According to the Wiktionary, the prefix "trans" is to be understood as

Across, through, over, beyond, to or on the other side of, outside of.

However, most of the words I can think of using this prefix do not seem to fit this rule. For instance:

  • transparent: parent? as in father and mother?
  • transport: move good between sea side ports?
  • transplant: plants? as in bushes et. al.?
  • transaction: across to individuals?
  • transmission: this probably comes from latin missio, to send.
  • translate: late? some obscure word for language?

So, is there another meaning of the prefix "trans" that the above reference is missing? Or are some of these words not really using the syllable "trans" as prefix?

closed as off-topic by Hot Licks, Janus Bahs Jacquet, Hank, Chenmunka, Dan Bron Feb 17 '17 at 14:30

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  • 4
    Look them up in a dictionary which gives word derivations. For example, 'transparent' is nothing to do with parents. According to en.oxforddictionaries.com, its derivation is: Late Middle English: from Old French, from medieval Latin transparent- ‘shining through’, from Latin transparere, from trans- ‘through’ + parere ‘appear’. – Kate Bunting Feb 17 '17 at 11:35
  • Go on Google and type etymology transparent. – Hot Licks Feb 17 '17 at 12:43
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    I don’t see how any of those words do not use trans- in the sense ‘across, through, over, beyond, to/on the other side’. While the second element in all of them happen to be English words in their own right, these are words that are borrowed from Latin (through French, usually) as wholes, and you need to look at the meaning of the individual second elements in Latin, not their modern meaning in English. The two are not necessarily related. But this is really off-topic: you can look up the origins of all these words in a good dictionary or somewhere like etymonline. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 17 '17 at 13:16

These words all contains the meaning of trans, meaning 'across' or 'over'. However, their root morpheme is often from Latin or Old French.

For example, translate means to move such as when a bishop is translated or a graph is translated . It is from translatus in Latin, which is the past participle of transferre. Ferre means to bear. Hence, 'bear across'.

Another example: transport. Trans+portare in Latin, meaning to carry (portare c.f. portage, porter) across. Hence transport.

Transplant seems pretty obvious to me; to plant across.

Transmission as you said, from Latin, mitto, to send, hence to send across.

Transaction is from transactum, the supine of transigere meaning to strike, finish or accomplish, which is from trans+ago, or to 'do across'.

It is often helpful to look at the etymologies rather than on what the current forms are of a word.

  • Minor pedantic corrections: the verbal root of "transaction" is ago, agere, egi, actum "to lead". The trans- form in Latin has first principal part "transigo" (the prefix triggers a regular phonological change of short a to i before single consonants), but fourth principal part "transactus" (no vowel change because the a is long by a phonological change called Lachmann's law), and the Latin formation that gives rise to English words in -tion uses the fourth principal part. Similarly, the verb from "transmission" is mitto (not misso), mittere, misi, missum. – Connor Harris Feb 17 '17 at 14:49
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    @Connor To be even more pedantic, it’s not the prefix trans- that triggers the phonological change a → i, but the fact that adding a prefix means the erstwhile a ends up in an unstressed, non-final, open syllable. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 17 '17 at 16:59
  • @JanusBahsJacquet To be still more pedantic, it's not that the resulting vowel is unstressed (in the infinitive, it is), but that it was unstressed in pre-Classical Latin, which had uniform initial stress. – Connor Harris Feb 17 '17 at 17:11
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    @ConnorHarris Very true—forgot to add that! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 17 '17 at 17:29
  • @ConnorHarris Yes, you're right with transaction. None of my dictionaries had listed the etymology of it but I see it now online. Also, I should have known it's mitto not misso; a bit of a silly error. – JDF Feb 19 '17 at 5:12

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