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Questions tagged [prefixes]

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

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18
votes
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 ...
36
votes
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?
57
votes
6answers
16k 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'...
14
votes
3answers
12k 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 ...
31
votes
7answers
96k 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 ...
17
votes
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. • ...
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?
5
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3answers
3k views

The pronunciation of words which begins 'con' and 'com'

I know there is no strict rule on pronunciation of words in English but here my question is about the words which begin with 'con' and 'com', more than asking general rule. When I look at the words ...
36
votes
3answers
139k 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 ...
15
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4answers
7k 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 ...
15
votes
3answers
12k 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 ...
21
votes
3answers
16k 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” ...
165
votes
11answers
166k 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 ...
28
votes
3answers
35k 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, ...
10
votes
4answers
24k 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-?
11
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 ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

How to form this tag question?

We always use a positive tag question after a negative sentence: You shouldn't take this medicine, should you? We use a negative tag question after a positive sentence: She must leave early, ...
6
votes
3answers
10k views

Adding “re” prefix

Can all verbs have "re" attached to the front of the word? I play Scrabble with a friend who feels that in the English language you can put "re" in front on any verb, and not just the ones listed in ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Where did prefix exceptions originate?

Consider the following words: inflammable invaluable Each of these has the unusual property that its meaning is identical to its counterpart lacking the prefix. In almost all other cases, the prefix ...
19
votes
6answers
118k 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? ...
20
votes
12answers
63k 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. ...
9
votes
3answers
5k views

Is “dispreferred” a mainstream word in English?

I just recently came across the word dispreferred in a linguistic document. I have never heard the word used before, rather I generally hear something like "preferred something else" in everyday ...
3
votes
1answer
556 views

Is the prefix “pre-” meaningless in the terms “pre-heated” and “pre-board”?

This question poses a paradox of meaning. The general question is whether, if two sentences (x and y) can be used in the same situation, with the same literal meaning, and x and y only differ in that ...
-1
votes
2answers
1k views

Prefixes for the opposite of “perishable”: unperishable, non-perishable, imperishable [closed]

Unperishable, non-perishable or imperishable? I'm quite confused about which prefix is used for the opposite of perishable. If more than one is used, what are the differences between them? Searching ...
114
votes
4answers
180k 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"?
26
votes
4answers
27k 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 ...
19
votes
16answers
62k 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 ...
4
votes
5answers
166k views

“Not able to” vs. “unable to”

Which phrase is more suitable to convey one's inability to do something — "not able to" or "unable to"? For example, not able to join the meeting unable to join the meeting
9
votes
4answers
29k views

“The service is temporarily unavailable” vs. “…not available”

Is there a difference? Both versions are common. If there is a difference, which do I use when, and why?
7
votes
3answers
5k views

Change of form of some (Latin) prefixes like ex-, ad- into ef-, a-: are there rules or conditions?

There are many cases of prefixes changing their forms. For example ex- can change to ef- in front of f, e.g. effusion. ad- becomes a- in front of b, e.g. abate. Are there some more general rules or ...
13
votes
4answers
54k 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?
10
votes
5answers
22k 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
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?
7
votes
2answers
8k views

Dust vs. Undust?

The entry for "dust" from LDOCE says: dust1 (n.) [uncountable] → HOUSEHOLD dry powder consisting of extremely small bits of dirt that is in buildings on furniture, floors, etc. if they are ...
6
votes
2answers
12k views

Hyphens in verb construction containing prefix such as “re”

In semi-formal business writing in the United States, I often observe that writers tend to add a hyphen between a prefix and the root infinitive of verbs. In many of the cases, the resulting verb ...
5
votes
7answers
6k views

Is “unpeeling an orange” grammatically correct?

I found this unsourced reference. Which made me wonder if it is correct or not? Could this be considered an "auto-antonym" like ravel and unravel?
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Why can “trans” be replaced with an x?

I can't think of an example, so I may be wrong about this, but I think I've seen people replace the prefix "trans" as in transport with an x. "Cross" makes sense, as in "railroad crossing", and I ...
14
votes
2answers
30k 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' ...
9
votes
1answer
699 views

What is the correct spelling of “X, schmX” to indicate dismissiveness (e.g., “evidence, schmevidence”)?

There is a curious construct in American English in which a word is stated and then repeated with the prefix "schm-" or "shm-" in order to indicate the speaker's dismissive attitude toward a concern ...
9
votes
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 ...
8
votes
3answers
4k views

“Inter-”, “multi-”, “cross-”, “trans-” in relation to disciplines

In academia the words inter-discipline, multi-discipline, trans-discipline, or cross-discipline are used to describe a type of combination between different disciplines or the uniqueness of a field. ...
8
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3answers
2k views

Any other words that use “dis-” as an amplifying prefix?

I remember hearing once about the etymology of disgruntled, probably based around a joke about how people can not be gruntled. The explanation given was that there was never a word gruntled, rather ...
5
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4answers
8k views

What's the distinction between “nonessential” and “inessential”?

I'm revising a text that uses the word "nonessential", but my ear is telling me "inessential." Usually when there are two very similar words like this, there is some subtle (or not so subtle) ...
4
votes
0answers
393 views

I was wondering why there are multiple prefixes for the same meaning [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why “unequal” but “inequality”? Origins of negative prefixes like in-, un-, il-, ir-, dis-, a- There are a lot of prefixes for meaning "opposite". ...
31
votes
4answers
26k 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 ...
27
votes
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
votes
4answers
64k 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 ...
17
votes
8answers
22k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
21k 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.)
32
votes
6answers
63k 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?