Base Words | Definition & Examples
A base word is the most fundamental part of a word that has meaning. The meaning of a base word can be changed by adding letters at the beginning (prefix) and/or the end (suffix). However, base words can also be used as standalone words in English.
For example, the word “untrained” has three parts:
prefix base word suffix
“Train” is the base word (i.e., the smallest part of the word that makes sense by itself and cannot be further divided). The prefix “un-” adds a negative meaning to the word, and the suffix “-ed” means “characterized by.” The word “train” is also the base for other words like “trainee,” “trainer,” or “training.”
What are base words?
A base word is the core part of a word and contains its essential meaning. Base words can be used on their own or combined with other words or letters to create new, complex words.
For example, the word “use” is a word in its own right, but it is also the basis for other words when a suffix or prefix is added, such as “misuse,” “useless,” and “reusable.” Base words like “use” are not derived from or made up of other words.
Although identifying the base of words is usually easy, sometimes adding a suffix (i.e., an ending) causes a spelling change to the original form of the word. For example, “y” changes to “i” when the suffix “-ful” is added, like in the words “beautiful” (from “beauty”), “merciful” (from “mercy”), and “dutiful” (from “duty”).
Base word examples
Base words are often used to form more complex words.
|Base word||Derived word|
Base words vs root words
The terms base words and root words are often used interchangeably. However, they are not exactly the same thing.
While a base word can function as a standalone word or be used to form more complex words, a root word may not always be able to stand alone. Some root words are independent words, but many of them need a prefix, a suffix, or another root word to form a word that makes sense in English.
This is because many root words are of Greek or Latin origin. For example, the Latin root word “cred” (meaning “believe” or “trust”) is the root of words like “incredible,” “credentials,” and “creed,” but it’s not a separate word in English.
Sometimes, a base word is also a root word. For example, the word “meter” is a root word of Greek origin, but it is also an independent word in English. By adding a prefix or a suffix, we get new words like “metric,” “asymmetry,” and “diameter.” In this case, “meter” is both a root word and a base word.
Below are some examples to illustrate that base words and root words are not necessarily the same:
|Word||Base word||Root word||Meaning|
Worksheet: Base words
Want to test your understanding of base words? Try the worksheet below. In each sentence, see if you can identify the base of the highlighted word.
Frequently asked questions
- What is an example of a base word?
An example of a base word is the word “help.” “Help” is an independent word but it can also be used to form complex words like “unhelpful,” “helpless,” or “helper” by adding a suffix and/or a prefix.
- How do you find the root of a word?
Although there is no particular rule for finding the root of a word, one way to do this is to check if the word has any affixes (suffix and/or prefix) added to it.
For example, the word “hyperactive” has the prefix “hyper-” (meaning “over”) and the suffix “-ive” (meaning “having the nature of”). If we remove the affixes, we get the root word (“act”).
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