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Get to the Root of It: Studying Words to Expand Vocabulary

written by: partha1061 • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/23/2012

You can improve your vocabulary very easily and rapidly with the methods and tips we are about to share with you. They will be especially useful for those who are learning English as a second language.

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    Learning More Words Is Fun

    Students who engage in activities to learn words are often the ones with the top grades in a class. This is no coincidence at all. Learning more and more words expands our knowledge and comprehension of the world around us. The power to understand and express any given subject improves dramatically among groups of students who have an active interest in learning more words.

    However, there are also a few students who find that learning more words is difficult, time-consuming, or boring. They think it is not worthy of the time and effort we may have to devote for improving their vocabulary. The following method of using a word's root, prefix and suffix for learning many related words altogether will help these students in quickly improving their vocabulary and enjoying themselves in the process.

    What Is a Gene?

    Let us begin with a common example: A gene is the main word from which many other words are derived in modern English language. Genes in biology implies the sequence of bases of DNA, which code for the making of a particular type of protein. The term derives from the word Genesis in the Bible, which deals with the origin of the world, human beings, nature, etc. The word Genesis is derived from Latin roots meaning the beginning or origin of something.

    Using the same word genesis as a word root, the word pangenesis was coined and used later on, literally meaning the origin of all living beings (pan = all). Oncogenes are transforming genes, which make normal healthy cells to cancerous tumors. Genealogy is the study of family history and ancestry of a person. Genetics is the modern branch of biology, which studies the laws and mechanisms of heredity and variation in living organisms. A geneticist is a biologist who specializes in the study of genetics. Genome is the full DNA sequence of an organism. Genotype is the genetic constitution of an organism.

    Now, we have learned a lot of new words with the help of a single main word--genes. If we use the Mind Map method it will be easy to interrelate every word with the main word genes and they therefore will be easy for us to remember. The following map will serve as an example:

    Transforming genes=oncogenes=onco+genes

    Genes=sequence of bases of DNA; code for protein synthesis

    Origin of all living beings=pangenesis=pan+genes; add logos to get genealogy=study of family history & ancestry

    Genetic constitution = genotype=type+gene+tics =genetics=study of heredity and variation

    Full DNA sequence of a living being= genome=ome+gene+icist=geneticist=Specialist in genetics

    You will notice that by adding a prefix like 'onco' and ''pan'' with the word root gene the meaning of the new word ''oncogenes'' and ''pangenesis'' changes totally, but the underlying idea or subject denoted by main word ''gene'' remains the key to understanding these new words. Similarly, when suffixes such as ''logy,', ''type,'' ''tics'' and ''ome'' are added, the meaning of the resulting new word changes but the word root ''genes'' remains the keyword. These word roots are of interest to us since they will help us in remembering the new words associated with them.

    Prefixes and Suffixes

    Interestingly, you can also remember new words arising from the prefix or suffix, which is added to the word root. Like the prefix ''pan'' means "all," so panorama means the total visual percept of a region. Panacea means a cure for all diseases; pandemic means an epidemic over a wide geographical area, and so on.

    You can learn innumerable new words everyday, if you follow the pattern of identifying a word's root, including the main idea or thought expressed by the word. If you pay similar attention to prefixes and suffixes then you will master more words related to the main word root and also discover the various synonyms and antonyms for a particular word.