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A Cheat Sheet of English Prefixes

Prefixes and suffixes are the monosyllables or dissyllables which are added to a word either at the beginning (prefixes) or at the end (suffixes), and which alter radically the meaning of a word (e.g. prefix, suffix), sometimes changing it from one part of speech to another {e.g. man, noun; manly, adjective).

Some prefixes and suffixes are of Old English origin; some are from the Greek, Latin, and French. The greater part are Latin. Prefixes and suffixes which we still use in forming new words, or still feel the force of in old words, we may call living. Those which we no longer use in forming new words, and no longer feel the force of in old words, we may call dead. You can learn more about "living" and "dead" prefixes at the end of this page.

** (We also have a complete list of English suffixes)

COMMON PREFIXES

A

a-, on, at, to, etc.: a-side.
ab-,from, away, separation: ab-scond.
ad-, to, toward, at, near: ad-mit.
ambi-, about, on both sides: ambi-dextrous.
ante-, before, fore, in front: ante-chamber.
anti-, against, in opposition: anti-slavery.
arch-, chief, head, principal: arch-bishop.
auto-, self, of one's self: auto-mobile.

B - C

bi(s)-, twice, two, doubly: bi-lateral.
circum-, around, surrounding: circum-ference.
cis-, on this side of: cis-alpine.
com-, with, together: com-pete.
contra-, against, in opposition: contra-dict.

D

de-, down, from, away: de-scend.
deca-, ten, tenfold: deca-logue.
demi-, half: demi-god.
dia-, through, between, across: dia-gram.
dis-, apart, asunder: dis-rupt.
dys-, ill, bad, difficult: dys-pepsia.

E

en-, in, into, upon (French for in): en-snare.
enter-, between, among (French for inter) : enter-tain.
eu-, well, good: eu-logy.
ex-, out, out of, from, off: ex-pel.
extra-, beyond, outside of: extra-ordinary.

F - H

for-, forth, away, against: for-bid.
fore-, beforehand, in advance: fore-ground.
head-, half: hemi-sphere.
hepta-, seven, sevenfold: hepta-gon.
hexa-, six, sixfold: hexa-gon.
homo-, same, similar, like: homo-phone.
hyper-, over, beyond (denoting excess): hyper-bole.
hypo-, under, beneath: hypo-dermic.

I

in-, into, in; on, upon: in-ject.
inter-, between, among: inter-change.
intro-, in, into, inward, within: intro-duce.

M

mal-, badly, ill: mal-content.
meta-, among, beyond, behind: meta-phor.
mis-, ill, unfortunate: mis-lay.
mono-, single, only, sole, alone: mono-tone.
multi-, many, repeatedly: multi-faced.

N - O

non-, not: non -sense.
ob-, against, in the way, in front: ob-struct.
omni-, all, entirely: omni-present.
out-, from, beyond: out-side.
over-, above, beyond, in excess: over-reach.

P

pan-, all, entire: pan-American.
per-, through, throughout, thoroughly: per-forate.
peri-, with, around, about: peri-style.
post-, after, behind, later: post-pone.
pre-, before, forward, forth: pre-scribe.
pro-, before, fore, forth, in favor of: pro-ceed.
pseudo-, false, pretended, spurious: psuedo-nym.

R - S

re-, back, again: re-ject.
retro-, back, backward: retro-spect.
semi-, half: semi-circle.
sub-, under, beneath, inferior, subordinate: sub-way.
super-, above, over, more: super-human.
syn-, with, together with: syn-opsis.

T - V

trans-, over, beyond, through: trans-atlantic.
tri-, three, thrice, threefold: tri-angle.
ultra-, beyond, on the other side: ultra-mundane.
un-, not: un-necessary.
under-, below, beneath, inferior: under-lay.
uni-, one, single: uni-form.
vice-, instead of, representing: vice-president.

Living Prefixes of English Origin. — There are only two prefixes of English origin that we still apply freely to new words, mis (as in misdeed) and un (unfinished), the former with the force of the adjective "bad," and the latter with the force of a negative. We no longer feel the force of be in begin and similar words. We still recognize its force as a prefix, however, when it is used to make verbs from nouns and adjectives, e.g. bel1ttle, bedim, befog, bemoan, behead. As living prefixes we may also class, by, out, and off, e.g. byplay, byway, byword; offhand, offshoot, offspring; outcome, outlet, outrun. It should be remarked, however, that by, off, and out, exist as separate words, and that the process might thus be called composition.

Dead Prefixes and Suffixes. — By far the majority of prefixes and suffixes have so completely lost their force that we no longer use them in forming new words, and, unless we know the languages from which they originally came, scarcely recognize them as having a separate meaning. Such are the Old English prefix for in forgiven and the Latin prefix ab in abhor. It would be unwise for students who are not acquainted with Old English or the classical languages to burden their memories with lists of these dead prefixes and suffixes, which are fully described in the dictionaries and in works dealing with the history of the language. Students who have studied Latin, however, should have their attention called to the use made in English of the many common Latin prefixes: ab (abs, a), "from, away" (abrupt, abscond, avert); ad (a, ag, af, etc.), "to" (advent, aggravate, affable); amb (am), "around" (ambition, amputate); cis, "on this side of" (cis-Alpine); de, "from, away" (degrade); ex (e, ef), "out of" (extend, erect, effort); ne, "not" (nefarious); ob (os, o, oc) "towards" (oblong, ostensible, omit, occasion); per, "through" (pervade) ; pre, "before" (precept); pro (prod), "before, forth, away from," etc. (prohibit, prodigal); re (red) "back, repetition " (repeat, redeem); se (sed), "apart" (secede, sedition); sine, "without" (sinecure); sub (suc) sug, etc.), "under," (subscribe); subter, "under" (subterfuge); trans, (tra), "across, through, beyond" (transient, traduce).

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