‘P’ is for prefix

letter-pOne of the most useful add-ons to words to create new words is called the prefix. It is also helpful for anyone studying English to understand the common prefixes, which in turn broadens your understanding of the words. The term prefix itself includes the prefix pre- which means roughly to go before. As you may already observe, the prefix affects the meaning of the base word, sometimes to the point of imposing the opposite meaning to the original. Thus, if you take the word prefix itself, you can discern the approximate meaning as to fix before (a word).

Here is a list of common prefixes used in English. I am choosing just a sample that you should be familiar with. Each line has the prefix, meaning and example.

  1. un-    not, opposite of        unhappy
  2. re-     again, back               return
  3. dis-   not, opposite of         dissimilar
  4. over-  too much, above      overgrown
  5. mis-    wrongly                    misjudge
  6. sub-    under, lower            submarine
  7. inter-  between, among     international
  8. fore-   before                         foresee
  9. trans-  across                        transport
  10. super-  above                        supermarket
  11. semi-    half                            semicircle
  12. anti-     against                     antidote
  13. mid-    middle                       midsemester
  14. under-  too little, below      underfed
  15. pro-     favour/forward       pro-trade/progress
  16. tele-    distant                         telephone
  17. auto-   self                              automobile
  18. bene-   good                           benefit
  19. bi-        two                              bicycle
  20. cent-, centi   hundred(th)    century/centigrade
  21. circu-  around                        circulate
  22. co-      together                       cooperate
  23. ex-     out                                 exit
  24. ambi-    both, around           ambidextrous
  25. poly-    many                          polygamy

A sound knowledge of the meanings of prefixes and the root/base words will help you unlock the meanings of many words. Prefixes have Latin and Greek origins and among the foundation elements of our complex English language.

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