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Word Analysis


In addition to the study of word origin, etymology also involves word analysis, which is the process of separating a word into its parts and then using the meanings of those parts to deduce the meaning of the original word. Take, for example, the word INTERMINABLE. It is made up of three parts: a prefix IN (not), a root TERMIN (stop), and a suffix ABLE (can do). Therefore, by word analysis, INTERMINABLE means “not able to stop.” This is not the literal meaning of INTERMINABLE (endless), but it is close enough to find an antonym. For another example, consider the word RETROSPECT. It is made up of the prefix RETRO (back) and the root SPECT (to look). Hence, RETROSPECT means “to look back (in time), to contemplate.”


Word analysis is very effective in decoding the meaning of words. However, you must be careful in its application since words do not always have the same meaning as the sum of the meanings of their parts. In fact, on occasion words can have the opposite meaning of their parts. For example, by word analysis the word AWFUL should mean “full of awe,” or awe-inspiring. But over the years it has come to mean just the opposite—terrible. In spite of the shortcomings, word analysis gives the correct meaning of a word (or at least a hint of it) far more often than not and therefore is a useful tool.






Analysis: IN (not); DE (thoroughly); FATIG (fatigue); ABLE (can do)

Meaning: cannot be fatigued, tireless





Analysis: CIRCUM (around); SPECT (to look)

Meaning: to look around, that is, to be cautious





Analysis: ANTI (against); PATH (to feel); Y (noun suffix)

Meaning: to feel strongly against something, to hate





Analysis: OMNI (all); SCI (to know); ENT (noun suffix)

Meaning: all-knowing

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