Although the vast majority of words have single roots, often with some affixes (prefixes and/or suffixes) attached to them, nevertheless there are some words that use multiple roots to convey their meaning.

Let’s take a l0ok at several examples of words which use multiple roots in their shaping:

emancipation:  this word begins with the prefix e-: “out of,” followed by the Latin root man: “hand,” followed by yet another Latin root cip: “take,” and ending with the suffix -ation: “act of doing something.”  Hence, “emancipation” is the “act of taking a hand out of” its restraints, hence setting someone free.

gratification: this word begins with the Latin root grat: “pleasing, welcome, grateful,” followed by the infix -i- which acts as a connective between grat and the next Latin root fic: “make, do,” which is then finished off by the suffix -ation: “act of doing something.”  Hence, feeling gratification after having finished a job is “making” you feel “pleased” or satisfied for all the hard work you put in on it, and for how well it turned out.

iconoclast: the word “iconoclast” is formed from two Greek roots conjoined by the infix -o-, which typically acts as a connective between Greek roots.  The Greek root icon: “image, statue” is paired with the Greek root clast: “break” to form a word which means an “image breaker,” that is,  a severe “critic” of the “images” that institutions and/or established ideas create, and thus the definition: “someone who often attacks beliefs, ideas, or customs that are generally accepted by society.”

participate: our last example is formed from two roots, one infix, and one suffix.  The Latin root part: “part, section” is conjoined with the Latin root word cip: “take” by the infix -i-, which typically connects two roots of Latin origin, all of which are finished by the suffix -ate: “to make something have a certain quality.”  Hence, to participate in a game is to “take part” in it.

Note that agglutination of roots is relatively uncommon when compared with agglutination of prefixes and suffixes.

 

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Most words only add one prefix to their roots, or at the most two.  Here is a good example of how prefixes can alter the meanings of those words:

venue: a place where an event is held.  Note that there are no prefixes that comprise this word.  Here is a podcast on the root word ven: “come”.

convene: to come “together” somewhere, often at a venue.  Note that adding one prefix to a root is the most common practice.  Podcast: prefix con-: “with, together”

reconvene: to come “together” “again.”  It is also fairly common to add two prefixes to the root of a word.  Podcast: prefix re-: “back, again”

The addition of prefixes onto a root word usually ends with one, or at the most two.  There are some words, however, that add on more than two prefixes.  If you know the meanings of the prefixes, it is not particularly daunting to figure out the meaning of the word.  Let’s consider two examples of such prefix agglutination (from the Latin “to glue together”):

ultimate: the last of something.

penultimate: the “nearly” last of something, or second to last

antepenultimate: “before” the “nearly” last of something, i.e. third to last  Podcast: the prefix ante-: “before”

preantepenultimate: “before” the “before” the “nearly” last of something, that is, fourth to last  Podcast: the prefix pre-: “before”

 

quaver: eighth note

semiquaver: one-half of an eighth note, or a sixteenth note

demisemiquaver: one-half of one-half of an eighth note, or a thirty-second note

hemidemisemiquaver: one-half of one-half of one-half of an eighth, or a sixty-fourth note

Wasn’t that fun?

Many words with more than one prefix have added on a negative prefix, such as “in-” or “non-” or “un-” to make the opposite of a word:

conceivable–inconceivable  Podcast: the prefix in-: “not”

reversible–irreversible  Podcast: prefix assimilation of the prefix in-: “not”

coherent–incoherent

conformist-nonconformist  Podcast: the prefix non-: “not”

prepossessing-unprepossessing

If you know your prefixes, words become much easier to divine the meaning of, so don’t be put off by the length of a word.   Membean’s podcasts of root words and prefixes are very helpful in picking apart words–there is a new one each month.

Here are some fun words that have some pretty major prefix agglutination going on:

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

antidisestablishmentarianism

hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism

floccinaucinihilipilification

Can you pick out the prefixes in the above words?

Stay tuned for our next blog post which will discuss the bifunctional nature of suffixes.

 

 

 

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