You can tell a lot about some words by knowing about the prefix, which is a one to three letter ‘code’ placed at the front of many words to modify the meaning of the base word. For example, take the word prefix itself, which takes its own prefix pre– meaning before, therefore ‘to fix before’. Here are a few common prefixes and their meanings:

ex– out of; dis– away from; a– or an– not, without; anti– against, opposite; auto– self; bio– life, living;  hyper–  over, above; hypo– less than, below; in-, im– not; inter– and intro– between; mal– bad, badly; micro– small; multi– many; neo– new; omni– all; peri– around; re– back, again; sanct– holy; sub– under, below; tele– distance, from afar; trans– across; un– not; vita– life.

This is just a small sample of the prefixes in our language. You can also compile a list of suffixes, which are appended to the end of base words. Often a word will comprise both prefixes and suffixes and parts that are used within the words. To complicate matters further, suffixes can be noun, verb or adjective suffixes according to the usage of the word. Some common suffixes include: acy = state or quality; –ism = doctrine or belief; –ness = state of being; –ship = position held; –ate = become; –able or –ible = capable of being; –al = pertaining to; –ful = notable for; –ive = having the nature of; –less = without; –y = characterised by.

How many words do you know that use the above prefixes and suffixes? Why not make a list of as many words as you can think up and see how well you go. Knowing your prefixes and suffixes can also aid in spelling words. Do a Google search on prefixes and suffixes, and you will find lists that will demonstrate just how many words in English use these helpful little hangers-on.

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