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7th Grade Language Arts / Lesson 4.2.2: Prefixes, Roots

Introduction to Greek Word Elements

English words came from many languages. 

Did you know - 10 -15 % of all words in English come either in whole or part from Greek?

These words and word parts (prefixes, roots, and suffixes) came into English in two steps

 Step 1

  • Greek word-forming patterns, words, and word parts adopted into Latin more than 1.500 years ago - about 500 AD
  • Passed through Latin into many European languages & used  mostly for scholarly or technical purposes. 

At first these words were not used much in the English of the time.  That began to change  in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

 Step 2

  • Modern English (language spoken during the Renaissance) began to be used extensively in the 16th Century (1500's)
  • Time when great thinkers and writers began to return to the classic ideas and values of Greek writers and philophers like Plato and Plutarch. 

 At that time, Renaissance thinkers and writers began to freely take words and word parts from Greek

Introduction to Greek Word Elements


Some words taken from Greek kept their "Greek" look. 

Click each word to access an online dictionary for its meaning



Other words taken from Greek kept their meaning,  but the way they looked were changed by Latin and French

 Greek Word

 Latin Word

 French Word

 English Word







Introduction to Greek Word Elements

Many key words for literary devices used by authors come from Greek

  • biography
  • comedy
  • epic
  • irony
  • lyric
  • metaphor
  • mythology
  • symbolism
  • tragedy

Introduction to Greek Word Elements

It is important to understand Greek word elements.  This can be helpful because although the elements are used in many different words, the element itself always keeps the same meaning.  This can help you figure out the meaning of words you might not know or might not be sure of.

Example: The Greek word element hyper always means "overly, excessively, too"

Knowing this, can you guess the meaning of the word "hypersensitive"? Click the word to check if you're correct!


Common Greek Word Elements

See the following table of common Greek word elements - take notes on these words and use them to complete the assignment

  aero = air  cosm = universe  ology = study of phono = sound 
 anti = against   demo = people  meter = measure  poli = city
  astr = star  gen = birth or race  micro = samll  psych = mind
  biblo = book  geo = earth  ortho = straight, right  saur = lizard 
  bio = life  gram = letter, written  ped = child   sci = know
 chrono = time  graph = write, signature  phil = love  


You Need to Know the Following Greek Word Elements!

 Greek Word Element


 -gram   (suffix) something written, letter
 biblio-   (prefix)  book
 micro-  (prefix)  small
 geo-     (prefix)  earth
 aero-    (prefix)  air
 bio-      (prefix)  life
 astro-    (prefix)  star
 -gen      (suffix)  birth, race of people
 omni-     (prefix)  all
 -saur     (suffix)  lizard
 cosm-, cosmo-   (prefix)  universe
 phon- , phono-   (prefix)  sound