hematite (hēməˌtīt)

Hematite, an important component of iron, is responsible for the many red pigments found on Earth.

Recently, a young speller reached out to me to ask a question about the word “hematite.”

Hematite literally means “blood stone.” The word contains the Greek root hemato- meaning blood and the Greek suffix -ite*, commonly used for minerals and rocks. The combining forms for blood also include hema- and hemo-.

An important rule in spelling is that, when combining roots, you shouldn’t have random letters left over. If we break the word hematite down using hemo- or hema-, then we would be left with -tite as the ending. The root/suffix -tite does not exist. This is the first clue that you’ve broken down the word wrong.

The more roots you study, the better you’ll be able to recognize them in the words you come across every day. I hope this insight is helpful to those of you studying for your regional competitions or the Scripps National Spelling Bee!

* -ite can also be used to indicate a person belonging to or associated with a place, tribe, leader, system, etc. such as in the words: Israelite, Londonite, and Lincolnite.

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