Olympic Word Study Part 2: Silver

Perhaps you've tested out the word study ice and practiced the new skills from Part 1 of this blog, or you've already developed a few word study skills and tricks of your own. Now let's try some jumps and spins on our way to becoming word study Olympians.


New Skill - Change Rule

The Olympic Games remind me of the thrill of victory! So let's expand vocabulary and deepen word study with the word victory. As with any word study, begin by contemplating what victory means? How would you define it? Think of a sentence with this word, giving it some context.

What base word do you see in victory? This might be a little trickier to identify. If you remove suffix -y, you'll find the word victor, meaning the person who wins. Hypothesize word sums for these words using your Affix Chart or Olympic rings for affixes:

victors, victories, victorious, victoriously

Remember to have students make a list of their word sums and create a sentence for each, independently or in partnership. Doing so gives context to these newly formed words which helps solidify their spelling in word form memory.

One way to puzzle out a word sum hypothesis is by starting with the end of the word, seeing what suffixes you know, and peeling off one suffix at a time. For example, in victoriously, I recognize suffix -ly at the end, then I recognize suffix -ous. From there, I come to an i. But where does that i come from? Could it be that victoriously contains the word victory? I hypothesize this word sum with the /i after the y representing the Change rule:

victory/i + ous + ly - victoriously

With this lesson, either notice or teach the Change rule (change y to i) from the 3 Great Spelling Rules.

Your student may not know some of these suffixes (-y, -ly, -ous), so this is an opportunity to teach them and add them to your Affix Chart. What impact does each suffix have on the word’s function or grammatical use? Exposure to new affixes is important in growing spelling skills and vocabulary, and we don’t need to be at the triple axel level of understanding before adding them to the Affix Chart.

Next New Skill - Etymology

You may decide to exit the ice now, concluding your study of victory, or you might be ready for a double axel — researching the etymology (history) of this word. Start by introducing suffix -or with a bank of other words that use this suffix (such as actor, author, editor, governor, mentor, senator, tutor, visitor). By seeing a pattern with suffix -or and having an understanding of its meaning, you can take your analysis of victor a level deeper, proposing a word sum hypothesis such as:

vict + or -> victor

Admittedly, "vict" doesn't look like a word we use on its own, so can it really be a base word? Let's find out.

I use etymonline to find the historical root of a base word. Interpreting an entry can be confusing, but having a brief understanding will help. The etymonline entries go backward in time, so I identify each time I see the word “from”, going all the way back to just before PIE (Proto-Indo European, the oldest but reconstructed and hypothesized language). The language and word that follow the last “from” (before PIE) typically represent the language of origin and the historical root of the word you are reviewing. In this case, the historical root of victor is Latin vincere, meaning “to conquer, overcome, defeat.”

But how do we get from Latin vincere to “vict” as our base word? There’s no n in “vict” like in vincere, and where did that t come from? In my studies, I have learned that Latin verbs have four principal parts, with the second and fourth making their way into our present-day English (PDE) base word spellings. Using Latin-dictionary.net to help in your word study, you’ll find that the Latin root vincere represents the second principal part of this Latin verb, and victus represents the fourth.

By removing the Latin suffixes from vincere and victus, you’ll discover these two PDE base words: <vince> and <vict>. These base words are considered twin bases because they are derived from two principal parts of the same Latin verb. 

Now we can do a victory cry because we’ve supported our word sum hypothesis for victor! We’ve shown evidence that there is a suffix -or with a similar function in other words, and we’ve proven that our base word <vict> is, in fact, derived from the historical root vincere. As for the question of “vict” not looking like a word we use on its own, <vict> is called a bound base because it must be combined with an affix to form a word.

You might be tempted to take off your skates and put on your skis to head down a slippery slope (aka word study rabbit trail) as you identify and study related words like invincible and convince, along with many others.

But for now, let’s stay on the ice and create word sums, sentences, and a word matrix with the bound base <vict> using the words previously studied with victory as well as the following:

convict, convicts, convicted, convicting, conviction, convictions

evict, evicts, evicted, evicting, eviction, evictions


Your student may be ready to learn about assimilated (chameleon) prefixes such as con- and e-. The Word Study Packet has a wonderful lesson on this topic. Remember to add any new prefixes and suffixes to your Affix Chart.

For the older student, introduce the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women. The poem Invictus and the movie by the same title will further imprint the meaning of these words in context.

You may have noticed that winner (from Part 1 of this blog) uses suffix -er but words like actor and victor use suffix -or. Enter these suffixes in the etymonline search field (including the hyphen) and see what you discover about their relationship. Doing word sorts and looking at word origins and history through etymonline can help solidify the different spellings.


Is your head spinning from all those jumps, spins, and double axels? Your student's head will be spinning too, so spread this work throughout the month. Learning new skills takes time and lots of practice! In Part 3 of this blog, we'll layer in ideas for deeper learning and bring home the gold as we head back to where we started - the word international - and beyond.

~ Linda


Free download: olympic word study resources

Rooted in Language's Word Study Packet introduces word study concepts along with strategies that can be applied repeatedly throughout your schooling. Alien Bugs Word Study provides skill practice through activities and games. The Foundations for Teaching Reading, Writing & Spelling educator class includes a deep dive into word study and explicitly teaches these skills and processes across all ages and stages of literacy.



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