I am a computer scientist who's trying to analyze and endcode the meaning of morphemes or more higher level of abstraction to be represented and stored in a numerical data.

While processing the morpheme pre-, as in prevalent and predominant; these words are not sharing some conventional use of prefix pre- : as a meaning of before or anterior of something.

It looks much more alike to work as a- as an intensifier, so I want to get some advice about its meaning and why this seemingly deviation has arisen.

  • Previous questions you have asked have had suggestions of Etymonline. In this case, it suggests that pre- can mean before in the sense of order and in the sense of importance. It's not really a deviation. Please do quote your own research when writing a question.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 17:30
  • @AndrewLeach I do really want to, but english usage stack does not provide LaTeX MarkUp.
    – Beverlie
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 17:32
  • 1
    You're going to have a rough time with this project because it's difficult or impossible to infer the meaning of a prefix without knowledge of the etymology of the root it modifies, the original meaning of the word itself when first used, and the meaning of the word today. In this case, for example, "pre-" once did have its common meaning, but both "prevalent" and "predominant" have changed in meaning from their original uses over time. Language is a remarkably difficult thing to analyze, and there are no easy answers or fully consistent patterns.
    – R Mac
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 17:32
  • @RMac Totally agree. That's the reason why numerical analysis is required. We can decompose and store the data as a type of vector representation with numerous dimension as much as we need to.
    – Beverlie
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 17:34
  • 1
    No, we don't do LaTeX. But with a bit of effort it's possible to imitate the effect using Markdown. But you don't have to reproduce what you found exactly: do have a look at highly-upvoted questions to see how others have done it.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


Prevalent comes from prevail, which comes from Latin praevalere ‘have greater power,’ from prae ‘before’ + valere ‘have power.’

The same construction occurs in the word president, from preside, an early 17th century addition to English from the French présider, from the Latin praesidere, from prae ‘before’ + sedere ‘sit.’

These are straight from the Google dictionary. It's possible the "pre" is a tougher problem than it first appears.

  • So valuable comment. Really appreciate
    – Beverlie
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 17:38
  • If you succeed, you may earn some prestige, although this too is a word whose meaning has changed over time: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/prestige
    – user205876
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 17:45

before can also mean "in front of", or "at the fore" (hence... before).

So if you're in a line, the person in front of you will reach their destination before you do both chronologically and physically. This fits in with the overarching theme of things at the front / the leading edge being better- pioneers, the vanguard, the cutting edge, and so on.

Places that are considered underdeveloped are "backward", a person who is very fashionable is "fashion-forward". People who are considered extremely smart are "ahead of their time".

To me the metaphorical theme this ties into is pretty clear. Not sure if it holds up across cultures.

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