Prefix Examples: 40 Essential Prefixes and Their Meanings

What is a prefix? A prefix is defined as a syllable or group of syllables added to the beginning of a word or a root word stem to alter its meaning. Prefixes add complexity to the English language and make it possible to create new words that are easily understood by speakers everywhere. Reviewing a variety of prefix examples and what they mean will help you apply logic to new words and decode them appropriately.

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15 Prefixes That Negate Another Word

Several prefixes serve to make the new word mean the opposite, or nearly the opposite, of the original meaning of the base word. For example, consider the prefix de-. This prefix means to undo something and is usually attached to a verb. Using this prefix, you can take the verb activate, which means to put something to use, and change it to deactivate, which means to take something out of use.

PrefixMeaningExamples
a- lacking, without, not amoral, atheist, abiotic
ab-away, removed, notabnormal, abstract, absent
an- without, not, lacking anaerobic, anacoustic, anhydrous
anti- against, opposing, contrary to antibiotic, antifreeze, antisocial

contra-

contrary to, against, opposing contraindicated, contralateral, contraflow
counter-opposing, contrary to, againstcounterproposal, counteroffer, counter-attack
de- reverse, undo, remove deactivate, de-ice, deplane
dis- remove, separate, apart from disagree, disapprove, disconnect
ex- away from, former, lacking ex-husband, ex-wife, ex-boss
il-not, lacking, withoutillegal, illegible, illogical
im-without, not, lackingimpossible, improper, impermeable
in-no, without, lackinginjustice, incomplete, invisible
ir-not, non, oppositeirreversible, irreplaceable, irregular
non-not, lacking, withoutnonexistent, nonfiction, nonnegotiable
un-opposite, not, lackingunkind, unresponsive, unruly

25 Common Prefixes in English With Examples

There are many prefixes that don't negate the original meaning of the root word, but rather alter it in unique ways, such as expressing relationships of time, place or manner. Prefixes are sometimes added to complete English words or to root word stems that can be traced to Latin or Greek.

Prefix Meaning Examples
ante- before, prior to, front antebellum, antechamber, anterior
auto- self, one's self, yourself autobiography, autograph, autonomy
circum - around, go around circumnavigate, circumscribe, circumvent
co- jointly, with, together coexist, copilot, coworker
com- together, with commiserate, compartment, community
con- with, together confound, confluence, conversation
en-put into, surroundencase, endow, envelope
exo-out, outerexhale, extend, exoskeleton
extra-beyond, moreextracurricular, extraterrestrial, extravert
hetero-different, not the sameheterogeneous, heterosexual, heterocyst
homo-same, not differenthomogenize, homophone, homosexual
hyper-extreme, beyondhyperactive, hyperspace, hypertension,
inter-between, in the midst of, amongintermittent, intersect, interstate
mega -large, massivemegaphone, megadose, megabyte
micro-small, tinymicrocosm, microphone, microscope
mid-middle. midpointmidnight, midseason, midterm
mis-incorrect, bad, wrongfulmisappropriate, misunderstand, misuse
mono-one, singularmonogamous, monotone, monochrome
over-too much, excessiveovercook, overdone, overwrought
post-afterpostdate, postscript, post-war
pre-before, prior toprefix, preliminary, preschool
re-again, do overreconsider, re-evaluate, rewrite
semi-partial, somewhat, less than fullysemiconductor, semester, semi-retired
sub-below, beneathsubjugate, submarine, sub-par
trans-across, changetransferrence, transgender, translate
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Expand Your Vocabulary With Prefixes

Prefixes are a powerful tool in the English language. Learning about common prefix examples and how to use them will help you strengthen your vocabulary and develop the ability to vary the language you use in your writing and conversations. Remember that some prefixes can share a meaning, such as il-, in-, im- and ir-, and that you do not generally hyphenate a prefix unless it’s attached to a proper noun (though there are some exceptions, as illustrated by a few of the examples in the tables). Once you have mastered these prefixes, it's much easier to figure out the meaning of new words when you come across them.

Now that you've mastered some common prefix examples, next you'll want to study a selection of suffixes. Boost your skills by practicing with roots, base words, prefixes, and suffixes. Once you master these, there will be no limit to your language arts learning and what you can do with your English language skills.