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PREFIXES

Function, Types and Examples

Prefixes are added at the beginning


of a word. Their function is to assign
a new meaning to the word. These
meanings can be: a negative meaning,
the opposite meaning, a meaning
related to position, a meaning
denoting
a number, etc. Prefixes
can be of
different origin.
They can be added to adjectives (and
adverbs), nouns and verbs.
Some prefixes are used with only one
part of speech, for instance IL- is only
used with adjectives, while others can
be used for different parts of speech,
e.g. UN- is used for nouns, adjectives
and verbs.

Adjectives: Prefixes with Negative and


Opposite Meanings
IL-, IN-, IR-, IM-, UN-, DIS-, A-, NON-,
PSEUDO- (meaning false), ABCome up with an example of an adjective for
each prefix.
Examples
legal

illegal
direct

indirect
regular

irregular
moral

immoral

official
unofficial
respectful
disrespectful
typical
atypical
scientific
non-scientific*
scientific
pseudo-scientific*
normal
abnormal
*Note the difference in meaning between non-scientific and
pseudo-scientific, i.e. the opposite and negative meaning are
NOT the same thing.

Adjectives:
Prefixes Denoting
Situation/Place
Prefix

Table 5

Meaning

extra-

outside

intra-

inside

inter-

between

para-

beside

peri-

around

sub-

underneath

infra-

below

supra-

above

retro-

behind

Examples
outside the cells

extracellular
inside the veins

intravenous
inside the muscle

intramuscular
between the vertebrae

intervertebral
beside the nose (nasum)

paranasal
around the tooth

peri(o)dontal

underneath the ribs

subcostal
underneath the epidermis

subepidermal
below the sternum

infrasternal
above the orbit

supraorbital
behind the doudenum

retroduodenal
* More on the formation of adjectives related to anatomy,
i.e. adjectives with Latin roots and compound adjectives
in Unit 9 Adjectives.

Nouns: Prefixes with


Negative
and Opposite Meanings
A-, DIS-, MIS- (meaning wrong/wrongly), NON-,
UN-, MAL- (meaning bad/badly)
Come up with an example of a noun for each
prefix.
Examples
symmetry
asymmetry
satisfaction
dissatisfaction
understanding
misunderstanding
smoker
non-smoker
happiness
unhappiness
nutrition
malnutrition

Verbs: Prefixes with Different Meanings

Negative and Opposite Meanings:


CONTRA-, DE-, DIS-, MIS- (meaning
wrong/wrongly), UN-, UNDERRepetition: REAcross, over, beyond: TRANSCome up with an example of a verb for each
prefix.
Examples

indicate - contraindicate
activate- deactivate
connect- disconnect
calculate- miscalculate
do- undo
feed- underfeed
build- rebuild
plant- transplant

Other Prefixes

Prefixes Denoting Numbers


Meaning one: MONO-, UNIMeaning two: BI- , DIMeaning three: TRIMeaning more than three (many): MULTI-, POLYFor other numbers
4: QUADR-, 5: QUINT-, 6: SEX-, 7: SEPT-,
8: OCT-, 9: NONMeaning a half: SEMI-, DEMIMost of these prefixes belong to the group of
neoclassical prefixes.
Come up with an example of a word for each
prefix.
Examples
unisex , monolingual, bisexual, tricycle,
multimillionaire, polydactily, dioxide,
quadrant, quintuplet, sextet, septangle,
octogenarian,
nonagon, semicircle,
demimonde

Neoclassical and Native English


Prefixes with Different Meanings

In addition to the already listed


prefixes there is a number of
neoclassical prefixes and a
number of native English
prefixes with different meanings
that are used in the English
language. Some of them are
listed in Table 6.

Table 6
Prefix

Meaning

Example

ambi-

both

ambidextrous

ante-

before

antenatal

anti-

opposite

antibiotic

auto-

self

autoimmune

bio-

biological, life

biodegradable

co-

with, joint

cooperation

counter-

against

counterdrug

circum-

around

circumcision

eco-

1) house
2) ecological

1) economy
2) ecosystem

endo-

inside

endogenous

exo-

outside

exogenous

geo-

related to the
Earth

geodesic

Prefix

Meaning

Example

hetero-

different

heterosexual

homo-

same

homosexual

hyper-

high, extra,
over

hypersensitive

hypo-

under, below,
low

hypothermia

hydro-

related to
water

hydrophobic

kilo-

a thousand

kilogram

micro-

extremely
small/tiny

microbacillus

mini-

small

minivan

maxi-

very large/long maxi-skirt

mega- ,
meaglo-

extremely
large/big

megastore
megalopolis

milli-

one
thousandth
part

milligram

Prefix

Meaning

Example

pro-

for, on the side pro-life


of

proto-

first, original

prototype

super-

over, more
than, better,
above

superpower

self-

self

self-inflicted

tele-

at a distance

television

ultra-

1) beyond
2) extreme

1) ultrasound
2) ultralight