Meaning of Prefixes

The letters which we add to the beginning of certain words to give it a different meaning is referred to as prefixes. By attaching a prefix, usually, a new word is formed which means the opposite to the existing word. A prefix can also be used to denote the time, place and manner of the word. Some examples of how prefixes are used:

  1. I’m sorry I was unable to reach on time.
  2. Non-payment of rent could result in the tenant being asked to leave the house.
  3. Have you ever met an extraterrestrial being? (meaning a being from another planet)
  4. The curry was overcooked and quite tasteless.

Here are some of the commonly used prefixes:

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anti-against/opposed toanti-government, anti-racist, anti-war
auto-selfautobiography, automobile
de-reverse or changede-classify, decontaminate, demotivate
dis-reverse or removedisagree, displeasure, disqualify
down-reduce or lowerdowngrade, downhearted
extra-beyondextraordinary, extraterrestrial
hyper-extremehyperactive, hypertension
l-, im-, in-, ir-notillegal, impossible, insecure, irregular
inter-betweeninteractive, international
mega-very big, importantmegabyte, mega-deal,
mis-incorrectly, badlymisaligned, mislead, misshapen
non-notnon-payment, non-smoking
over-too muchovercook, overcharge, overrate
out-go beyondoutdo, out-perform, outrun
post-afterpost-election, post-war
pre-beforeprehistoric, pre-war
pro-in favour ofpro-communist, pro-democracy
re-againreconsider, redo, rewrite
semi-halfsemicircle, semi-retired
sub-under, belowsubmarine, sub-Saharan
super-above, beyondsuper-hero, supermodel
tele-at some distancetelevision, telephone
trans-acrosstransatlantic, transfusion, transfer
ultra-extremely ultrasound
un-remove, reverse, notundo, unpack, unhappy
under-less than, beneathundercook, underestimate
up-make or move higherupgrade, uphill


There are no rules as to when a hyphen should be used while writing a prefixed word. Practicing your English skills over a period of time will give you an idea on how prefixes should be properly used.

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