How to Find the Meaning of an Unknown Word on the ASVAB
The ASVAB contains a section that is essentially a vocabulary test. Many English words are created from building blocks called roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Not every word has all three, but many have at least one.
The prefix is the part that comes at the front of a word, the suffix is the part that comes at the end of a word, and the root is the part that comes in the middle of a word. Think of roots as the base of the word and prefixes and suffixes as word parts that are attached to the base.
If you don’t know the meaning of a word, you can often break it down into smaller parts and analyze those parts. For instance, introspect is made up from the root spect, which means to look, and the prefix intro, which means within. Taken together, introspect means “to look within.” Wasn’t that fun?
If you memorize some of these word parts, you’ll have a better chance of figuring out the meaning of an unfamiliar word when you see it on the Word Knowledge subtest — and that’s a good thing. Figuring out the meaning of unfamiliar words is how people with large vocabularies make them even larger. (They look up words in the dictionary, too.)
A root is a word part that serves as the base of a word. If you recognize a root, you can generally get an idea of what the word means, even if you’re not familiar with it.
As Mr. Miyagi said in The Karate Kid, “Root strong, tree grow strong.” All right, Daniel-san, in terms of your vocabulary, think of it this way: If your knowledge of word roots is strong, your vocabulary will be much larger.
Here are some common roots. Memorize them. When you sit down to take the ASVAB, you’ll be glad you did.
|anthro or anthrop||relating to humans||anthropology|
|bibli or biblio||relating to books||bibliography|
|cede or ceed||go, yield||recede|
|cogn or cogno||know||cognizant|
|dic or dict||speak||diction|
|flu or flux||flow||influx|
|frac or frag||break||fragment|
|pat or path||suffer||pathology|
|scrib or script||write||describe|
|sens or sent||think, feel||sentient|
|voc or vok||call||revoke|
Prefixes and suffixes
A prefix is a group of letters added before a word or base to alter the base’s meaning and form a new word. In contrast, a suffix is a group of letters added after a word or base. Prefixes and suffixes are called affixes because they’re attached to a root.
Here are some common prefixes. Each list has the word part, its meaning, and one word that uses each word part. Writing down additional words that you know for each word part can help you memorize the list.
|ab- or abs-||away, from||absent|
|con- or contra-||against||contradict|
|fore-||in front of||foreman|
|mal- or male-||wrong, bad||malnutrition|
|que-, quer-, or ques-||ask||question|
Here are some suffixes that you should also commit to memory.
|-able or -ible||capable of||agreeable|
|-ance||instance of an action||performance|
|-ical||possessing a quality of||statistical|
|-ion||result of act or process||legislation|
|-man||relating to humans, manlike||gentleman|
|-ness||possessing a quality||goodness|
|-or||one who does something||orator|