Prefixes often used

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Prefixes (at the beginning of words) can help you to understand what a new word means. Here are some common prefixes.

un- and dis-

These prefixes have two meanings: they can have a negative meaning (as above), but they can also mean ‘the opposite of an action’ or ‘to reverse an action’. This meaning is used with certain verbs.

  • I locked the door when I left, but I lost the key, so I couldn’t it unlock it when I got back.
  • I had to pack my suitcase (= put everything in it) very quickly, so when I unpacked (= took everything out) at the hotel, most of my clothes looked terrible.
  • The plane appeared in the sky, then suddenly disappeared behind a cloud.
  • In the morning you get dressed (= put on your clothes); when you go to bed you get undressed (= take off your clothes).

re- (= again)

  • My homework was terrible, so I had to redo it.
  • The shop closed down but will reopen next month.
  • I failed my exam but I can retake (or redo/resit) it next year.

over- (= too much)

  • I think my boss is overdoing it at the moment. (= working too hard; also overwork)
  • I went to bed very late and I overslept (= slept too long) this morning.
  • The shop assistant overcharged me. (= asked me for too much money)

mis- (= badly or incorrectly)

  • I’m afraid I misunderstood what he said.
  • Two of the students misread the first question.


Prefix Meaning

Example

a

not

aseptic, asymmetrical
ab

away from

abnormal, absent
anti

against

antibiotic, antifreeze
auto self, alone

automatic, automobile

bene good

beneficial, benefit

bi two, double

bicycle, bicentennial

bio life

biology, biosphere

cent hundred

century, centurion

centi hundredth

centimeter

circum around

circumference

co with, together

cooperate

com with

compassion, combine

con with

connect

contra against

contradict

deci tenth

decimeter

deca ten

decagon

dia through diagonal, diameter
dis apart dislocate, dismantle
eco earth

ecology, ecosystem

equi

equal

equilateral, equilibrium
ex

former

ex-wife, ex-president
hemi half hemisphere
hyper above, over hyperactive
il/im not incorrect, irresistible
in/ir

not

incorrect, irresistible
inter between, among interstate, international
magni

great, large

magnify, magnificent
mega great mega city, megaphone
micro small microscope
mid

half

midway, middle
mini very small miniskirt
mis wrong misspell, misunderstand
mono one, single monotheistic, monologue
multi many multinational
non not nonconformist, nonentity
over too much overrun
pan all pan-American
para

beside, guard

parallel, parachute
penta five pentagon
per throughout perfect, pervade
poly many polygon
port carry portage
post

after

postpone, postgraduate
pre before prepare, predict
pro forward, supporting progress, propel, profess
quad four quadrilateral
re again, back reconsider
semi half, partly semidetached semiprivate
sub below, under submarine, submerge
super above superman, supernatural
tele far telephone, television
trans

across, over

transport, transplant
tri three triangle, tricycle
ultra beyond ultrasound, ultra light
un not, uncertain uneducated, unbearable
under below underused
uni one universal, unicycle

a not aseptic, asymmetrical

ab away from abnormal, absent

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