Word roots provide clues to a word’s definition; knowing word roots can help you tremendously on the MAT (Miller Analogies Test). A word root is a basic unit of a word that contains the most important part of its meaning. For example, the root circum means “around” and is the root of words like circumference and circumvent, both of which have to do with going around something.

When studying word roots, it can be useful to make up a memory device that will help you remember the meaning of the root. Try the following method:

  1. Write down the word root and its definition on a piece of paper.

    The act of writing helps you remember.

  2. Below the word root, write a word that uses that root.

    For example, for the root JECT you might write the word INJECT.

  3. Make a creative sentence using the word containing the root.

    The most memorable sentences are ones that make you imagine something and react emotionally. For example, “I drank so much coffee while studying that I felt as though I’d been given a caffeine INJECTION.”

Since there are exceptions to every rule in English, you can’t be 100% sure a word means what its root would normally indicate. However, roots work often enough to help you if you otherwise don’t know what a word might mean.

The following list is a collection of common English word roots.

  • ACT: Do; actuate: put into action

  • ALTER: Other; alternate: change in turn

  • AM: Love; amative: loving

  • ANIM: Mind, spirit; animism: belief in the soul

  • ANNU: Year; annual: yearly

  • ARCH: Ruler; archangel: principal angel

  • AUTO: Self; autograph: one’s signed name

  • BELL: War; belligerent: someone who began a conflict

  • BEN: Good; benefaction: a good act

  • CAD: Fall; cadaver: a deceased human body

  • CAPIT: Head; capitol: the primary building used by government

  • CEED: Go; exceed: go past expectations

  • CHRONO: Time; chronograph: stopwatch

  • CIS: Cut; incision: a cut

  • CLAIM: Shout; exclaim: shout out

  • CRED: Believe; credence: a belief

  • CUR: Run; curator: someone who runs a museum

  • DEM: People; demagogue: a crowd-pleasing speaker

  • DIC: To say; dictator: unquestionable leader

  • DOC: Teach; document: a written statement

  • DUC: Lead; conductor: driver of a train

  • EU: Well; eupepsia: digestion that works well

  • FAC: To make; factotum: someone who does different works

  • FER: Carry; ferry: vessel that carries people across water

  • FIN: End; finale: end of a show

  • FLECT: Bend; reflect: to mirror

  • FORT: Luck; fortitude: ability to withstand hardship

  • FRAG: Break; fragile: breaks with ease

  • GEN: Race; genocide: the killing of a specific people

  • GRESS: Step; progress: moving ahead

  • JECT: Throw; inject: to put into

  • LEG: Choose; legible: able to be read

  • LOG: Speech; epilogue: written at the end of a book

  • LUM: Light; luminescence: giving off light

  • MAG: Big; magnum: a large handgun

  • MAL: Bad; malice: an evil deed

  • MIT: Send; transmit: to send from one to another

  • MORPH: Shape; metamorphic: rock that has changed forms

  • MUT: Change; mutate: to change forms

  • NAT: Born; natal: relating to someone’s birth

  • NOM: Name; nominate: to give a name for an election

  • NOV: New; novice: someone new to a skill

  • OMNI: All; omnivorous: eats plants and animals

  • PATH: Feel; empathetic: understanding another’s feelings

  • PED: Foot; pedicure: the beautification of the feet

  • PHIL: Love; philander: flirt

  • PORT: Carry; porter: someone who carries luggage

  • RID: Laugh; ridicule: to make someone appear laughable

  • SCI: Know; conscious: being aware

  • SCRIB: Write; inscribe: to write

  • SENS: Feel; sensation: a psychological feeling

  • SOL: Loosen; dissolve: separate into smaller parts

  • SPEC: Look; spectacles: eyeglasses

  • TAIN: Hold; abstain: to avoid doing

  • TRACT: Pull; attraction: feeling drawn to something

  • VEN: Come; convention: a gathering where people come to meet

  • VER: Truth; veracity: truthfulness

  • VIS: See; visor: part of hat that keeps light out of eyes

  • VIV: Life; vivify: bring life to

  • VOC: Call; vociferate: to shout

  • VOL: Wish; volition: an act of free choice

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Vince Kotchian is a full-time standardized test tutor specializing in the MAT, SSAT, ISEE, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. He teaches a GRE prep course at the University of California, San Diego, and has an extensive understanding of analogies and the MAT.

Edwin Kotchian is a MAT tutor and freelance writer who has contributed to a variety of test-prep material.

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