Word Families

Word families are groups of words that are related to each other. It is important to understand word families, particularly in vocabulary building. Understanding which words relate to each other can assist in learning new words. It can also assist you in recognising the existence of words which have similar meaning or sounds. Words can form families in three main ways:

  • they are from the same root word or similar in form;
  • they belong to a group where the meanings are related.
  • phonetic word families

Similar form word families:

In similar form word family, they have a common root word.

  • produce – production – product – producer – productive – unproductive -producing
  • respect – respectability – disrespect – respectful – respectable – respectfully – respectably

Many similar word families are made by adding prefixes to the beginning, or suffixes to the end of a word. Looking at the patterns of root words are important because they assist in spelling and working out unfamiliar words.

  • Unhappy means not happy
  • Dishonest means not honest
  • Obtainable means able to obtain
  • Endless means without end
  • Beautiful means full of beauty

Often the meanings of each word are similar, but in some cases, it is difficult to see how they relate. In some cases, this makes word families, not 100% accurate.

  • Naturalise, although the root word is nature, it  has two meanings, one relating to nature, and another having no similarity
  • Director is derived from the word verb direct, but there is no root word for doctor or author
  • Uneasy does not mean being difficult
  • Priceless, does not mean without worth
  • Unforeseeable means not able to be seen before

Meaning-based word families:

In meaning-based word families, the words do not have a common root word but have relationships with each other

  • Size – big – – huge – fat – slim – small – petit –
  • Animals – dog – cat – elephant –camel – horse – sheep
  • Farm Animals – cows – ducks –chickens – sheep – pigs
  • Jobs – accountant – teacher – builder – bus driver – factory worker
  • Shapes –  triangle –square –circle – rectangle

Meaning based word families often have many synonyms. Understanding synonyms are important because they will help in future tests, as well as allowing you to discuss things in greater detail.

Phonetic word families

Phonetic based word families have common phonetic relationships to each other

  • Cat – bat -hat – sat – mat
  • Deceive – receive –
  • Bough – trough –

Knowing these word families can help with spelling.

In all cases knowing word families can assist you in building a strong vocabulary.

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