Common Prefixes in English

20 Common Prefixes in English with Meanings and Examples

The English language is so dynamic that many aspects are challenging and confusing, but they are also fun to learn. There are too many features of the English language that are sometimes uncommon to language learners like you. One of them is the prefixes in English.

We have already discussed the suffixes in English and how they work in one of our articles. Suffixes are tiny sets of letters but they are helpful in forming and changing the meaning of a specific word. In this article, we will focus on some common prefixes in English with their meanings and examples.

What are prefixes in English?

The word “prefix” means to attach before because the word “pre” means “before” and the word “fix” in this case means “to attach.”

Generally, prefixes in English are a group of letters attached to the base form of a root word to form a new word and a new meaning. Prefixes in English can create a positive or negative meaning when attached to a root word.

Why should we learn prefixes in English?

Prefixes in English are tiny features of the English language, but they play an important role in forming words and learning their meanings. Thus, it is important to learn these aspects of English.

We should learn the prefixes in English because they can help language learners form new words, understand new meanings, and make correct sentences. By learning the prefixes in English, language learners can improve their reading comprehension and writing skills.

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Why should we learn Prefixes in English?

Common Prefixes in English

 
There are many prefixes in English but we will introduce you to 15 common ones. Let’s learn about them and their meanings below.

  1. Anti- – the prefix “anti” means against or opposed to something. For example, the word “virus” can be fixed with “anti” to form “antivirus” which means something that fights viruses.

Examples:

Anti-government
Antibacterial
Antioxidant

  1. Auto- – this means “self” or operating independently without needing help.

Examples:

            Automobile
            Auto-immune
            Autofocus

  1. Dis- – added to a word to form an opposite; reverse; remove

Examples:

Disagree – not to agree with something
Discontinue – not continue doing something
Dislocate – remove a certain part (e.g. bones)
Disability – not being able to do anything anymore
Disappearance – to be lost 

  1. Extra– – beyond; added to what is normal

Examples:

Extraordinary – beyond the ordinary; more than ordinary
Extra-curricular – beyond any curricular activities
Extra-special – there are special things but this one is more than special

  1. Hyper- – extreme

Examples:

Hyperactive – super active
Hypersensitive – extremely sensitive to something; has a negative meaning 

  1. il-, im-, in-, ir- – these four prefixes in English mean “not”

Examples:

Illegal – negative in meaning; not legal
Illuminate – positive in meaning; to light up a place
Impossible – negative; not possible
Impolite – not polite
Insensitive – not sensitive
Intangible – cannot be touched
Irresponsible – not responsible
Irrelevant – not relevant or related to something

  1. Inter- – this means “between or among people or things in a place”

Examples:

Inter-island – within an island
International – within all nations in the world
Interracial – within a specific or same race
Intercontinental – within continents
Inter-campus – within participating campuses

    1. Mega- – very big; huge

Examples:

Megabyte – a storage, for example, that has a big space
Megamall – a big mall
Mega-sale – a huge sale where prices decrease largely

    1. Mis- – not correct; badly

Examples:

Misunderstand – did not understand anything
Mislead – something that is not correctly shared (i.e. information, facts, etc)
Misinterpret – an incorrect interpretation of something

    1. Non- – not

Examples:

Non-smoking – not a smoking place or area
Nonstop – no stopping
Non-payment – inability to pay
Non-alcoholic – does not contain alcohol

    1. Post- – this means “after”

Examples:

Post-war – after the war
Post-natal – after childbirth
Post-election – after the election

    1. Pre- – this means “before”

Examples:

Pre-war – before the war
Prehistoric – before the start of civilization
Pre-flight – before the flight

    1. Re- – this means “do again”

Examples:

Reform – to form again
Restructure – to form a structure again; change the structure
Remarry – marry again
Reuse – use something again
Regain – get/achieve something again

    1. Semi- – not complete; half; preparation

Examples:

Semi-finals – a preparation for the finals
Semicircle – not a full circle
Semi-permanent – not permanent yet

    1. Sub- – under or below

Examples:

Submarine – underwater
Sub-topic – another topic set from the main topic
Sub-office – a small branch of a big office
Sub-heading – a small heading from the main heading 

    1. Super- – larger or more effective; more than usual

Examples:

Super-size – extremely large in size
Supernatural – more than natural
Super-rich – very rich
Superfine – very fine

    1. Ultra- – extremely

Examples:

Ultra-fast – very or extremely fast
Ultra-thin – extremely thin
Ultra-conservative – extremely conservative

    1. Un- – not; remove; reverse

Examples:

Unrealistic – not so real
Unseen – not seen
Unhappy – not happy
Unfair – not fair
Undo – remove; delete; do not do it again

    1. Under- – not enough or not done completely

Examples:

Underestimate – sounds negative, but this means to degrade a skill or ability of something or some
Underrated – better or important than what people believe
Underpaid – not paid fully
Undercooked – not fully cooked
Under-developed – not fully developed

    1. Up- – to move up or go higher

Examples:

Upward – go upward
Uphill – towards the direction of a hill
Upscale – high-quality goods

The common prefixes in English have different meanings and functions, and are somehow related. Their usage depends on the context of the sentence.

Now that you know some of the common prefixes in English, you are ready to challenge yourself and be familiar with their meanings and uses.

Practice Time

Below are some example sentences for your practice. Choose the correct word from the box.

20 Common Prefixes in English with Meanings and Examples

  • The teacher needs to give a ________________ to students because they failed the test.
  • The war on ___________ drugs in the Philippines has been an international issue.
  • We are taught not to be ________________ when responding to our elders.
  • My uncle is going to _______________ his ex-wife after 5 years of divorce.
  • I want my teacher to ________________ the story of King Midas.
  • I cannot _______________ what I did to my files on my computer.
  • She’s got ______________________ friends who give her money all the time.
  • The __________________ era brought us to civilization.
  • Have you installed the ___________________ software on my laptop?
  • Don’t stay in your job if you are ________________.
  • The director will have a surprise visit at the ________________ tomorrow.
  • I want my parents’ anniversary to be ____________________.
  • My sister’s ___________________ check-up with her doctor went well.
  • Please be reminded that this is a ________________ flight.
  • _________________ marriage is common in some countries.
  • Your answer was ____________________ to the question.

The correct answers can be found here.

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