L is for Lake

Lac Temiskamingue
Some old friends on a walk emerge onto the shore of Lake Temiskaming for a view of Devil’s Rock.

History and significance

The letter L is a consonant and is spelled ell or el. L is derived from the Greek lambda and Semitic lamedh. The original letter lamedh was a picture of an ox goad or a stick for driving oxen.

L is for Latin

Words of Latin derivation account for 29% of words in the Oxford English Dictionary and 15% of words in business usage. Many of these words came into the English language during the time that the Roman Empire dominated England, others came in from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Latin and Latinized Greek came to be used to create binomial names for plants and animals under the Linnaean system of nomenclature. Some Latin words have entered English via French or Italian. Latin reveals itself in English most often as a prefix or suffix.

lactate, lactose [from Latin, lac, for “milk”]

levity, relieve [from Latin, levis, for “light”]

liberal, liberty [from Latin, liber, for “free”]

lunar, lunatic [from Latin, luna, for “moon”]

lupine [from Latin, lupus, for “wolf”]

Canis lupus (timber wolf)

L is for linguistics

Linguistics is the study of the structure of languages and the nature of human speech.

Special reading assignment

  1. Canada is lucky to have so many lakes as a source of fresh water for drinking and for recreation. Originally, these lakes and the connecting rivers acted as routes for exploration of the country.
  2. Lake Temiskaming, a part of the Ottawa River, is located in a rift valley. The cliffs at Devil’s Rock rise over 90 metres (300 feet) above the lake, which has a depth of 216 metres (over 700 feet). Be sure to wear your life jacket.

L is for Lion


These lions are strolling through their compound at the Toronto Zoo.
These lions are strolling through their compound at the Toronto Zoo.

Prefixes and Suffixes with L


Certain words derived from French use the prefixes, la— or le—, but many words beginning with L are from Latin. 

la— from the French for “the”.


le— from the French for “the”.

Le Havre [city]

lee— the sheltered side of something, from Old English and German.

leeward, leeway

log— or logo— about a word or speech, from Latin.


lun— related to the moon, crescent-shaped, from Latin.

lunar, lunatic

Compound words may be created with common words, such as lock, long, look, low, etc., which act like prefixes.


lock stitch



long division






low gear



lent creates an adjective similar to —ful, meaning more of the same.

repellent, violent, virulent

less creates an adjective or adverb from a noun or a verb to indicate a lack or freedom from something.

childless, fearless, sugarless

restless, sleepless, tireless

let something little; a diminutive.

booklet, piglet, owlet

like creates an adjective from a noun to indicate similarity. Use a hyphen for words ending in —l and for unusual combinations.

childlike, ladylike, saintlike, warlike

bowl-like, shell-like

pavement-like, umbrella-like

ling something little; a diminutive.

sapling, yearling

lith denotes a kind of stone or rock.

megalith, monolith, otolith

lithic creates an adjective from a noun ending in —lith.

palaeolithic [UK], paleolithic [US]

logic, —logical creates an adjective from a noun ending in —logy.


biological, theological

logist creates a noun indicating a person working in a profession studying something that ends in —ogy.

mammalogist, microbiologist,  zoologist

logue, —log creates a noun indicating talk. [The —log ending is US English.]

dialogue, prologue

dialog [US]

logue, —log creates a noun indicating the compilation of something.

catalogue, travelogue

catalog [US]

logy about how something is spoken or expressed; discourse.

neology, phraseology

logy, —ology a study, discipline, or science.


biology, dermatology

long describes something of great duration or breadth, or a success.

along, belong, furlong, oblong

ly creates an adverb from an adjective to indicate the manner or the degree of something.

exactly, honestly, slowly

ly creates an adjective from a noun to indicate the quality of something.

dryly, girly, manly

ly creates an adjective from a noun to denote that something occurs at intervals of time.

annually, daily, hourly, yearly

lysis creates a noun denoting a cutting up, disintegration or decomposition. The plural of these words is generally —lyses.

analysis, hydrolysis

lytic creates an adjective for words ending in —lysis.

analytic, electrolytic


  1. Use the suffixes and prefixes to make simple words longer and then use them in a sentence. Do you know the meaning of each word? If not, go to the dictionary.

Special reading assignment

  1. Ladies in London like Latin lovers.
  2. The lion, an African cat species and a popular zoo animal, might eat a South American llama, if given a chance.

J is for Jellyfish

Aurelia aurita, medusa stage
These moon jellyfish create an eerie display in the Australasia Pavilion at the Toronto Zoo.


