List of Prefixes

Prefixes and suffixes were originally words themselves but they are now groups of letters added to words or to roots to create new words. Prefixes [pre (before) + fix (fasten) = fasten before] are groups of letters placed before words or roots. Prefixes modify or extend the meanings of words and roots. Following is a list of commonly used prefixes and sample vocabulary.




     a-, an- not, without

          o apolitical (adjective): without interest in politics

                + a + polit + ic + al

          o anemia (noun): the condition (disease) of not having enough red blood cells

                + an + em + ia


    ab-, abs- away from, off

          o abrupt (adjective): unexpected change

                + ab + rupt

          o absolve (verb): to be set free from one’s actions or obligations

                + ab + solve


     ante- before

          o anterior (adjective): before or near the front

                + ante + rior


     anti- against

          o antipathy (noun): dislike, opposite feeling

                + anti + path + y


    auto- self

          o automotive (adjective): related to self-propelled machines

                + auto + mot + ive


     bi- two

          o biped (noun): a two-footed animal

                + bi + ped

          o biennial (adjective): happening every two years bi + enni + al


    cat-, cata-, cath- down, with

          o category (noun): a class or set to which a thing belongs

                + cate + gor + y

          o catalogue (noun): a book or pamphlet that lists and describes

                + cata + log + ue

          o catheter (noun): a medical device used to tranfer fluids cath +eter


    circum- around

          o circumvent (verb): to manage to get around a situation

                + circum + vent



    contra- against, opposite

          o contradict (verb) to state the opposite

                + contra + dict


    de- to do the opposite, to take away from

          o decrease (verb): to grow smaller, to become less

                + de + cre + ase


    di-, dif-, dis- apart, separate, two, opposite, not

          o divide (verb): to separate into two or more parts

                + di + vide

          o differ (verb): to be unlike

                + dif + fer


    dis- not, opposite of, exclude

          o distrust (verb): to have no confidence or trust

                + dis + trust


    e-, ex- out, out of, from

          o emit (verb) to send out

                + e + mit

          o expel (verb): to force out ex + pel


   en-, em- put into

          o enamor (verb): to cause to love, to “put” someone “into” love

                + en + am + + or

          o empower (verb): to give power, to put into power em + pow + er


    pi-, upon, beside, over

          o epilogue (noun): the concluding section of a play or literary work

                + epi + logue


    extra- beyond

          o extraordinary (adjective): going beyond normal

                + extra + ordin + ary


     il-, im-, in-, ir, not, in

          o illegible (adjective): cannot be read

                + il + leg + ible

          o imposter (noun): someone who poses as someone else

                + im + post + er

          o inaction (noun): lack of motion, idle

                + in + act + ion

          o irresolute (adjective): uncertain about hot to act, undecided, not having a solution

                + ir + re + solute


    in-, im-, il- in, into

          o instead (adverb): in place of, an alternative

                + in + stead

          o import (verb): to bring into a country from another country

                + im + port


     inter- between, among

          o interject (verb): to throw something (usually a comment) between other things

                + inter + ject


     intro- into

          o introspection (noun): to look into one’s own thoughts and feelings

                + intro + spect + ion


    mal- bad

          o malfunction (noun): when something does not work properly

                + mal + funct + ion


    mis- wrong

          o misconduct (noun): wrong doing, bad behavior

                + mis + con + duct


    mono- one

          o monologue (noun): a dramatic performance or speech given by one actor

                + mono + logue


    multi- many

          o multiply (verb): to increase in number

                + multi + ply


    non- not, no

          o nonsense (noun): something that has no meaning or makes no sense

                + non + sense


    ob-, oc-, of-, op- toward, against, in the way

          o obtain (verb): to gain or get, to get a hold of

                + ob + tain

          o occur (verb): to happen, to come to mind

                + oc + cur

          o offer (verb): to attempt to give, to propose, to try to hand out

                + of + fer

          o oppose (verb): to be against, to stand in the way of something

                + op + pose


    over- excessive, above

          o overwork (verb): to have too much work

                + over + work


    para- beside

          o paradox (noun): a statement that seems true and contradictory at the same time

                + para + dox


    per- through

          o persecute (verb): to go after, to pursue

                + per + secute


    post- after

          o postpone (verb): to put off to a later time, to delay

                + post + pone


    pre- before

          o precede (verb): to go before, to come in front of

                + pre + cede


    pro- for, foward

          o propel (verb): to push forward

                + pro + pel


    re- back, again

          o readmit (verb): to allow in again

                + re + ad + mit


    retro- backward

          o retrospect (noun) to look back at past events

                + retro + spect


    se- apart, move away from

          o secede (verb): to withdraw from an organization

                + se + cede


    semi- half

          o semiannual (adjective): occurring twice a year

                + semi + annu + al


    sub-,  under, beneath, near, from below, secretly, above, up

          o submarine (adjective): underwater

                + sub + mar + ine



    super- over, above

          o superimpose (verb): to place something on top of something else

                + super + im + pose


    syn-, sym- together, at the same time

          o synchronous (adjective): happening at the same time

                + syn + chron + ous

          o sympathy (noun): sharing another person’s feelings, compassion

                + sym + path + y


    trans- across, beyond, change

          o transform (verb): to change shape

                + trans + form


    tri- three

          o tripod (noun): a three-legged stand

                + tri + pod


    un- not, against, opposite

          o unceasing (adjective): never ending, continuous

                + un + ceas + ing


    uni- one

          o uniform (adjective): having the same form or consistancy

                + uni + form

Ideas on how to use this reference material in the ESL classroom at:

WereVerse Universe Baby!

2 responses to “List of Prefixes

  1. this is bad.

    • A list of prefixes is bad? I can understand one of my essays being bad but how is a list of words bad, good or whatever? I amgoing to leave this comment since its sooo mysterious.

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