Word Parts and Combinations

As you can see, understanding the meaning of science terms is easier when you break them down into smaller components. This might be a good time to remember the three main parts of a word: the root, the prefix and the suffix. A word root is the primary unit of a word. It’s often the longest, most central part of the word that carries the most significant meaning. Both prefixes and suffixes can be added to a word root in order to modify its meaning.  are word parts that appear before a root, like ‘un-,’ ‘in-,’ ‘dis-,’ ‘re-‘ and ‘a-.’ Suffixes are word parts that come after the root, like ‘-ed,’ ‘-ing,’ ‘-less,’ ‘-ly’ and ‘-ism.’ When prefixes and suffixes show up in science words, they work the same way as they do in regular English. For example, the suffix -ism appears in the word ‘thigmotropism.’ You don’t need to know that -ism is a suffix that indicates a noun. You already know plenty of similar ‘isms,’ like journalism, optimism and tourism. These are all nouns. So, thigmotropism must also be a noun, even if we’re not yet sure what it means.


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