and ball]

Building words

Exploring the internal structure of words


  • Identify prefixes, base words, and suffixes.
  • Build words by combining prefixes, base words, and suffixes.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of word classes by identifying the word class of the newly derived words.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of derivational morphology by using newly derived words in sentences.

Lesson Plan

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Word structure

The study of word structure is called morphology. Understanding word structure helps us:

  • improve spelling
  • expand vocabulary

In studying word structure, we start by looking at a few key concepts first:

  • root words
  • prefixes
  • suffixes

Root words are words, or parts of words, that can usually stand alone. The following are all root words:

Word structure: Derivation

Derivation is the process of creating new words. The technical term derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words. Here are some examples of words which are built up from smaller parts:


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