As in the title. Does it mean anything? Does it mean the same thing in all of these words? What is its origin? Are there any other words with "to-"?

2 Answers 2


It is a prefix that in some cases ( like today ) has survived from Middle English usage in words with reference to time meaning on ( this day):


  • Old English todæge, to dæge "on (this) day," from to "at, on" (see to) + dæge, dative of dæg "day" (see day). Meaning "in modern times" is from c. 1300. As a noun from 1530s. Generally written as two words until 16c., after which it usually was written to-day until early 20c.


  • Old English to "in the direction of, for the purpose of, furthermore," from West Germanic *to (cognates: Old Saxon and Old Frisian to, Dutch too, Old High German zuo, German zu "to"), from PIE pronominal base *do- "to, toward, upward" (cognates: Latin donec "as long as," Old Church Slavonic do "as far as, to," Greek suffix -de "to, toward," Old Irish do, Lithuanian da-), from demonstrative *de-.

  • Commonly used as a prefix in Middle English (to-hear "listen to," etc.), but few of these survive (to-do, together, and time references such as today, tonight, tomorrow -- Chaucer also has to-yeere). To and fro "side to side" is attested from mid-14c. Phrase what's it to you "how does that concern you?" (1819) is a modern form of an old question:


  • Isn't it prefix according to your source?
    – RexYuan
    Jun 27, 2015 at 11:41
  • @RexYuan - sorry, my mistake.
    – user66974
    Jun 27, 2015 at 12:02

The "to" is the versatile preposition, which comes to us from Old English. It has a temporal meaning of on (a day) or in (a time). Others? Sure. "Together" and "toward." The "to" has a different meaning in locational use.

  • Then why "in-morrow"/"on-morrow" means what tomorrow? Doesn't make sense. Also what would "gether" be?
    – NPS
    Jun 27, 2015 at 11:10
  • @NPS There’s no way of knowing why it’s today/-morrow/night/-gether/-ward, rather than onday/-morrow/etc. That’s just the preposition they decided to use in the area where what later became Old English developed. Other Germanic languages chose other prepositions to use. The Nordic languages all have ‘in’, for example, like Danish i dag, i aften, i morgen; but then in Icelandic it’s still í dag, í kvöld, but á morgun ‘on morrow’, and í morgun instead means ‘this morning’. And of course in English tomorrow is equivalent to on the morrow. Prepositions vary. They just do. Jun 27, 2015 at 12:09
  • 1
    And -gether is a cranberry morpheme which is historically (and still at least semi-transparently) related to the verb gather. Jun 27, 2015 at 12:10
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, special thanks for the link to semi-transparent cranberry morphemes.
    – Hugh
    Jun 27, 2015 at 12:44
  • @JanusBahsJacquet You didn't understand me. I didn't ask why this preposition and not any other. I asked why tomorrow means a time in the next day and not this one.
    – NPS
    Jun 27, 2015 at 13:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.