Prefixes and Suffixes You Should Know for the ASVAB

By Rod Powers

You want to do well on the Word Knowledge test of the ASVAB. That means knowing common prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes, roots, and suffixes are the main parts that make up words. Not every word has all three, but most have at least one.

Prefixes are the parts that come at the front of a word, suffixes are the parts that come at the end of a word, and roots are the parts that lie 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.

These basic word parts generally have the same meaning in whatever word they’re used. For instance, pro- means something along the lines of in favor of, forward, or positive, whether you use it in the word proton or the word proceed.

Each list below has the word part, its meaning, and one word that uses each word part. Write down additional words that use each word part to help you memorize the list. Here is a list of prefixes you should know.

Prefix Meaning Sample Word
a- no, not atheist
ab- or abs- away, from absent
anti- against antibody
bi- two bilateral
circum- around circumnavigate
com- or con- with, together conform
contra- or counter- against contradict
de- away from detour
deca- ten decade
extra- outside, beyond extracurricular, extraordinary
fore- in front of foreman
geo- earth geology
hyper- above, over hyperactive
il- not illogical
mal- or male- evil, bad malediction
multi- many multiply
ob- blocking obscure
omni- all omnibus
out- external outside
que-, quer-, or ques- ask question, query
re- back, again return
semi- half semisweet
super- over, more superior
tele- far telephone
trans- across transatlantic
un- not uninformed

Here is a list of common suffixes that you should check out before test day.

Suffix Meaning Original Word: Suffixed Word
-able or -ible capable of agree: agreeable
-age act of break: breakage
-al relating to function: functional
-ance or -ence instance of an action perform: performance
-ation action, process liberate: liberation
-en made from silk: silken
-ful full of help: helpful
-ic relating to, like alcohol: alcoholic
-ical possessing a quality of magic: magical
-ion result of, act of legislate: legislation
-ish resembling child: childish
-ism belief in Buddha: Buddhism
-ist one who characterizes elite: elitist
-ity quality of specific: specificity
-less not having child: childless
-let small one book: booklet
-man relating to humans gentle: gentleman
-ment act or process of establish: establishment
-ness possessing a quality good: goodness
-or, -er one who does a thing orate: orator
-ous state of danger: dangerous
-y quality of taste: tasty

If you memorize prefixes, suffixes, and roots, you have a better chance of figuring out the meaning of an unfamiliar word when you see it on the ASVAB. 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.)