25 Prefixes You Should Know

I’m glad you’re here on Amaze-ing Words Wednesday when we enter the labyrinth of language and figure it out together. Today’s topic is prefixes–you know, the starts to many of our English words.

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

19 thoughts on “25 Prefixes You Should Know

    1. Xenophobia is a great one, Jennette! Stems are how we get most phobia names, like arachnophobia (arachno=spider) and claustrophobia (claustro=closed). Thanks!

  1. LOVED this post, Julie. Due to my eighth-grade teacher being such a tyrant about English, I knew most of these but you taught me more! Thank you so much. I love words and their meanings and figuring them out. After we studied Latin derivatives when I was younger, it really helps figuring out words and what they mean.

  2. Love it! I love words and their meanings, so this was fun. I’m going to share this with my older daughter. I’m not sure if her school used a stem approach, but she can review the list. 😉

    1. I think ALL schools should use the stem approach, but since I haven’t been elected Queen of the Universe yet (a mere formality in the future, I’m sure), I haven’t gotten that one done yet. LOL. Thanks, Diana! Hope your daughter gets something from this.

  3. Great post Julie! Flocabulary is new to me. At first glance, it made me think of the school house rock grammar cartoons. Conjunction junction, what’s your function? 🙂

    1. Thanks, Leanne. I wish we’d had more stuff like that video in school. I do remember every time a part of speech was introduced, we all sang the Schoolhouse Rock song that went along. (My favorite? Interjection.)

  4. Love this; it was like a handful of candy corn to my sugar-loving heart. Words, another one of my addictions. I would add ir- to mean “not” or the “opposite of”. That one would SO help people who use the non-word irregardless, because then they would know they were saying the opposite of having no regard. Thanks for sharing!

    1. “A handful of candy corn to my sugar-loving heart”? What a fabulous compliment! Love that line too. I think we have the same pet peeves, Tia! It’s either “irrespective” or “regardless”–not a combination of both! 😉 Ir- would be a great prefix to learn. Thanks!

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