What are Word Families?

Last Updated on April 29, 2023 by ClassMonitor

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of word families

When children understand the origin of one word, it can make the meaning of other words of the family easier. For example, knowing the wh family words showcases that most words in the family will be question words. Understanding word families will help improve your kid’s comprehension because they will need to memorize every word’s meaning. You can also teach them to locate the roots and comprehend the word by its positioning in the sentence. But we understand that all this is easier said than done.  

All languages across the globe have word families of their own. We will have 

1. The Phonetics

The National Council of Teachers suggests that English has 37 common word families based on phonetics. The 37-word families are ack, ain, ake, ale, all, ame, an, ank, ap, ash, at, ate, aw, ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ick, ide, ight, ill, in, ine, ing, ink, ip, it, ock, oke, op, ore, ot, uck, ug, ump, and unk.

Phonetics refers to the study of sounds of human speech, i.e., how humans will speak a particular word. These word families listed above are usually used at the end of a body of alphabets. They do not necessarily have a meaning attached to them. 

These are just ways to pronounce a particular word. Hence, words from these families are primarily used to produce rhymes. When writing a poem, we can easily rhyme chain, pain, explain, and train because they sound the same at the end. 

2. The Root Words

Word families in English also arise out of similar roots. As the word suggests, roots refer to the place of origin. 

English has been an adaptive language, and just like Rome, it was not built in a day. Predating languages influence the language, and English has adopted numerous words from other languages. Hence, we have a separate category of root words forming a family.

Unlike phonetics, the roots may be added to an already existing body of alphabets or have prefixes and suffixes attached to them. Prefix refers to the alphabet added at the start of the word, like un, in, etc. Suffixes, on the other hand, are added toward the end of the root. 

English has most of its roots in Latin and Greek. Latin is an Italian language, classical and Indo-European in origin. Greek, on the other hand, is the language of great political philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. It is largely spoken in Greece and Cyprus and is one of the languages identified as official by the European Union.

Common Latin roots are a (on), act (to do), bene (good), gon (angle), scend (climb), vis (to see), and others. Common Greek roots used in English are bio (life), endo (within), gen (to produce), graph (writing), and poly (many). So the next time you find these roots in any word, you can easily understand what they mean.

3. Improve Reading

English is a global language that every parent wants their kid to learn and speak. The easiest way to improve your kid’s grasp of the English language is via developing a reading habit.   

Reading will put your kid in touch with language. You can make a private space corner to encourage this habit. 

Knowing the word family list can help your little readers to a great extent. Understanding the phonetics family helps them to pronounce a word ending with a certain group of alphabets. Knowing the linguistic roots will help them locate the meaning. This way, people will be confident in reiterating the language among people. Plus, reading always helps in amassing knowledge; whatever you read will always help you at some point.

4. Dialects

Just like any other language, English has its regional dialects. American English differs from British English in many ways. Even these two bodies are not homogenous when it comes to their use across regions in their respective countries. No one can write like William Shakespeare today, not because we don’t have equally skilled minds but because the language has changed.

If there is one thing that did not change with time, it is the families. Word families are uniform across all dialects, and learning the roots will take you a long way ahead in learning the language. An ‘e’ might be placed differently in different dialects, but bene as a suffix will always mean something good.


Word families are great ways to learn languages. Kids must especially be made to understand and learn about these families so that their basics are clear right at the outset. 

What children learn at the age of 5 tends to stay with them forever, and word families would be the best thing for them to construct an eloquent vocabulary. Word families have successfully resisted the perils of time and change, but social media is messing with them by using short forms for most words. 

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