The English language is made up of many words that are closely related. In fact, it's possible to build new words by modifying existing words. This is done by adding affixes to the beginning or end of the root or base word. Root and base words are slightly different, and understanding what they are and how to use them will help you improve your vocabulary skills.
Many students, and even teachers, wonder are base words and root words the same. Here's what you need to know about the similarities and differences.
A prefix or suffix is a meaningful affix that doesn't function as a word on its own but can be attached to a root or base word. Prefixes (like pre-, anti- or de-) go at the beginning of a word, while suffixes (like -tion, -ness and -ment) go at the end.
It's the middle part of a word that holds the most meaning, however. This may be a root word or a base word.
Root words come from Latin or Greek words. They can also be known as a "word root" or just a "root." While these may have been whole words in Latin and Greek, root words can't be used alone in English. For example, aud is a Latin root word that has to do with hearing. This is the root of common English words like auditorium, audio, and audition - all of which have to do with hearing someone or something. Aud doesn't mean anything on its own in English - that is, you can't use it as a stand-alone word - but understanding the meaning of the root makes it easier to figure out what the English words that use it mean.
Base words, on the other hand, are always words that can stand alone in English. These words have meaning on their own, but they can also have prefixes and suffixes added to them to make new words. For example, cycle is a full word in English, but it can also be added to, to make words like bicycle and cyclist. Cycle is the base word, or the simplest form of the word without any prefixes or suffixes added.
When dealing with root and base words, things get tricky when the base word also has a Greek or Latin root. For example, civil is a base word that describes someone courteous, or something related to ordinary citizens. This base word stands alone, but it can also be added to, to create words like civilization, civility, and civilian.
Though civil stands alone as a base word in English, it comes from the Latin root civ (from the Latin word civis), which relates to citizens. You can't use civ on its own in English, but it's still part of the base word civil. Note that civ is also a root in words that are not connected to the base word civil, including the word civics.
Occasionally, a base word in English is the same as a Latin root. For example, the word act stands alone in English, making it a base word. Act is also a Latin root that comes from the Latin word actum. In this case, a root word and base word are the same, and both can be added on to to make words like action, reaction and actual.
Base words and root words are not the same, even if in a few cases a word can be labeled as both. Understanding root words will help you learn more words in English more quickly. As you begin to understand the Greek and Latin roots of common words, you'll notice them in more places, and this will give you a clue to the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
Likewise, knowing base words will also help you understand new words as well as how prefixes and suffixes can change a word's meaning. When you see how all the pieces of a word work together, you'll have a greater appreciation for English and how its vast vocabulary came to be.