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Questions tagged [prefixes]

A prefix is an affix which is placed before the stem of a word

159
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11answers
156k views

“Unregister” vs “Deregister”

The concept of "undoing a registration" is widely used in my line of work. While most dictionaries define unregister as the proper verb for it, several widely used and highly considered sources also ...
128
votes
3answers
21k views

Why does “quadratic” describe second power when “quad” means “four”?

In mathematics, quadratic means "involving the second and no higher power of an unknown quantity or variable". But the prefix quad- usually describes something that has to do with four, such as quad-...
109
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4answers
167k views

“Unselect” or “Deselect”?

If I want the user to revert their operation of selecting an item, should I say: "Unselect the option" or "Deselect the option"?
73
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4answers
10k views

Why is it “behead” and not “dehead”?

The be- prefix in behead doesn't seem to match similar words like become, besmirch, or befuddle. Of course, the same prefix could serve different roles depending on the word. What role is be- serving ...
57
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6answers
15k views

What we've gelost — why doesn't English use the prefix “ge-”?

The Germanic languages that I'm familiar with all use a prefix similar to ge- on past participles: German: Ich habe mir den Fuß gebrochen. Dutch: Ik heb mijn voet gebroken. But English doesn'...
36
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3answers
10k views

Why are not “infamous” and “inflammable” the opposite of “famous” and “flammable”?

Why are not infamous and inflammable the opposite of famous and flammable, like incomplete, inactivity, inappropriate and so on?
36
votes
3answers
126k views

Etymology for “Mc‑” and “O’‑” prefix in surnames

There is clearly a prefix in names like McDonald, McChrystal, O’Brian, O’Neal. What does this Mc- and O- prefix signify? It looks like Donald, Chrystal, Brian, Neal are perfectly fine names on their ...
31
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4answers
24k views

What is the opposite of “meta”?

A while back I was talking about it with friends. Another question indicates a few meanings of the "meta-" prefix. Considering that "meta" means, in simple words, "about itself" (like how metadata is ...
30
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3answers
51k views

Is “misconfigured” a word?

I use the word "misconfigured" all the time, but MS Word, Chrome, and the two dictionaries I checked don't list it as a word. I'm going to keep using it instead of "configured incorrectly" because I ...
30
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7answers
94k views

“Biweekly”, “bimonthly”, “biannual”, and “bicentennial”

What do lengths of time with the "bi" prefix mean"? I have understood bicentennial as once every two hundred years, but biannual as meaning twice a year. Do biweekly and bimonthly mean twice a week or ...
28
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6answers
54k views

What is the opposite of the “sub” prefix?

The term subcategories refers to lower level categories. Which term should I use to refer to higher level categories? Does supercategories sound right?
28
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3answers
33k views

How does the “be-” prefix change the words to which it is applied? How did it come about?

What does the be- prefix change when applied to adjectives and verbs? There are many such words that seemed to be coined of this process, for example: behold, beget, befallen, beridden, bedazzled, ...
27
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3answers
10k views

Is there a reason to use “mono” over “uni”?

I'm just interested in knowing if there is any non-arbitrary basis for using prefixes "mono" or "uni" when words are initially being coined. As far as I can tell, they mean the same thing as a prefix. ...
26
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3answers
4k views

What do you call the other bit of a word with a prefix

Let's say I have a word like unhappy. The "un" is called the prefix. What is the other bit called?
25
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5answers
17k views

What is the antonym of the prefix retro-?

A coworker and I are discussing the word "retromingent", which means urinating backwards. We are wondering what the opposite would be: the word that means urinating forwards. What is the opposite of ...
24
votes
4answers
26k views

“pseudo-”, “quasi-” “semi-” and

I was wondering about the meaning of "pseudo-", "quasi-" "semi-" and possibly other related prefixes, in general cases. Particularly, in engineering and science, there are quite a few terms named ...
23
votes
4answers
60k views

“Instable” or “unstable”?

