Even though the most vocabulary intensive questions e.g. antonyms and synonyms are out of the new GRE, do not underestimate the vocabulary related questions in the verbal section. So it is no surprise that roots are the go-to approach to building superb vocabulary and your golden ticket to improving your GRE and GMAT verbal scores.
Students who have studied Latin or Greek know how relevant roots are for determining the meaning of a word; all romance languages are descendants of Latin and Greek and thus, take a tremendous amount of their spelling and pronunciation from their vocabularies. Some quick examples:
| Latin Root
|| art, artifact, etc.
|| aqua, water, aqueduct, etc.
|| [war] belligerent, bellicose, antebellum, etc.
But even if you haven’t studied Latin, roots can still play an important part of your analysis of words you don’t recognize. Consider the word fidelity.
You may not realize it, but the root of the word (the “fide” part) appears in many other English words, and can help you identify their meaning:
confidence – full trust
infidel – a non-believer
perfidy – deceitfulness
affidavit – a written declaration of intent
All of these words can be related back to the root of the word fidelity; this ability to connect related words and meanings can be an incredibly valuable resource, especially if you fail to immediately recognize the meaning of a word you encounter on the test. Try your hand at the following example and see if you can use your knowledge of roots to solve the following question:
Among the choices, there is only one that has a root relevant to the subject matter of the sentence. “Plutocratic” means “ruled by the wealthy”, and you may recognize its root “crat” from words like democrat or democracy. None of the other choices are relevant or appropriate for the blank in this sentence.
In many ways, having a comprehensive knowledge of roots can be more valuable than memorizing individual words – each new root that you learn could help you discover the meaning of literally dozens of other words, so before you start memorizing entire dictionaries, have a look at our lesson titled “Academic Vocabulary” to give you complete rundown of the most frequently appearing roots of commonly tested words.
Although their full meaning will be covered more thoroughly in a subsequent study guide, suffixes and prefixes are also an important of deciphering a words meaning; the difference between the prefixes “con” and “in” are responsible for the dramatically different meanings of the words “confidence” and “infidel” above.
Additionally, Latin, Greek , and English aren’t the only languages that can help you identify roots in words you don’t know. If you speak any Germanic or Romance languages, you may be able to use your knowledge to help gain ground on words you don’t know as well. Words are often connected in ways that are not apparent until we view them under a microscope, so during the test be sure to use every available resource at your disposal to crack the test’s code and get every possible point you can.