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A prefix is an affix which is placed before the stem of a word.[1] 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, like other affixes, can be either inflectional, creating a new form of the word with the same basic meaning and same lexical category (but playing a different role in the sentence), or derivational, creating a new word with a new semantic meaning and sometimes also a different lexical category.[2] Prefixes, like all other affixes, are usually bound morphemes.[1]

In English, there are no inflectional prefixes; English uses suffixes instead for that purpose.

The word prefix is itself made up of the stem fix (meaning "attach", in this case), and the prefix pre- (meaning "before"), both of which are derived from Latin roots.

This is a fairly comprehensive, although not exhaustive, list of derivational prefixes in English. Depending on precisely how one defines a derivational prefix, some of the neoclassical combining forms may or may not qualify for inclusion in such a list. This list takes the broad view that acro- and auto- count as English derivational prefixes because they function the same way that prefixes such as over- and self- do.

As for numeral prefixes, only the most common members of that class are included here. There is a large separate table covering them all at Numeral prefix > Table of number prefixes in English.

Germanderivatives formed with prefixes may be classified in two categories: those used with substantives and adjectives, and those used with verbs.[8] For derivative substantives and adjectives, only two productive prefixes are generally addable to any substantive or adjective as of 1970: un-, which expresses negation (as in ungesund, from gesund), and ur-, which means "original, primitive" in substantives, and has an emphatic function in adjectives. ge-, on the other hand, expresses union or togetherness, and cannot simply be added to any noun or adjective.[9]

Verbal prefixes commonly in use are be-, er-, ent-, ge-, ver-, zer-, and miss- (see also Separable verb).[9] be- expresses strengthening or generalization. ent- expresses negation. ge- indicates the completion of an action, and that's why its most common use has become the forming of the past participle of verbs; ver- has an emphatic function, or it is used to turn a substantive or a

Verbal prefixes commonly in use are be-, er-, ent-, ge-, ver-, zer-, and miss- (see also Separable verb).[9] be- expresses strengthening or generalization. ent- expresses negation. ge- indicates the completion of an action, and that's why its most common use has become the forming of the past participle of verbs; ver- has an emphatic function, or it is used to turn a substantive or an adjective into a verb.[8] In some cases, the prefix particle ent- (negation) can be considered the opposite of particle be-, while er- can be considered the opposite of ver-.[10][11]

The prefix er- usually indicates the successful completion of an action, and sometimes the conclusion means death.[12] With fewer verbs, it indicates the beginning of and action.[8][12] The prefix er- is also used to form verbs from adjectives (e.g. erkalten is equivalent to kalt werden which means to get cold).[12]