I understand that often the opposite of the 'for-' prefix is 'back-', ie. "forwards" and "backwards," "foreground" and "background." But what is the opposite of 'foreshadowing,' 'forgiven' or 'forthright?' 'Backshadowing?' 'Backgiven?' 'Backright?'

Does 'for-' have different anit-prefixes for different situations?

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    One 'opposite' of the 'for/fore-' prefix is 'back-'. There is, for instance, 'hind-' as in 'hindward': Adverb hindward ... Toward the posterior extremity. Synonyms hindwards Adjective hindward Posterior; in the rear. [Wiktionary] Aftward and sternward also exist. Aug 29, 2013 at 7:47

1 Answer 1


The "fore" in "foreshadowing" is a different prefix, etymologically speaking, from the "for" in "forgiven," and both are different from the "forth" in "forthright." Because they are etymologically distinct, each will have its own "opposite" prefix.

"Fore," as in "foresight" and "foreplay," means "prior," so some of its opposites are "hind-", "post-", and "after-".

The "for" in "forgiven," according to Oxford American, isn't actually a prefix; the word came down in one whole multisyllabic chunk from the Dutch "vergeven."

And the "forth" in "forthright" comes from the same root as the "for" in "forwards," so its opposite would likely be "back," as you mentioned, or "trans."

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    ‘For-’ in ‘forgive’ is a prefix. The word is not borrowed from Dutch, it is a word found in all the older Germanic languages—it is simply cognate with Dutch vergeven. The prefix means ‘completely’ and is quite common as an intensifier in other Germanic languages, though English has somewhat disfavoured it (‘forlorn’ and ‘forsake’ are the only two other examples I can think of off the top of my head). Aug 29, 2013 at 12:42
  • @JanusBahsJacquet is correct. The prefix is likely related to "fore" as a different ablaut grade, but whatever semantic connection there was is now completely lost, and was pretty much gone even in the earliest Germanic.
    – siride
    Aug 30, 2013 at 1:51

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