Morphemes

Morpheme literally means something which has a shape, or a body. Buried in its past is an idea which says that if it has a shape it is complete and therefore has a meaning.

Morphemes are parts of words which have a meaning. They are used on their own, or in combinations, to form words in English (and in most other languages). If you have some understanding of the meanings of morphemes, then you will have a better chance of understanding new words as you come across them because the morphemes always have the same basic meaning. However, morphemes can change form without warning because they will often obey the rules of the language they came from. It all adds a little flavour to the sauce.

Technically this is a list of word stems rather than strict morphemes (morphemes can’t be made any smaller while stems are often combinations): but they are much more useful in this form. Have fun with them: stick them together in new ways and try to pronounce them. If that’s difficult, make up links which sound sweet to the English ear and think how clever you are. And then complain about English spelling if you dare…

The morphemes and stems are Latin and Greek.

MORPHEME MEANING EXAMPLES
a-, ab-, against, away from atheist, abdicate
ante in front of, before anteroom
anti against, opposite antibiotic, anticipate
-ar -er, -ir, -or someone who does it operator, thinker
-arian a believer, follower authoritarian, barbarian
artis craft, skill art, artist, artisan
aster, astra- star asteroid, asterisk (*)
audio hear audience, audio- lingual
auror, australis south Australia
auto self automatic, autobiography
barba hair, beard barber, barb
bene well, good beneficial, benefit
bi- twice biannual, binary
bios life biography, biology
boreor, borealis north Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
caca, kakos bad, evil, shit cacophony, cak-handed
caedere, cis- cut precise, scissors, decisive, decide
chroma colour chromatic scale, chrome
chronos, kronos time chronometer, chronic
-cide cut, kill suicide, patricide, fratricide
circus, cyclus round circle, cycle, circumvent
cognare, cogni- understand recognise, incognito, cogitate
con-, cum with consumer, dining room- cum- kitchen
contra- against contradict, contrary
corpus body corporation, incorporate, corpse
cosmos Earth, world cosmology, cosmopolitan
credo believe, trust credit, creed, credulity
cumulus heap accumulate, cumulous (cloud)
currere, cursio run cursor, courier, course
dermis, derma- skin epidermis, hypodermic, dermatitis
di- ,dia- across, in half Diameter, dissect
dicto say dictation, diction, contradict
dis-, dys-, de- bad, not, away from dysfunctional, disable, disarm, deactivate
ducere, ductio lead Duke, educate, deduce, conduit, Dux
e-, ex-, exit, exeunt go out of exit, ex- student, education
educare, educo lead out Education, educate
-ee action is done to them payee, employee
em-, en- put in, on embellish, entrust
eu- well, pleasant euphony, euphoria, Eucharist
finis end, complete finish, fine, infinite, definite
frater brother fraternal, fraternity
gens, genus, gene- origin, family, be born, become, gene, general, generous, generate
geos world geography, geology
graphos write , carve graphite, engrave, grave
gratis free, pleasing grace, grateful, gratitude, ingrate
haema, haemo- blood haemophilia, haematoma
hetero- different from heterogenous, heterosexual
Homo mankind Homo Sapiens (thinking man)
homo- the same as homogenous, homophone
hypo- under, beneath hypodermic, hypochondria
hyper- over, more than, extra hyperactive, “hype”
infantia can’t speak infant, infantry
insula island insulate, peninsula, insulin
inter between international, internal, intern
intra within, amongst intravenous
-ism set of beliefs Nationalism, Communism
-ist believer Nationalist, Communist
-itis inflamed, sore tendonitis, tonsilitis, dermatitis
juvenis young, youth juvenile
kratia, cratia state, government aristocracy, autocrat
lithos stone monolith, lithograph
locus place locate, dislocate, local
logia study of geology, archaeology, morphology
macro large, long macron, macropod
mare (mer-) the sea marine, maritime, mermaid
maritus husband marital, marriage
Mars, mart- Roman God of war martial
mater mother maternal
mega very large, great megaphone
meta above metabolism, metaphor
metron measurement thermometer, meter, metre
micro small microscope, microclimate, microbe
mittere, missio send out mission, transmit, commissioner
multi many Multicloth, multiply, multilingual
non not non- functional, nonchalant
pater father paternal, paternity
pathos feeling, emotion sympathy, pathetic
pecus cattle, (= wealth) pecuniary, impecunious
ped, pedis, pod foot tripod, pedal, impede
penin almost peninsula
per- through, by way of perhaps, perceive, percent
philo love philosophy, Anglophile
phobos hate, fear phobia, arachnophobia
phonos, phon- sound phonetic, telephone, euphony
planos flat, even plane, plan
poly many polygon, polyester, monopoly
porto carry portable, porter, transport
post after post, posterior
pre- before premix, prepare, preach
psyche mind, spirit, soul psychological, psychiatrist, psychic
radix root, radish radius, radial, radical
retro- backwards retrograde
ruptio burst rupture, erupt
soror sister sorority
sub under sub- standard, submarine
super over, above Superman, superintendent, supersonic
supra on, on top of suprastructure
sym-, syn- with symphony, sympathy, synthetic
tele- from a distance telephone, television, telescope
terra Earth terrain, territory, terrace
theos god theology, atheist, enthusiasm
thermos, therma- heat thermometer, thermal, hypothermia
trans- over, across transport, transplant, tradition, intransigent
vertere, verso turn adverse, revert, pervert, verse
videre,visio see vision, advice, envy, provide, survey