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Root Words and Word Dissociation in Science

Content Area Reading

Chuck McCarthy

on 2 April 2014

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Transcript of Root Words and Word Dissociation in Science

Language is an eternally evolving entity. The English language has evolved through the years and adapted many prefixes and suffixes from many other languages – specifically Latin and Greek. No portion of the English language uses these prefixes and suffixes more than science. In science, there are more than 500 root words and more than 3000 other notable vocabulary terms. With that in mind,
let us take a dip into the wonderful world that is
Root Words and Word Dissociation in Science
Root words in Chemistry
In Chemistry, root words are very important. They are used to define certain compounds, determine the stereochemistry (three-dimensional arrangement of atoms and molecules and the effect of this on chemical reactions), and even distances between two locations or weights.
What is Stereochemistry?
Already we have a term that some of us don't understand. Stereochemistry is the study of three-dimensional arrangements of atoms and molecules and their effects on chemical reactions.
One of these drugs is in use worldwide as a pain blocker and the other is illegal. These drugs and many others may differ significantly in their rate of metabolism, potency and selectivity for receptors, and toxicity.
Naming Compounds
Naming chemical compounds is also an important part of chemistry. If we as the chemists give an improper name to a chemical then other chemists will not understand why it is not acting like it's supposed to. For Example:
But what about Word Dissociation?
How does it help?
It takes large, hard to define words and breaks them down into their etymological root words. Instead of having one large word we are now left with numerous other terms that are easily definable.
Science is another Language
It means that even if a compound has the same chemical make-up, it may also have a different model. Let's look at an example.
What does this mean?!
This is Morphine
This is Heroin
The Only difference between these two
drugs is the -OH groups on Morphine
and the -COOH groups on Heroin.
Other than that they are exactly
the same.

Some other examples include:
Cetirizine (Zyrtec) vs. Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
Zopiclone (Imovane) vs. Eszopiclone (Lunesta).
Take for instance Water
It has a chemical composition of
H2O. That is to say it has 2 Hydrogen atoms and 1 Oxygen atom. But what if I told you that it's chemical name was Dihydrogen monoxide? Would you still consider it water?
I used Word Dissociation on
Dihydrogen monoxide. I split up Dihydrogen monoxide into their root words and defined it from there. Di- is greek for 2. Mono- is greek for 1. Therefore, when I put them in front of hydrogen and oxide I am left with 2 hydrogen, 1 oxygen. I was able to
define the compound, as well as
figure out some new Vocab!

Naming compounds is very important in not only chemistry but also biology. However, In order to name a compound we must first figure out what it is made out of.
Is it a:
Covalent compound?
Ionic compound?

Covalent Compounds
In covalent compounds, each element gets a prefix. The prefixes are:
1 atom – “Mono-“
2 atoms – “Di-“
3 atoms – “Tri-“
4 atoms – “Tetra-“
5 atoms – “Penta-“
6 atoms – “Hexa-“
7 atoms – “Hepta-“
8 atoms – “Octa-“
So in that case:
However, most of the time the prefix 'mono-' can be removed as in the case of Carbon
monoxide. This is because
it is implied that there is
one atom of Carbon.

Ionic Compounds
Ionic compounds get a little bit more interesting. In order for it to be an Ionic compound it must contain a Metal element and a non-metal element. The first part of the name is the name of the metal element. The second part is the name of the nonmetal element, with the suffix “-ide.”
Some examples include:
NaCl: Na - sodium, first. Chlorine
changed with the suffix 'ide'
= Sodium chloride
LiF: Li - Lithium, first. Fluorine
changed with the suffix 'ide'
= Lithium fluoride
However, if the metal is a transition metal then they must
have a charge attached. The charge will always be written in Roman Numerals after the element. An example of this would be with Aluminum (II) or (III).
Because it could be either Iron (II) or
Iron (III), it could have more than
one compound
In all of the examples of Covalent compounds and a few of those in Ionic compounds, we were utilizing Word Dissociation (WD). We can even use
Word Dissociation to figure out what 'Word Dissociation' means.

'Associate' means to 'connect' or 'join'
The prefix 'dis-' means 'apart' or 'out'
'Word' meaning 'a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing'

With our three definitions we can define Word Dissociation as:
Separating a word into its many parts.
A more accurate definition is:
A disconnection or separation of words from a larger word.
In Vacca & Vacca, they talk about splitting the word up into different suffixes, prefixes, or other root words and then defining those smaller terms. They go on to mention that the "most helpful affixes are the combining forms, prefixes, or suffixes that have single invariant meanings." (pg 275) In chemistry and most other sciences, there are
many such uses of single variant affixes.
Lets try some Word Dissociation on some science words.
– Stereo- (3-demensional), chem- (Dealing with Chemicals),
-try (measurement)
Binary compound
– Bi- (two), -ary (denotes the place of something),
Compound (mixture containing 2 or more elements)
– calor- (heat), -metry (Measurement)
– Di- (Through, across), fusion (pour, melt)
– Electro- (involving electricity), -lysis (loosen, split)
– Hetero- (Different), -geneous (From ‘genos’ meaning ‘of a
– Thermo- (Heat), -dynam (power)
Our Definitions
Their Definitions
– The branch of chemistry concerned with the three-dimensional arrangement of atoms
and molecules and the effect of this on chemical reactions. (google)
Binary compound
– Chemical compound that contains exactly two different elements. (google)
– The study of heat flow. (brinkster)
– The movement of particles from areas of high concentration to low concentration. (brinkster)
– When electricity is used to break apart a chemical compound. (brinkster)
– Diverse in character or content. (google)
– The branch of physical science that deals with the relations between heat and other
forms of energy. (google)
How close were we when we used word dissociation techniques to guess the definition of the terms?
We were pretty close this is a great way for students to learn new words and to also have a more extensive vocabulary.
Can Word Dissociation be used in other subject areas?
Can this even be used in everyday situations outside of school?
What am I? A magic 8 ball? (bad joke, I know) But the answer is YES!! It can definitely be used outside of school in normal everyday situations.

Girges, H., Et. Al. (n.d.). How to Name Chemical Compounds. wikiHow. Retrieved from
Guch. (n.d.). Chemistry Vocabulary - Common chemistry terms explained. Retrieved from
Latin Prefixes and Suffixes for Science (n.d.). Latin Vocab. Retrieved from
Massengale, C. (n.d.). Scientific Root Words, Prefixes, And Suffixes . Biology Junction. Retrieved from
McConathy, J., & Owens, M. J. (2003). Stereochemistry in drug action. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, Vol 5(2),
70-73. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC353039/.
Skwirk. (n.d.). Naming compounds. Compounds and reactions, Introducing chemistry, Science Year 9, NSW. Retrieved from
UNC (1997). Chemical Nomenclature. Department of Chemistry University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved from
Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J. A., & Mraz, M. (2014). Content area reading: literacy and learning across the curriculum (Eleventh ed.).
New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc. Pgs. 274-276.
WikiHow (n.d.). How to name chemical compounds. Retrieved from http://www.wikihow.com/Name-Chemical-Compounds.

Word Dissociation
Binary compound
Our Terms
As language continues to evolve, the ways at which we understand language will also evolve. We will always combine smaller words – or multiple words – together to make newer, more elaborate words. Chemistry, like most languages, contains its own assortment of prefixes and suffixes that when combined form many different mixtures of words. Word dissociation gives us a way to understand the intricacies of both chemistry and our daily lives.
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