Judeo— refers to Jews or something Jewish, or something in addition to Judaism


junct— stands for join

junction, conjunction, disjunction 

jur— stands for law or justice



juxta— near or alongside




ject creates verbs meaning to throw something




jud refers to law

judgment (or judgement)



jugal refers to a yoke


junct refers to a joining

junction, conjunction, disjunction


juven refers to young




  1. Look in a dictionary and count the number of pages devoted to the letters J, Z, Q, and X.
  2. Why are there so few prefixes and suffixes starting with the letter J?
  3. Look on the Internet for a description of the juvenile stage of jellyfish.

Special reading assignment

  1. “Jumping Jehoshephat” is an oath taken from the story of a great king in the Bible.         — from 2 Chronicles 20
  2.  The jackal is a species of wild dog found in Africa and is rather similar to the North American coyote.
  3.  The moon jellyfish, pictured, is the adult or medusa stage of Aurelia aurita.


I is for Ichneumon Wasp

Family Ichneumonidae
Ichneumon wasps come in all sizes and a variety of colours. The long “tail” is an ovipositor.


il— means before


ill— means not

illegible, illusion 

im— means before

impulse, improve

in— also means not

inability, inconsistent

in— or it could mean into

income, influx, ingrain, invite

infra— below

infrared, infrastructure 

inter— among, between

interchange, interfere, interlude

irr— means not

irregular, irresistible

iso— same

isomer, isosceles


  1. Look at the list of examples of prefixes. Can you add a suffix onto any of them to create different words?
  2. Can you think of suffixes that start with the letter I?

Special reading assignment

  1. His interest is in iconography.
  2. Going into the interior, his instrument indicated that a new installation is important.

F is for Fish

Cyprinus carpio
These hungry carp were spotted near a bridge over a little river at the Toronto Zoo.


fibro— meaning fibres.

fibroid, fibrous

for— meaning away, apart, prohibited, or neglected.

forget, forbid, forgo, forlorn 

fore— in front of, beforehand, in advance, anticipatory.

forearm, forecast, foreclose, foregone, foreground


ful has various meanings and functions:

As a suffix to change a noun to an adjective, means “full of” or “having qualities”:

beauty, beautiful

master, masterful

As a suffix on an adjective to make another adjective, retains the sense of the original:

skilled, skillful

tasty, tasteful

As a suffix to change a verb to an adjective, means “able to”, “apt to”, or “accustomed to”:

forget, forgetful

mourn, mournful

use, useful

As a suffix on a noun to indicate an amount:

handful (plural, handsful or handfuls)

spoonful (plural, spoonsful or spoonfuls)


1.      Define the words in the Prefixes section.

2.      Think of some more words using —ful as a suffix. How does the suffix change the meaning of the word?

Special reading assignment

1.  Four foreigners followed five forks from Finland.

2. Puffer fish for Friday.


C is for Cat

Felis catus
A domestic cat roams the streets of Toronto.


cir— or circ— stand for around.

circumference, circumstance

com— and con— stand for with.

combine, complete, compassion

conclave, conduct, conclude

co— means jointly.

coaxial, co-ed, cooperate

contra— means against.


counter— against, opposite, or in reply.

counteract, counterfeit, countersign


aceae plant families.

Corylaceae [hazelnuts]

ance, —ence  create a  noun describing a state or condition, or an action.

circumstance, continuance

conscience, dependence, emergence


  1. Do you know the meaning of each word? If you can’t figure it out, go to the dictionary.
  2. Can you think of additional words with the same prefixes and suffixes? 

Special reading assignment

  1. Crazy kings and queens can’t corral coral-coloured cows quickly.
  2. The trouble with cats is that they’ve got no tact.                                — P. G. Wodehouse


Note: If you like cats and history, you may like to read the e-book, Edwardian Annotated Pets and How to Keep Them. This book discusses the origin of cats as pets, European wild cats, and also recommends how to keep a cat in 1907, Edwardian England.

B is for Blackbird

A grackle sits in an oak tree.


be— stands for existing or doing

beneath, bestir, between, beware

bi— stands for two

bicycle, bisexual

biblio— about books

bibliography, bibliophile

bio— about life

biochemistry, biology, biome

by— means near, along, passing through, or done by an agency






by Words that end in b may be given a ─y suffix. The addition of the —y requires the b to be doubled to preserve the sound of the vowel.

 crabby, tabby, hobby, lobby

able and —ible

Words that end in ─able or ─ible refer to something able to be or fit to be.