Root Words: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:03 What Are Root Words?
  • 0:44 Prefixes
  • 1:33 Suffixes
  • 2:07 Finding Root Words
  • 2:41 Using Root Words to…
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

This lesson is about root words, prefixes, and suffixes. You will learn how to identify root words and how to use root words to help discover the meaning of an unfamiliar word.

What Are Root Words?

If you look closely, you may notice that some words have smaller words hidden inside of them. Many have a base word, similar to the roots or trunk of a tree, that can have one or more attachments, like the branches and leaves of a tree.

That base word is called a root word. A root word is the simplest form of a word, and it can have endings or beginnings added to it to alter the meaning of that base. Knowing about root words and endings can help you to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. Now, let's look at those endings and beginnings that can be added on - prefixes and suffixes.


A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a root word to add to or change its meaning. Here are some prefixes:

The prefix '-un' means 'not'

  • un + happy = unhappy. To be unhappy is to be not happy.

The prefix 'pre-' means 'before'

  • pre + view = preview. A preview is something you view beforehand, like movie previews that show you bits of the movie before you can see the whole movie.

The prefix 'semi-' means 'part'

  • semi + formal = semiformal. A semiformal party is usually partly formal - a little bit fancy, but not as fancy as it could be. Someone might wear a dress shirt but not a tie to a semiformal party.


A suffix is a word part added to the end of a root word to add to or change its meaning. Here are some suffixes:

The suffix '-less' means 'without'

  • fear + less = fearless. Fearless means without fear.

The suffix '-ful' means 'full of'

  • beauty + ful = beautiful. Beautiful means full of beauty.

The suffix '-ed' is used to show that an action happened in the past

  • play + ed = played. Played is a past action.

Finding Root Words

To find the root word, look for prefixes and suffixes that can be removed, including endings that change a verb's tense, like '-ing' and '-ed.'

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