From my experience, it seems that although unstable is more commonly used, instable is often preferred in engineering and scientific contexts, e.g. "aircraft instability", "instable algorithm". Are ...
21
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5answers
5k views

Is “Untap” an equivalent of “Unleash?”

While attempting to assist another user on another Stack Exchange site I stumbled upon this marketing page for the Samsung SSD 850 EVO that—to my mind—oddly states: Untap your computer’s potential ...
21
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3answers
14k views

Is there a general rule for the prefixation of “un-” and “de-” to words?

Given the different questions we have seen about the prefixes "de-" and "un-", I have grown curious if there is a overarching rule for terms that need undoing. “Unselect” or “Deselect”? “Unregister” ...
20
votes
13answers
62k views

What is a good replacement for “ununderstandable”?

I want to tell a colleague of mine I'm doing something that will prevent her from getting "ununderstandable" errors. I have: ...so that you will not get unnecessary, [ununderstandable] errors. ...
19
votes
16answers
61k views

A word that means 'most important'?

I tried to find a single word that means "most important", but I couldn't. I want it to be able to express what's missing below: If you get hurt, the _ thing to do is to stay calm. It would need ...
19
votes
1answer
19k views

Why “unequal” but “inequality”?

The opposite of "equal" is "unequal", yet there is no word "unequality". Why do we use "inequality" instead?
18
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6answers
109k views

Which is higher — “hyper-”, “ultra-” or “super-”?

According to OED, hyper-: over, beyond, over much, above measure ultra-: beyond super-: over, above, higher than They all have the meaning "higher than", but what is the order of them? ...
18
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3answers
7k views

What is the story behind “a-” prefix / suffix?

For example, If this van's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin' Here We Come A-caroling (song title) Come on-a My House (song title) I have a few related questions: What is the "a-" or "-a" called? Is ...
17
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2answers
3k views

Logically, could the word “University” mean the opposite of “Diversity”?

DI- twice; two-; double. DI-VERSE: showing a great deal of variety; very different. DI-VERS-ITY: the state of being diverse; variety. UNI- one; having or consisting of one. While, by ...
17
votes
8answers
21k views

Logical meaning of the word “understand”

To understand something means to be aquainted with it, to know it very well, know how it "ticks". This is one of the basic words that has a direct "meaning" in mind. However, if we "dissect" it, is ...
17
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4answers
5k views

What is the history of adding the a- prefix to form words?

I have always found the a- prefix to words (as in anew, ajar, aside, awake, afoot, a-hunting, etc.) fascinating. The NOAD says on this topic: a- 2. prefix •to; toward : aside | ashore. • ...
16
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4answers
12k views

Isn't the word “uninstall” wrong?

I've never understood this. Why is the proper usage "uninstall"? You can't actually "unin" something at all and this isn't that case with most (all?) other use cases. Examples: You make someone sane, ...
15
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3answers
55k views

What is the opposite of “enroll”?

Deenroll? Unenroll? I understand words like cancel and resign would work, but is there an appropriate antonym with "enroll" in it?
15
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3answers
11k views

Using “non-” to prefix a two-word phrase

Does "non-" prefixed to a two word phrase permit another hyphen before the second word? If I want to refer to an entity which is defined as the negation of another entity by attaching "non-" it seems ...
15
votes
4answers
6k views

How productive is the verb prefix “un-”?

Is it possible to use un- with new words such as sit, sleep, sad? I'm currently seeing many words (in programming) which use un- in the meaning of undoing something. For example, is it possible to ...
14
votes
1answer
873 views

How is “erogenous” incorrectly formed?

When I check the etymology of erogenous in OED, it is mentioned that it is incorrectly formed (along with erogenic). Etymology of erogenous from OED: formed as erogenic adj. + -ous suffix. Both ...
14
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3answers
11k views

Are there any patterns to observe in choosing the correct negative prefix to use?

Are there any patterns to observe in choosing the correct negative prefix to use, as in unbelievable, disproportionate, asymmetric, and intolerable? (There are other negative prefixes as well, but ...
14
votes
5answers
388 views

Adam lay ybounden. Any ys around these days?

