When you read books and newspapers, you will inevitably encounter unfamiliar words. But before looking them up in the dictionary, try to guess their meanings. You will be surprised how much you actually know. English is largely derived from ancient languages, and a lot of the English words have roots of Greek and Latin origin or are formed by combining parts of the Greek or Latin words. If you learn the most common Latin and Greek root words and prefixes, you can easily understand the meanings of many words, even those you have never seen before.

Let’s take a look at the following words, misanthrope, philanthropist, and anthropology. They share the same root, -anthrop-, which stands for “man, human” in Greek. If you know that -mis- means “hatred” and –phila- or -philo- means “having a strong affinity or love for,” you don’t need to check with the dictionary to know that a misanthrope is an individual who hates mankind while a philanthropist, on the contrary, is an altruist concerned with welfare and advancement of his fellow men. As for the “anthropology,” the second part of the word, -logy-, should be very easy to guess. What do biology, theology, phraseology and dermatology have in common? Each one of them is a theory or a study of a specific area or subject, so “anthropology” should mean a study of mankind or human beings.

You can learn more about Greek and Latin root words here and here.

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