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:

Prefix Meaning Examples
anti- against/opposed to anti-government, anti-racist, anti-war
auto- self autobiography, automobile
de- reverse or change de-classify, decontaminate, demotivate
dis- reverse or remove disagree, displeasure, disqualify
down- reduce or lower downgrade, downhearted
extra- beyond extraordinary, extraterrestrial
hyper- extreme hyperactive, hypertension
l-, im-, in-, ir- not illegal, impossible, insecure, irregular
inter- between interactive, international
mega- very big, important megabyte, mega-deal,
mid- middle mid-October
mis- incorrectly, badly misaligned, mislead, misshapen
non- not non-payment, non-smoking
over- too much overcook, overcharge, overrate
out- go beyond outdo, out-perform, outrun
post- after post-election, post-war
pre- before prehistoric, pre-war
pro- in favour of pro-communist, pro-democracy
re- again reconsider, redo, rewrite
semi- half semicircle, semi-retired
sub- under, below submarine, sub-Saharan
super- above, beyond super-hero, supermodel
tele- at some distance television, telephone
trans- across transatlantic, transfusion, transfer
ultra- extremely  ultrasound
un- remove, reverse, not undo, unpack, unhappy
under- less than, beneath undercook, underestimate
up- make or move higher upgrade, 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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