Thanks for pointing out the similar question. Great, but note that I'm trying to find ... • is there any SPECIFIC examples/evidence around of yword yusage TODAY? • other than jokey usage, is there ...
14
votes
2answers
28k views

Why does “unisex” mean both sexes?

There are some places where men and women are segregated — for example public toilets and public swimming pool changing areas. By this I mean, for example, that there are "Men's toilets" and "Ladies' ...
14
votes
1answer
17k views

When is the prefix non- used vs un-?

Specifically, my students were asking why the terms "nonliving" and "undead" are the way they are. (And why "unliving" and "nondead" seem wrong.)
13
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4answers
49k views

Proper term for knowing four or more languages?

If bilingual means you know two languages, and trilingual means you know three, what would be the proper term for knowing four, five or even six languages?
12
votes
3answers
34k views

What is the difference between “Hept-” and “Sept-” prefixes?

As I understand it, both the prefixes "Hept-" and "Sept-" are used to indicate seven of something. We have examples of English words that use both: e.g. Heptathalon, Heptagon, Heptane vs ...
11
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4answers
2k views

Is “disconfirm” a word?

I see that disconfirm is not in the dictionary but I was wondering if concatenating the prefix dis- to a proper verb can be used to properly denote a meaning opposite from that verb. E.g. in The Big ...
11
votes
4answers
108k views

Word for a person who knows two or three languages

A polyglot is a person who is fluent in many languages, but what do we call a person who is fluent in only two or three languages? Is bi-glot a proper term for this? I don't think the words ...
10
votes
5answers
20k views

Is there a prefix that indicates that an event recurs four times a year?

"Semi-annually" describes an event that recurs every 6 months. Is there a similar term for an event that recurs every 3 months? (I'm guessing that "semi-semi-annually" isn't the correct answer.) More ...
10
votes
4answers
15k views

“Irregardless” vs. “irrespective”

Why is irrespective considered a proper word but irregardless is not?
10
votes
4answers
23k views

Origins of negative prefixes like in-, un-, il-, ir-, dis-, a-

I've read here about origins of in- and un- negative prefixes. Are there any known origins of other negative prefixes such as il-, ir-, dis-, a-?
10
votes
4answers
16k views

Should the prefix “re” be added to a word with or without a hyphen?

In science we often invent words, but that doesn't mean we know how to spell them. Most of the time words are invented by adding prefixes. In that case should there be a hyphen or not? Specifically, I ...
10
votes
5answers
34k views

What prefix means “during”?

The prefixes "pre-" and "post-" refer to events before and after. For instance, "pre-season" and "post-season" or "pre-study" and "post-study". Is there a prefix fitting this pattern which means "...
10
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there any rule for pronouncing words beginning with “re-”?

It’s hard for me to guess how to pronounce words beginning with re- correctly. Sometimes it is /rɛ/ as in reference, but sometimes it is /ri/ as in report. Is there any rule about this?
10
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2answers
28k views

Use of hypens with “auto”: autopopulate, auto-populate, or auto populate?

I've done a fair amount of research (like here), but I can't find any examples of hyphen rules with "auto". Microsoft Word doesn't take "autopopulate", but will accept either auto-populate or auto ...
10
votes
1answer
4k views

How does one capitalize words like “un-American”?

Google's dictionary lists it as "un-American" or "unAmerican" (which looks clumsy to me). Since American is a "demonym," I would usually capitalize it, so I feel compelled to capitalize "un-American" ...
9
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4answers
2k views

What is it called when you add 'im' to 'possible'?

I took the ESL certification test and I was wondering: what is it called when you add 'im' to 'possible'?
9
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7answers
4k views

Prefix or adjective meaning “one and a half”

Is there a prefix or adjective that means "one and a half", as "tri-" or "triple" is for "three"? The exact usage I have is to describe "18" in terms of a dozen. Where I live they've started making ...