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Magoosh Comics: Prefixes in TOEFL Vocabulary, Part 5

This is the Magoosh TOEFL Blog’s latest lesson about prefixes. Again, I’ve included a Magoosh Comic to help you learn TOEFL vocabulary. Today’s prefix is mis-.

The meaning of mis- in TOEFL vocabulary

Mis- is used in words that describe an action that was done incorrectly, or a thing that is not being treated the way it should be treated. Of course, something that can be done the wrong way can be done the right way too. So words that start with the prefix mis- usually have an opposite root word that does NOT contain mis-. For instance, you can use something in the correct way, or do the opposite– misuse something in the wrong way.

In a few rare cases, a mis word stands on its own, and you can’t make an opposite word just by removing mis-. Examples of this include the word mistake (the act of doing something in the wrong way), and misogynist (someone who does not treat women in the correct way). Take is not the opposite of mistake, and ogynist isn’t even a word! In the comic below, you’ll only see the mis- words that have a root word. I’ll give a greater variety of TOEFL-specific examples after the comic.Target Score Unit 4 Prefix Activity_Page_11

Examples of mis- in TOEFL vocabulary

  • A TOEFL Listening conversation between a student and a professor
    Um… I think you misread the syllabus. The course outline says this essay isn’t due until next month, see?
  • A TOEFL lecture from a history class
    When Christopher Columbus first came to the Americas, he thought he had landed his boat in India. This was a serious misconceptionColumbus’ confusion caused him to misname the Caribbean islanders he met… calling them Indians! And you know, even today, Columbus’s mistake lives on– people still mislabel Native Americans as Indians!
  • A TOEFL Reading passage
    In physics classrooms, the idea of “absolute zero” is taught and studied. Absolute zero is the temperature at which atoms become so cold that they are immobilized and do not move at all. The term comes from the idea that the coldness is absolute— that once atoms can no longer move, temperatures can’t get any colder. Ultimately, scientists have come to see absolute zero as a misnomer, as research shows that it is possible to continue chilling matter to temperatures even lower than absolute zero.

The takeaway

I made a point to include misconception and misnomer in the TOEFL examples above. These two words are pretty difficult compared to most other vocabulary with the mis- prefix. It’s unlikely that you’ll see those two specific mis- words on the TOEFL. But on test day, you are likely to see at least a few similar mis- words that don’t have direct opposites. So remember to focus  of the prefix itself– and not just the root word– as you study TOEFL vocabulary.

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