Saturday, May 7, 2011

Word Formation - Prefixes

Very often when we are reading, we come across unfamiliar words. We have to stop reading for a few seconds to figure out the intended meaning of the words. Don't worry. It is often possible to guess the meanings of these words if we understand how words in English are usually formed.
An English word can be divided into three parts: a prefix, a stem, and a suffix. However, let's concentrate on prefixes in this post. Pre – means ‘before’. A prefix, therefore, is what comes before the stem. Let's take as an example, the prefix de – , which means ‘reduce’ or ‘reverse’, in a word like demagnetize (meaning ‘to deprive of magnetism’). Prefixes generally change the meaning of the word. For example, un – changes a word to the negative. Unmagnetizable means ‘not capable of being magnetized’.


Let us now consider some prefixes, their usual meanings, and how they change the meanings of English words.

1.  NEGATIVE PREFIXES:
    Negative prefixes can mean:
    • Not: un-, in-, im-, il-, ir-. E.g.: Unmagnetized, Incomplete, Impossible, Illegal, Irregular, Irrelevant
    • Not connected with: non-. E.g.: Non-programmable.
    • Bad, wrong: mis-, mal-. E.g.: Misdirect, Miscalculate, malfunction.
    • Opposite feeling/action: dis-. E.g.: Dislike, Disagree, Dismantle, Disconnect.
    • Against: anti-. E.g.: Antiglare, Antitank.
    • Reduce, reverse: de-. E.g.: Demoralize, Demagnetize, Decode.
    • Too little: under-. E.g.: Underestimate. 

    2.  POSITIVE PREFIXES.
      Positive prefixes can mean:
      • Do again: re-. E.g.: Reorganize, Recycle.
      • Too much: over-. E.g.: Overload.
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      3.  PREFIXES OF SIZE.
        Prefixes of size can mean:
        • Half, partly: semi-. E.g.: Semiconductor.
        • Equal: equi-. E.g.: Equidistant.
        • Small: mini-. E.g.: Minicomputer.
        • Very small: micro-. E.g.: Microorganism.
        • Large, great: macro-, mega-. E.g.: Macroeconomics, Megabyte.
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        4.  PREFIXES OF LOCATION.
          Prefixes of location can mean:
          • Between, among: inter-. E.g.: Interface, Interactive.
          • Within: intra-. E.g.: Intramural.
          • Over: super-. E.g.: Supersonic.
          • Across: trans-. E.g.: Transmit, Transfer.
          • Out: ex-. E.g.: Exclude, Extrinsic.
          • Beyond: extra-. E.g.: Extraordinary.
          • Under: sub-. E.g.: Subordinate.
          • Below: infra-. E.g.: Infrared.
          • Around: peri-, circum-. E.g.: Peripheral, Circumstance.
          • Beside: para-. E.g.: Parameter.
          •  
          5.  PREFIXES OF TIME AND ORDER.
            Prefixes of time and order can mean:
            • Before: ante-, pre-, fore-. E.g.: Antecedent, Prefix, Forehead.
            • First: prime-. E.g.: Primary, Primitive.
            • After: post-. E.g.: Postgraduate.
            • Backward: retro-. E.g.: Retroactive.

            6.  PREFIXES OF NUMBERS.
              Prefixes of numbers can mean:
              • Half, part: semi-. E.g.: Semicircle.
              • One: mono-. E.g.: Monochromatic.
              • Two: bi-. E.g.: Binary.
              • Three: tri-. E.g.: Triangle..
              • Four: quad-. E.g.: Quadruple.
              • Five: penta-. E.g.: Pentagon.
              • Six: hex-. E.g.: Hexagon.
              • Seven: sept(em). E.g.: September
              • Eight: oct-. E.g.: Octal.
              • Ten: dec-. E.g.: Decimal.
              • Many: multi-, poly-. E.g.: Multitasking, Polyphonic.
              •  
              7.  OTHER PREFIXES.
                Other prefixes can mean:
                • Before, in advance, forward: pro-. E.g.: Program, Progress.
                • Self: auto-. E.g.: Automatic.
                • Life: bio-. E.g.: Biography.
                • Extremely: ultra-. E.g.: Ultraviolet.
                • Cause to be: en-, em-. E.g.: Encourage, Empower.
                • Together, with: co-, con-, intro-. E.g.: Coordinate, Conjunction, Introduce.
                • False: pseudo-. E.g.: Pseudonym.
                • Opposing: counter-, contra-. E.g.: Counterattack, Contradict.
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