How to Guess What a Word Means

With more than a million words in the English language, it is almost impossible to learn them all. An average adult has a vocabulary of about 40 to 50 thousand words. You can go through the dictionary but according to modern research, you will find it extremely hard to remember those words for a long period of time. There are various techniques or strategies that can be adopted to guess the meaning of a word. Having the ability to guess the meanings of unknown words is immensely important, especially in an exam where every single point is crucial.


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    One of the most important and effective ways of guessing the meaning of a word is to look at the context if that word is used in a sentence. Go through the other words in the sentence multiple times, which should help you understand the meaning of the word.

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    Structure of a word

    According to the experts, having the ability to guess the name of a word through its structure is the most effective way. The study of the internal structure of words is called morphology, which consists of morphemes. These morphemes are minimal units of rules and meaning for uniting them into words. It also includes the rules of pronouncing words. If you have appropriate knowledge of morphology, it will allow you to break down a word into smaller pieces and helps you guess the meaning of a word through its structure.

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    Morpheme is a word or less than a word that cannot be broken down into smaller units. There are numerous types of morphemes like prefixes, suffixes, infixes, possessives, plurals and root words, which are also known as base words.

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    Anything that is added to a root word is called an affix. Some examples of affixes that change the class of a word are –ly, -er, -ish and -y. Whereas, some examples of affixes that add meaning to a root word are omni-, anti-, -s, -ed and dis-. It must be noted that there are only 75 prefixes and even less suffixes in the English language; therefore they can be easily memorized and can go a long way in helping you guess the meaning of a word.

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