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While trying to think of a brief list of English prefixes that mean "not" or "opposite to" in some way, I was wondering why so many exist. As English has roots in so many languages, I was hoping somebody could help me understand maybe how some prefixes hail from different languages, and why we have kept all of them. Perhaps there are micro-differences in meaning, and I'd love any insight on that. Examples of different prefixes all meaning the same thing, and examples, are below:

  • a- atypical
  • an- anaerobic
  • anti- anticlimactic, anti-clockwise (for Britons)
  • counter- counter-intuitive, counterclockwise
  • dis- disengage, disconnect
  • il- illegitimate
  • im- immeasurable
  • in- indestructible
  • ir- irresponsible
  • mis- misunderstand
  • non- nontraditional
  • un- unhappy

I know it's an antitypical question, but it's disunderstood in my head and seems misresponsible to have counterunderstood meanings to ameasurable words, making it unpossible for people to learn all these incommon prefixes.

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