Structural analysis is the process of breaking words down into their basic parts to determine word meaning. Structural analysis is a powerful vocabulary tool since knowledge of a few word parts can give you clues to the meanings of a large number of words. Although the meaning suggested by the word parts may not be exact, this process can often help you understand the word well enough that you can continue reading without significant interruption.
When using structural analysis, the reader breaks words down into their basic parts:
- Prefixes – word parts located at the beginning of a word to change meaning
- Roots – the basic meaningful part of a word
- Suffixes – word parts attached to the end of a word; suffixes often alter the part of speech of the word
For example, the word bicyclist can be broken down as follows:
- bi – prefix meaning two
- cycle – root meaning wheel
- ist – a noun suffix meaning ‘a person who’
Therefore, structural analysis suggests that a bicyclist is a person on two wheels – a meaning which is close to the word’s formal definition.
Consider the word part –cide. Though it cannot stand as a word by itself, it does have meaning: to kill. Think about the many words in our language that include the word part –cide. Knowing this one word part gives us knowledge about many words.
Structural Analysis: Common Word Parts
Following is a list of some common prefixes, roots, and suffixes along with their meanings and examples of words which use them. Use these word parts to help you approximate the meanings of unknown words.
|Prefixes with negative meaning|
|a; an||not or without||atypical, anaerobic|
|Anti||against; opposite||antifreeze, antibiotic|
|Dis||not; opposite||disown, disconnect|
|in, im||not||inactive, immature|
|il, ir||not||illegal, irresponsible|
|Prefixes that change time|
|Re||again; back||reactivate, reposition|
|Prefixes that concern placement or direction|
|ab; a||away from||abduction; amoral|
|ex; exo||out; no longer||exit, expand, exorcism|
|Pro||forward; for||projection, promote|
|Prefixes that relate to numbers|
|Bi||two; twice||bicycle, binary|
|Milli||one thousandth||millimeter, milligram|
|Centi||one hundredth||centimeter, centigram|
|De||away; down||depress, detach|
|Dis||not; no longer; away||Distance|
|Eu||good; pleasant||euphonious, eulogy|
|Hetero||different, mixed||heterogeneous, heterosexual|
|Homo||man; same||homogenous, homicide|
|Hypo||below; under||hypodermic, hypoglycemic|
|Re||back; again||return, renegotiate|
|Audi||to hear||audition, audience|
|Cide||to kill||suicide, homicide|
|Cred||to believe||incredible, credibility|
|Dic||to speak; tell||dictate, dictionary|
|Logy||study of||psychology, geology|
|Path||suffer; disease||psychopath, pathologist|
|Spect||look; see||spectator, spectacles|
|Noun suffixes – usually mean the state of; the quality of|
|Noun suffixes that refer to a person|
|Verb suffixes – usually mean characterized by|
Prefix, Suffix, & Root Words Practices
The English language contains an enormous and ever-growing number of words. Enhancing your vocabulary by learning new words can seem overwhelming, but if you know the common prefixes and suffixes of English, you will understand many more words. Mastering common prefixes and suffixes is like learning a code. Once you crack the code, you can not only spell words more correctly but also recognize and perhaps even define unfamiliar words. A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a word to create a new meaning.
Add the correct prefix to the word to complete each sentence. Write the word on your own sheet of paper.
1. I wanted to ease my stomach ________comfort, so I drank some ginger root tea.
2. Lenny looked funny in his ________matched shirt and pants.
3. Penelope felt ________glamorous at the party because she was the only one not wearing a dress.
4. My mother said those ________aging creams do not work, so I should not waste my money on them.
5. The child’s ________standard performance on the test alarmed his parents.
6. When my sister first saw the meteor, she thought it was a ________natural phenomenon.
7. Even though she got an excellent job offer, Cherie did not want to ________locate to a different country.
8. With a small class size, the students get to ________act with the teacher more frequently.
9. I slipped on the ice because I did not heed the ________cautions about watching my step.
10. A ________combatant is another word for civilian. A suffix is a word part added to the end of a word to create a new meaning. However, many times you will have to change the ending of the word to spell the word correctly.
Add the correct suffix to the word to complete each sentence. Make sure to decide on what needs to be done to the word before adding the suffix.
1. My daughter had to drive my car today and I told her to be care________.
2. I like to hear the rain at night but I hope this morning will be sun________ than yesterday.
3. My favorite television show was cancel________.
4. Joshua might be regret________ not going on vacation with us.
5. The toy car came with a set of replace________ batteries.
6. I love Christmas time because there is usually some excite________ in the air.
7. Before the bank loan can be made the lender most provide the customer with approve________.
8. Before going grocery shopping last night, I had to choose between to different locations. I prefer________ the store closer to my house.
9. As the sun set, the dark________ was harder to maneuver in.
10.The instructor request that we find three scholar________ articles for our paper.
Answer to Exercises
1. Discomfort, mismatched, unglamorous, anti-aging, below-standard, unnatural, relocate, interact, precautions, noncombatant
2. Careful, sunnier, cancelled, regretful, replacement, excitement, approval, preferred, darkness, scholarly
Developed by Judith Wilde, PhD for Beta Group – Albuquerque, NM and Arlington, VA (rev 8/06). Reprinted by NCELA with permission. Multiple copies permitted for educational purposes and with this credit line.
Attribution: Adapted from “Working with Words: Which Word Is Right? Prefixes and Suffixes,” Writing for Success, by University of Minnesota, License: CC BY-NC-SA.