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

biolife

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
hemihalfhemisphere
hyperabove, overhyperactive
il/imnotincorrect, irresistible
in/ir

not

incorrect, irresistible
interbetween, amonginterstate, international
magni

great, large

magnify, magnificent
megagreatmega city, megaphone
microsmallmicroscope
mid

half

midway, middle
minivery smallminiskirt
miswrongmisspell, misunderstand
monoone, singlemonotheistic, monologue
multimanymultinational
nonnotnonconformist, nonentity
overtoo muchoverrun
panallpan-American
para

beside, guard

parallel, parachute
pentafivepentagon
perthroughoutperfect, pervade
polymanypolygon
portcarryportage
post

after

postpone, postgraduate
prebeforeprepare, predict
proforward, supportingprogress, propel, profess
quadfourquadrilateral
reagain, backreconsider
semihalf, partlysemidetached semiprivate
subbelow, undersubmarine, submerge
superabovesuperman, supernatural
telefartelephone, television
trans

across, over

transport, transplant
trithreetriangle, tricycle
ultrabeyondultrasound, ultra light
unnot, uncertainuneducated, unbearable
underbelowunderused
unioneuniversal, unicycle

a not aseptic, asymmetrical

ab away from abnormal, absent

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