Primitive and Derivative Words – What They Are and Examples

We explain what primitive and derived words are, their characteristics and examples. Also, what are compound words.

primitive and derived words
Primitive words can only come from dead languages ​​like Latin or Greek.

What are primitive words and derived words?

The sciences of language explain that words are formed thanks to different processes of change and reformulation within the same language, such as derivation. In this last process, to a lexical root, that is, to the root of a word, new terms can be attached (generally affixes: suffixes, infixes and prefixes) to convert it into another new word, which nevertheless still retains part of its original meaning.

In this sense, primitive words are those original words that do not come from other words in the languageIn other words, they have not yet undergone the referral process. They are, if you will, the original pieces of the language, historically coming from an earlier dead language, such as Latin or Greek.

Instead, derived words arise from the derivation of primitive words. Therefore, they are words created within the language, thanks to the possibilities of change and creativity that it contemplates.

For example, the word light It is a word inherited from Latin lux and it constitutes an original piece, a primitive word of Spanish. Instead, the words bright Star, skylight, backlighting, little light or candlelight are all words derived from light, thanks to the action of prefixes and / or suffixes that alter its primary meaning.

On the whole, primitive words and their derived words make up word families or word trees, similar to family trees. Likewise, the words that are part of the same word tree are related not only in origin, but to a certain degree of shared meaning, despite the fact that they are different words and not synonyms or anything similar.

Examples of primitive and derived words

Here are some examples of primitive and derived words:

Primitive wordDerived words
Seamarine, tide, swell, maritime, sailor, tidal wave, seasick, high tide, low tide, high tide, marinate, landing.
Countrysidepeasant, country, camping, country, camp, countryside, countryside, uncapped,
Kisskiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.
Stonestone, stone, stone, paved, stone.
Colourcoloring, coloring, coloring, coloring, coloring, coloring, colorless, discolored.
Papertrash, stationery, stationery, paper, paper, wallpaper.
Clothingclothe, wardrobe, clothes, clothing, unroll.
Sunsunny, insolar, solcito, solar, solana, resolana, solstice, antisolar.
Breadbakery, baker, bread, bread, bread, bread basket.
Landterritory, earthling, terrain, bury, underground, terrestrial, burial, banished, embankment, terrarium, landing, undertaker.
Warwarrior, warfare, fierce, guerilla.
Plantplanting, planted, planning, seedling, planting, planter, implant, planting.
Deathdead, mortal, mortuary, dying, mortality, mortality, immortal.

Compound words

We must not confuse derived words with compound words, although they are the result of similar word creation processes. Compound words are those that arise when joining two different lexical roots, that is, two words that each have their own meaning, and that when combined create a new meaning, generally a neologism to name a new referent, like the devices that are constantly being invented.

So, for example, are some compound words corkscrew, staple remover, clipboard, washing machine or deaf-mute, since each one can be decomposed into two independent lexical roots.

This decomposition does not occur with derived words: if we separate sailor at its root sea- and the infixes –in and –ero, the latter do not constitute independent lexical pieces, that is, they are not words that we can use separately, even though they have a certain degree of grammatical meaning, that is, sense of use within the context of the language.