“The 14 Words that Make All the Difference”

These words make all the difference because they are supposed to contain the twenty most useful prefixes and the fourteen most important roots and are to be found in over 14,000 words in a collegiate dictionary size or close to an estimated 100,000 words in an unabridged dictionary size. This is according to James I. Brown, Professor of Rhetoric, University of Minnesota; in his Programmed Vocabulary book, printed by Meredith Publishing Company, New York,1971.

precept: pre-and capere [Although cep, cip, ceiv, ceipt, and ceit are possible variant forms of capere, the most common form to note is cap].

detain: de-and tenere [The various forms of tenere are ten, tain, and tin].

intermittent: inter-and mittere [Other forms include mitt, mit, miss, mis, and mise].

offer: ob-and ferre [Forms include fer and lat].

insist: in-and stare [Forms include sta, stat, sti, and sist].

monograph: mono-and graphein [Common forms include graph and gram].

epilogue: epi-and legein [Forms include log, logy, logo, logue, and ology].

aspect: ad-and specere [Forms include spec and spic].

uncomplicated: un-, com-,and plicare [Forms include plic, plicat, plicit, pli, ply, plex, ple, pleat, play, ploy, and plicity]

nonextended: non-, ex-,and tendere [Variant forms include tend, tent, and tens].

reproduction: re-, pro-,and ducere [Although duit, duke, duct, duch, and duce are all possible derivatives of ducere, the most common form is duc].

indisposed: in-, dis-,and ponere [The two most common three-letter combinations from ponere are pon and pos; with lesser used pound and post which should not be confused with the post that means “after, behind”].

oversufficient: over-, sub-,and facere [Variant forms include fac, fact, fic, feat, feas, featur, and fair].

mistranscribe: mis-, trans-,and scribere [Variant forms include scrib, scrip, scrip, and the less common scriv].

Another List of “The 14 Words that Make All the Difference”

According to Richard E. Hodges of the University of Puget Sound in a booklet titled: Improving Spelling and Vocabulary in the Secondary School, published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communicatiion Skills and the National Council of Teachers of English, 1982; page 30: “If you were to examine the 20,000 most used English words, you would find that about 5,000 of them contain prefixes and that 82 percent (about 4,100) of those words use one of only fourteen different prefixes out of all the available prefixes in the language.”

He then goes on to list the following:

ab- (away from)
be- (on all sides, overly)
de- (reversal, undoing, downward)
dis-, dif- (not, reversal)
ex- (out of, former)
pre- (before)
re- (again, restore)
un- (do the opposite of)
ad- (to, toward)
com-, con-, co- (with, together)
en-, em- (in, into, to cover or contain)
in- (into, not)
pro- (in favor of, before)
sub- (under, beneath)

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