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]