Affordable preparation materials for the serious speller.

Week 2: Adding Common Prefixes

Meaning of the Term Prefix

For the sake of the very young speller, let me go over what a prefix is. A prefix is a group of letters that has a specific meaning, which when placed in front of a base word will change its meaning.

Why Should I Learn Prefixes?

It can help you spell some surprise words correctly.

It can help you understand why a certain letter is doubled in some words.

General Tips for Adding Prefixes

The spelling of the base word (the word that the prefix is being added to does not change.

e.g. Consider the word prefix. Pre- is a prefix meaning before, and is added to the word fix; hence the meaning of prefix as a verb “ to place in front.”

The spelling of most prefixes do not change.

This can help you not only in correctly spelling a word, but also help you in correctly identifying a letter within the prefix. For example let’s take a look at the prefixes dis- and dys. Both of these prefixes are pronounced \dis\. Dis- means : the opposite of or not whereas dys-  means : abnormal, diseased, faulty, or bad. Knowing this will help you correctly identify whether to use the letter ‘i’ or ‘y’ if you pay attention to the definition of the word.

Certain prefixes change the last letter depending on which letter the base word starts with. This can account for a double letter in a word.

ad- (meaning to or toward) usually changes to:

ac-  before c, or q: acclimate,acquit

af-  before f: affix, afforest, affluent

ag-  before g: agglutinate, aggrandize, aggrieve

al-  before l:  allocate, allure

ap-  before p: apperception, applaud, apportion

as- before s: assign, assimilate, assure

at-   before t: attest, attune

ad- can also mean near to or adjacent. In this sense the prefix usually remains ad- in front of a base word.

e.g. adrenal

in-  (meaning not ) usually changes to:

il-  before l: illegal, illegible, illimitable

im-   before b, m, or p: imbalance, immature, immaculate, immortal, impatient, impasse,impossible,

implausible, impractical

ir-  before r: irregular, irrational, irrelevant

in- before other sounds : inactive, inadmissible, incapable,

Note that in- can also mean in, within, inward, into, toward, and on. The n can change to l,m, or p.

e.g. illuminate, immiserization, imperil, impoverish.

I would like to mention that sometimes the base word to which the prefix is being added is not an English word you are familiar with, but rather a Latin or Greek stem.

e.g. in applaud, -plaud is from Latin plaudere meaning to clap or beat. This is why learning common Latin and Greek roots is beneficial.

A prefix ending in the letter with which the base word begins can also account  for the presence of a double letter in some words.

un + necessary = unnecessary

dis + similar = dissimilar

ir + regular = irregular

mis + spell = misspell

Some Common Prefixes

 

prefix\combining form

meaning

examples

 

a- before consonants

not, without

achromatic,anarchy, anhedonic, atypical,

 

an- before vowels

 

a

on,in, at, in such a condition\manner\state

ablaze,alight, asunder, afoot, asleep

 
 

ab

from, away from

abdicate, abduct, abnormal,

 

ambi

both

ambidextrous, ambilateral, ambivalent

 

amphi

around, on both sides, of both kinds, both

amphibious, amphigenous, amphitheater,

 
 

ante

before

antebellum, antecedent,antechamber, anterevolutionary

 

anti

one opposing;  serving to prevent or cure

antibiotic, antidote, antipyretic, antiradical

 
 

arch

chief, principal, preeminent, extreme, first in time

archangel, archduke, archenemy,

 
 

audit

hearing, sound

audition, auditory,auditor

 

auto

self, self propelling

autoalarm, autobiography, automobile, autonomy

 

bi

two, twice, on both sides

bicameral, bifurcation, bilateral, bilingual

 

bi\bio

life

bilology, biochemistry, biopsy, biorhythm,

 

brevi

short

abbreviate, breviary, breviped, breviloquent

 

centi

hundred, hundredth

centimeter, centipede,

 

chron\chrono

time

chronicle, chronology, chronometer,

 

circum

around, surrounding, on all sides

circumambulate, circumnavigate,circumscribe, circumvent

 

co

with,together

coexist,cooperate

 

com  usually before b,p or m

with, together, jointly

combine, compress, commixture

 

col before l, cor before r

 

con before other sounds

 

contra

against, contrary, in opposition

contraband, contradict,  contrariety

 

