A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a base word to create a new word with a different meaning. In this lesson, you will learn a list of 50+ common prefixes in English to enhance your vocabulary and communication skills.
What is a Prefix?
A prefix is an affix which is placed before the stem of a word. Adding it to the beginning of one word changes it into another word.
For example, when the prefix un- is added to the word happy, it creates the word unhappy. Particularly in the study of languages, a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the words to which it is affixed.
Prefixes play a significant role in shaping the meaning of words in the English language. They help to convey different shades of meaning and make the language more descriptive and expressive.
Types of Prefixes
Negative prefixes, such as “un-” or “dis-“, express the opposite or negation of the meaning of the base word. For example, “happy” becomes “unhappy” with the addition of the negative prefix “un-“.
Reversative prefixes, such as “un-” or “dis-“, indicate a reversal of action or change of state. For example, “tie” becomes “untie” with the addition of the reversative prefix “un-“.
Dispositive prefixes, such as “de-” or “dis-“, indicate a removal or separation of something. For example, “connect” becomes “disconnect” with the addition of the dispositive prefix “dis-“.
Locative prefixes, such as “pre-” or “post-“, indicate a location or position in relation to something else. For example, “war” becomes “pre-war” with the addition of the locative prefix “pre-“.
Prefixes (list of 50+ Common Prefixes in English)
1. a, ab, abs
Meaning: Away from
Example: Absent , Abscond
2. ad, a, ac, af, ag, an, ar, at, as
Meaning: To, toward
Example: Adapt , Adhere , Annex, Attract
Example: Antifreeze, Antisocial, Antigravity
6. bi, bis
Example: Bicycle, Biannual, Biennial
7. circum, cir
Example: Circumscribe, Circle
8. com, con, co,col
Meaning: With, together
Example: Combine, Contact, Collect, Co-worker
Meaning: away from, down, the opposite of/ undo
Example: Depart, Decline, Derail
10. dis, dif, di
Example: Dislike, Dishonest, Distant
Meaning: Upon, on top of
Example: Epitaph, Epilogue
12. equ, equi
Example: Equalize, Equitable
13. ex, e, ef
Meaning: Out, from
Example: Exit, Eject, Exhale
16. in, il, ig, ir, im
Example: Inactive, Ignoble, Irreversible, Irritate
17. in, il, ir, im, en
Meaning: In, into
Example: Inject, Impose
Meaning: Between, among
Example: International, Interpose
Meaning: Large, great
21. mal, male
Meaning: Bad, ill, wrong
Example: Malpractice, Malfunction
Meaning: Large, great
Meaning: Very small
Example: Microbiology, Microcomputer, Microscopic
Meaning: Wrong, badly
Example: Mistreat, Mistake , Misplace
Meaning: One, alone, single
Example: Monopoly, Monotone, Monologue, Monosyllable ”
Example: Multiplexor, Multicoloured
Meaning: Not, the reverse of
Example: Nonsense, Nonprofit
Meaning: In front, against, in front of, in the way of
Example: Obstacle, Obvious, Obviate
Meaning: Everywhere, all
Example: Omnipresent, Omnipotent
Example: Pervade, Perceive
Example: Peripheral, Periscope
Example: Polysyllable, Polygon
Meaning: After / later/ behind
Example: Postpone, Postmortem, Postdate
Meaning: Before, earlier than
Example: Preview, Prehistoric, Preface, Prepay
Example: Primary, Primitive
Meaning: Forward, going ahead of, supporting
Example: Proceed, Prowar, Promote
Meaning: Again, back
Example: Retell, Recall, Recede, Reuse
Example: Retrograde, Retroactive
Example: Secede , Seclude
Meaning: Half, partly
Meaning: Under, less than
Example: Submarine, Subway, Subliminal, Subfloor
Meaning: Over, above, greater
Example: Superstar, Superimpose
Example: Transcontinental, Transverse
Example: Uninterested, Unhelpful , Unethical
49. un, uni
Example: Unidirectional, Unanimous, Unilateral, Unpopular
Common misconceptions about Prefixes
- Prefixes can be used independently:
One common misconception is that prefixes can be used independently as separate words. This is not true, as prefixes must be attached to a base word to create a new word with a specific meaning.
- Prefixes can change the meaning of a word completely:
Another common misconception is that prefixes can change the meaning of a word completely. While prefixes can certainly change the meaning of a word, they often only modify or add to the original meaning of the base word, rather than completely replacing it.