What's in a Word | All Blogs

Gotta love those little clues!

By Debra Dobbins

I read with my Forum 500 student today.

It’s always interesting to watch her use language decoding skills to figure out how to pronounce words. She uses her knowledge of blends (letter combinations such as “tr” or “ch”) to sound out a word. She also knows she must break words down into syllables by using basic rules such as splitting double consonants (cof/fee, for example).

As she gets older, she’ll learn Latin/Greek word parts, which are essential to build one’s vocabulary and thus reading ability.

Today’s word, “philanthropist,” is a good example of how knowing such word parts can help build vocabulary.

“Phil” is a Latin/Greek word part that means “love.”
“Anthro” or “anthropo” means “man, human.”
“Ist” means “someone who does something.”

If we just string all these meanings together, we get something like “love-human-someone who does.” It’s often necessary to mentally rearrange the word parts to come up with a meaning. Doing so, we then get “someone who loves humanity or mankind.” It’s also worth noting that the last “o” in “anthropo” had to be dropped in favor of another vowel (“i”) that comes after it.

We can use a context clue to strengthen understanding of the word’s meaning. The subheading of this story reads, “Nonprofit association cites Bacon’s gift to community.” That certainly makes sense. Herb Bacon has loved his community enough to make many contributions to it.

So, a philanthropist is someone “with a desire to help mankind,” according to Webster’s.

As I gathered with other Forum 500 volunteers today, I was reminded that the Grand Valley has many philanthropists who serve our community in a vast variety of ways. Many, I believe, never seek the limelight. They simply want to help their fellow man, woman or child get along in a rather complex world. What a lovely goal!

Illustration special to the Sentinel


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