All through my schooling, we studied vocabulary lists and were tested on the meanings of words. It was straightforward memorization until I reached my high school Honors English class when we had a book that presented prefixes, suffixes, and root words–primarily combed from Latin. Without a doubt, that was the best vocabulary unit I did.
So what prefixes should you know? With some help from my kids’ English classes–which thankfully use the stems approach–I present some common prefixes with their meanings and examples. Once you learn these prefixes, you can often discern the definition of a word you didn’t think you knew.
ante – before. antebellum; antecedent; anterior; ante meridiem (a.m.).
anti – against. antidote; antiperspirant; antithesis; antonym.
bi – two. biceps; bicycle; bigamy; bisect.
com/con – together. conference; continue; conniving; comparison; compact; compilation.
contra – against. contrary; contradict; contraception.
dis – away/not. dishonest; dismiss; disgraceful; dysfunction; disparity.
equi – equal. equity; equilibrium; equivocal.
extra – beyond. extrasensory; extraordinary; extraneous.
hyper – over. hyperactive; hypervigilant; hypertension.
hypo – under. hypothermia; hypothesis; hypochondriac.
inter – between. interstate; intersect; interaction; interface.
intra – within. intrastate; intramural; intravenous.
mal – bad. malicious; malnutrition; malfunction.
mono – one. monogamy; monarchy; monopoly; monotonous.
post – after. posterior; posthumous; postscript (P.S.); postmortem; post meridiem (p.m.).
poly – many. polygamy; polygon; polymer.
pre – before. preschool; preside; prequel; prejudice; premature.
pro – forward/forth. protest; promote; program; progress; promise.
proto – first. prototype; protagonist; protein; protocol.
pseudo – false. pseudonym; pseudo-science.
sub – under. subpar; submissive; submarine; subservient.
super – over. superimpose; supernatural; superpower; supervise.
sur – over. surpass; surplus; surmountable; surprise.
sym/syn – together. synchronicity; synonym; sympathetic; symphony.
tele – far. television, telescope, teleportation, telephone, telepathy.
Once you learn common prefixes and stem words, you can start defining words like an equation:
sub + terra + ean = subterrean
sub (under) + terra (earth) = underground
tele + kinesis = telekinesis
distant + movement = movement across distance (with your brain)
pre + view = preview
before + see = what you see before (the movie)
This is how new words are often formed as well. Thus, we now have the Internet, which is the network between computers, and supermom, which was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
There are plenty more prefixes, most of them deriving from Greek or Latin. I’ll finish out today’s post with Flocabulary’s Prefixes Rap. Hope you enjoy it!
What prefixes can you think of that I didn’t mention? Do you have any other breakdowns of words by prefix + stem?
Additional Source: Online Etymology Dictionary