T is for Tiger

You may visit this tiger at the Toronto Zoo.
You may visit this tiger at the Toronto Zoo.

Some T prefixes

tachi—, tacho—, tachy— all imply “swift”.



tauto— means “the same”.


techno— relates to the use of technology.

technobabble, technocracy

tele— comes from the Greek “far off” and often refers to television or telephone.

telecast, telegraph, teleprompter, telescope

ter— means “three” or “thrice”.

tercel, tercentennial

tera— means a factor of one trillion (1012) or, in computing, a multiple of 240.

terahertz, terawatt

terabit, terabyte

Some T suffixes

t replaces the suffix —ed in some words.

gild, gilded [past tense/adjective], gilt [adjective]

spill, spilled [past tense], spilt [past participle]

spell, spelled [past tense], spelt [past participle]

spend, spent [past tense/past participle]

shall, shalt [second person singular, archaic]


th, —eth are archaic or Biblical verb endings (third person singular, present tense).

He leadeth me beside still waters…

th, —eth are endings that form ordinal numbers.

sixth, hundredth, millionth

nineth, twentieth

th may refer to an act, process, state, or quality.

depth, growth, health, wealth, width

the— may refer to God or gods.

atheist, pantheism


  1. Look through the prefixes and suffixes. Do you see any that you might use on a day-to-day basis? Create a sentence with each of those.
  2. For the prefixes and suffixes that look less familiar, identify where you might find them, e.g., in a scientific text or a medical paper.

Special reading assignment

  1. Two tigers tore through three treacle tarts.
  2. Time and tide wait for no man. —Geoffrey Chaucer

S is for Strawberries

Wild strawberries are small but delicious and sweet.

S is for Syllables

A syllable is a unit of pronunciation having a vowel sound and usually one or more consonant sounds. Syllables give words their rhythm and make poetry possible.

Saying an unfamiliar word syllable by syllable may help, although an understanding of prefixes and suffixes is essential for proper pronunciation.

A word may have only one syllable or many:

air (1 syllable)

afar (2 syllables)

ambush (2 syllables)

ambushed (3 syllables)

absolute (3 syllables)

absolutely (4 syllables)

avocation (4 syllables)

A prefix may have more than one syllable.

anti— an + ti (2 syllables)

A suffix may have more than one syllable.

─ally  al + ly (2 syllables)

A root word may have more than one syllable, as well as a prefix and a suffix, making up a long word.

septic  sep + tic (2 syllables)

antiseptically  an + ti + sep + tic + al + ly (6 syllables)

R is for Raccoon


Toronto, Canada, has a large population of raccoons. Sometimes they get into mischief.
Toronto, Canada, has a large population of raccoons. Sometimes they get into mischief.


re— stands for “again” or “go back”. Sometimes, especially when the root word begins with R or RE, there is a hyphen. Also, if you make up a word starting with RE, you ought to use a hyphen.









Note that a hyphen may indicate a different meaning.

redress vs re-dress

reform vs re-form

rhodo— means “red” or “rosy”.



radio— indicates a relationship with radio or radiation.





er creates an adjective or adverb indicating more, by comparison.





er designates someone (or something) who does or is something.



New Brunswicker




re is sometimes preferred over the more common —er, most often in words that originate from French or Latin. This is one place where spelling variations occur, especially in the USA.

chevre [from French] (cheese)

goitre, goiter [US]

litre, liter [US]

louvre, louver

metre, meter [US]

sabre, saber [US]

theatre, theater [US]

ry, —ery designate a place for something, a class of something, a state or condition of something, or a quality or characteristic of something or someone.

bakery, tannery

finery, mastery

cheery, misery, slavery

snobbery, watery


  1. Find a paragraph in a newspaper or online and look for all the words containing the letter R. How many of them contain a prefix or suffix beginning with R? What is the root of these words? Does the root make sense on its own?
  2. Write down as many verbs as you can think of. Place the prefix re— in front. Do the verbs still make sense? Try to use them in a sentence.


Special reading assignment

  1. Raccoons are native to North America but have spread around the world.
  2. Raccoons do not make good pets. Do you know anyone who has tried to make a pet of one? What happened?


Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the summer of 2015.

Q is for Quail

Coturnix japonica?
These lovely quails are marching across a planter.


quad—, quadr—, quadri— denote four of something, or a square.





quant— denotes a number of something or a measurement.



quart— denotes a fourth of something.


quartet (or quartette)


The mineral quartz has a trigonal crystal form. The name is of Slavic origin.

quasi— means “as if” in Latin, but in English it now implies something that looks OK but is not quite right; “somewhat” or “almost.”



quasi-stellar object (a quasar)

quin— denotes the number five.


quincentenary (500th anniversary)




que in Latin words means “and”, but English words with this ending are usually (but not always) derived from French. The original Latin ending may have been —icus or




grotesque [from Italian]


plaque [from Dutch]


  1. Can you identify additional words to add to the lists of prefixes and suffixes?
  2. Use the words in sentences to clarify their meanings.

