While revising Greek vocab, it suddenly struck me that the words "ανα" (up) and "κατα" (down) form the basis of some pairs of words such as "catabolic" (chemical reactions where things are broken down) and "anabolic" (where chemicals are built up).

Are there other words with these prefixes related in a similar way, if more convoluted, way, such as "catalogue" and "analogue" or "catalyst" and "analyst"?

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    I suspect that those pairs in which it is harder to discern the opposition of the terms, or any relation to the radical senses of up and down, have mostly originated within the Greek language itself rather than through anglophone coinage using Greek prefixes. Entries in the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek Lexicon for the prepositions themselves are quite lengthy, covering great ranges of meanings; and the sets of entries following, for words that employ them as prefixes, are huge. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 13:53

2 Answers 2


Yes, sometimes.

Anodes and cathodes are negative and positive electrodes in batteries.

Anions and cations are ions with negative or positive charges.

Anaphylaxis and cataphylaxis seem to be opposite responses of the immune system.

I'm sure there are more.

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    Cataphor/anaphor in grammar; catbasis/anabasis in rhetoric. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 13:35
  • Though it's not a gimme. Analysis is traditionally opposed by synthesis, not catalysis, at least outside chemistry. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 13:42
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    There are also both anabatic and catabatic winds. Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 21:26

'Catalysis' actually is an etymological opposite from 'analysis' with the '-lysis' ending coming from Greek lyein, meaning to loosen, a derivation of the PIE root leu-, meaning to loosen, divide or cut apart. However, in the given example, the 'ana' prefix does not mean up, nor does 'cata' mean down. 'Cata', in this case means throughout, corresponding to the original meaning of this word: dissolution (armies, governments etc.). It was then taken to mean the 'change caused by an agent that itself remains unchanged' by the chemist, Berzelius, then morphing it into meaning the quickening of a process. The meaning of 'ana' is very diverse in Greek, ranging from up to back to throughout, thus partly synonymous with 'cata'. Thinkers such as Aristotle used the Greek word analyein to mean 'solve a problem' by analysis. literally breaking up the problem, alluding to methodology.

After hours of tough research, I have found two words that are literal opposites: catadromous and anadromous, meaning going from river to sea to breed and vice versa, respectively.

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