counter

contrary, opposite, adverse

counteract, counterclockwise, counterproductive

 

cry

cold

cryogen, cryonics, cryophilic

 

crypt

hidden, covered

cryptic, cryptographer, crypt

 

cycl

circle, ring, cycle

cyclogenic, cyclometer,cyclone, cyclothemia

 

de

away, from

depart, degenerate,  degrease, dehydration,

 

dia

across, through

diagonal, diathermy, diadromous

 

dis

opposite of, deprive of,absence of

disagree, disappear,disarray, dissimilar

 

dynam

power

dynamic,  dynamo, dynamite, dynasty,

 

dys

abnormal, diseased, faulty, bad,unfavorable

dyscalculia, dyslexia, dysphagia

 

en \em

put in,cause to be, provide with

entrust, enable, ennervate, empower

 

equi

equal

equidistant,equilibrium,equinox, equipollence

 

eu

well, good

euphoric, eulogy,euphemism, eupeptic

 

ex

out of \away from \without

exculpate, excavate, exclusion

 

extra

outside, beyond

extracurricular,extraneous, extraordinary

 

fore

before, earlier, infront of

foreboding,foreclose, forefather

 

fructi

fruit

fructiferous, fructose, fructify

 

gastr

somach, gastric and

gastrology, gastronome, gastronomy

 

geo

earth

geognosy, geography, geology, geomancy

 

heter

different

heterodox, heterogeneous, heteroglossia

 

homo

same

homogenize, homophone, homonym

 

hydr

water, hydrogen

hydrant, hydrolysis,hydrophilous,

 

hyper

over, above, excessive

hyperactive, hypertrophy, hyperventilation

 

hypo

under, beneath, less than normal

hypochondria, hypotrophy, hypodynamia

 

inter

between, among

intermittent, international, intermission

 

intra

within

inrtracellular,intramural, intravenous

 

iso

equal

isomorphic, isosceles, isotope

 

lith

stone

lithoglyph,lithomancy, lithotomy

 

log

word, thought, speech

logogriph, logomachy, logorrhea

 

macro

large, long

macrobiotics, macrocephalous, macrocosm

 

magn

large, great

magnify, magnanimous, magnate

 

mal

bad, evil

malady, malefactor, malevolent

 

mega

great, large

megacephaly, megaphone, megatherm

 

micro

small, minute

microscope, micrology,microphagous

 

mis

incorrectly, badly, opposite of

misidentify, misdeed, misfit, misinform

 

mis

hatred

misanthrope

 

mon\mono

single

monarch,monaural,monocle, monopoly

 

multi

many, multiple,

multifarious, multimedia, multiplex

 

neo

new, recent

neologism, neophobia,neophyte

 

non

not, absence of

nonconformer, nondescript, nonpareil

 

omni

all, universal

omnilegent,omniscient, omnivorous

 

ortho

straight, vertical, corrective, true

orthodontics, orthodox, orthoepy

 

pan

all, completely,

panoptic, panorama, panosophist

 

ped \ pod

foot

pedestal, pedicure, podiatrist

 

peri

around

perimeter,periscope

 

poly

many

polyarchy,polydactyly, polygon

 

post

after, subsequent, later

posterior,postpone, posttreatment

 

pre

before

preamble,premonition, presage

 

pseudo

false

pseudonym, pseudology

 

psych

mind, soul, spirit

psychagogy, psychology, psychomachy

 

pyr

fire

pyrolatry,pyromaniac,pyrotechnics

 

re

back, again

recogitate, recapitulate, redo

 

sub

under, below,

subaqueous, subconscious, subordinate

 

syn\sym

with

synchronize, sympathy, symphony

 

tele

distant,  over a distance

telegnosis, telekinesis, telescope

 

therm

heat

thermometer, thermophyte, thermostat

 

trans

across

transducer, transportation, transmissible

 

un

not, opposite of

unfurl, unintelligible, unmanageable

 

uni

one, single

unicorn, unidirectional, unify

 

vivi(appears as viv in some words)

alive, living

vivacious,vivify,viviparous

 

zo\zoo

animal

zoogenic, zoology, zoanthropy

 

 

As you work through your school list or Spell It, look out for some of these common prefixes. Remember to maintain a list of the words that trip you up, and review them periodically.

 

Next week, I will go over some rules for adding suffixes.