Special reading assignment

  1. Quail belong to the same family as partridges and pheasants.
  2. Quail eggs were sent to the Mir space station in 1990, where they were incubated and successfully hatched.

Q, q
Q was once a little quail,
Little Quail!

— Edward Lear, The Complete Nonsense and Other Verse


Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the summer of 2015.

P is for Pelican

Pelicanus erythrorhynchos
The White Pelican, which summers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, has a wingspread of about nine feet.


ped— usually relates to feet, footed, or a line of descent.




post— means “after”, “afterwards”, “later”, or “behind”.





pre— means “before” in time or place, or in the order or importance of things.


precede, precedent



prescribe, prescription


pro— can mean “before” in time or place, or in the order of things.



pro— can mean “favouring” or “supporting”.


pro— can mean “in front of”, “forwards”, or “onward”.




pros— means “towards” or “in addition to” something.




proto— means “first”.




pede or —pedal create a noun or adjective that refers to feet or something footed.






pod or —pode also refer to feet or a number of feet.





  1. Which suffixes correspond to a prefix similar in meaning?
  2. Identify additional words with prefixes and suffixes beginning with the letter P.

Special reading assignment

  1. Philippa and her friend Stephen sloughed off their scarves and photographed the phantom pheasant phenomenon in the pharmacy.
  2. White pelicans scoop up fish while swimming; brown pelicans plunge from a height, bill-first, to catch fish.


Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published sometime soon.

N is for Nest

Song birds' nest
This birds’ nest was built last year. Perhaps the same birds will return to it this spring.


N is a consonant and is spelled, en



narco— relates to narcotics or a numbing effect, as from drugs.

narcolepsy, narcotic

necro— creates a noun or adjective to do with death or the dead.

necrophobia, necrosis

neo— describes something new or renewed.

neo-classical, neocortex, neolithic

nervo— relates to nerves.

nervous, nervy

nitr—, nitro— describes a compound or something containing the element nitrogen.

nitric acid, nitroglycerin, nitrous oxide

non— gives a negative sense or describes a lack of something.

non-addictive, non-believer, non-delivery, non-payment, non-profit, nonsense

nona— stands for nine or ninth.


nucle—, nucleo— describe a nucleus or something to do with it.

nuclear physics, nucleic acid


nutri— describes something nourishing.

nutrient, nutrition



naut describes a person who navigates a space vehicle or something similar.

aeronaut, astronaut, cosmonaut

nd, —and, —end describes a person or sometimes a thing to be treated with some respect.

brigand, graduand

dividend, fiend, friend, reverend

ness creates a noun from an adjective to express the state or condition of someone or something.

artfulness, calmness,  closeness, idleness, sweetness, wilderness

nik describes a person with certain characteristics, especially reminiscent of the 1960s.

beatnik, peacenik, refusenik

nomy denotes an area of knowledge or system of laws in a certain field of study.



  1. Do a search on the Internet for words in the list of prefixes and suffixes. How are the words used? Do you understand them in context?

Special reading assignment

  1. Birds’ nests are difficult to see in the summer when the leaves fill out on the trees.
  2. Nuthatches nest in cavities in trees.


Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published in the summer of 2015.

M is for Monkey

Saimiri sciureus
This Squirrel Monkey watches visitors at the Peterborough Zoo.


mania creates a noun that denotes a mental illness or an enthusiasm.

bibliomania, megalomania

maniac creates an adjective from the noun, meaning affected by mania.


manship creates a noun denoting a skill.

craftsmanship, horsemanship, workmanship

mycin denotes an antibiotic made from fungi or mould.

erythromycin, streptomycin

ment creates a noun that expresses an action, whether the means, the product, or the result of an action.

astonishment, fragment, treatment

ment creates a noun from an adjective to express a state of being.

astonishment, resentment

meter creates a noun denoting something that measures.

barometer, odometer, thermometer

metric creates an adjective relating to measurement.

barometric, geometric

metry creates a noun to describe the procedures or science of measuring.

geometry, trigonometry

Consonant — vowel combinations

ma       mass                                         am       ram

me       met                                           em       embrace

mi        mine                                         im        him

mo       more                                        om       come

mu       must                                         um       yum

my       mynah                                      ym       symbol


  1. Define the words in the list of suffixes.
  2. Make a list of prefixes starting with the letter M.
  3. Think of four new words with a suffix or a prefix starting with M, and make a sentence with them.
  4. Make your own list of words for each Consonant–Vowel Combination. Which combination is the most difficult? 

Special reading assignment

  1. My mother matched most of the Meissen porcelain with melamine dishes.
  2. Amusing monsters marched merrily in the musical.
  3. Most monkeys are long-tailed primates that live in trees. Apes, by contrast, do not have tails.


This blog entry is an excerpt from an upcoming book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published soon.

Note: If you like monkeys and history, you may like to read the e-book, Edwardian Annotated Pets and How to Keep Them. This book, written in 1907, Edwardian England includes information on 17 different monkey species popular as pets.


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.