Common Prefixes in English

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Prefixes are added to the beginnings of words to change their meaning.

For example, the prefix UN- means the opposite:

  • happy  🙂
  • unhappy  🙁

The prefix OVER- means “too much:”

  • spend –> overspend (spend too much money)

Here are 10 common prefixes in English with example words and sentences:

PRE- = before

  • prepaid – “I bought a prepaid phone card with $20 worth of credit.”
  • predict – “I predict that Brazil will win the next World Cup.”
  • prevent – “Seat belts can prevent serious injuries if you get into a car accident.”

POST- = after

  • postgraduate – “There are 200 students in the postgraduate program in marketing.”
  • postwar – “The country’s economy struggled during the postwar period.”
  • posthumous – (after death): “The author received a posthumous award for his book.”

MULTI- = many

  • multicultural – “Our group of friends is quite multicultural – we know people from five continents.”
  • multimillionaire – “He started a successful business and became a multimillionaire.”
  • multiply – (to become many): “My problems multiplied until they completely took over my life.”

MONO- = one

  • monopolize – (only one person or entity having control of something): “That company is trying to monopolize the market by signing exclusivity contracts with distributors.”
  • monologue – (only one person talking): “My friend launched into a 15-minute monologue about what she thinks of the new president.”
  • monotheistic – (only believing in one God): “Judaism is a monotheistic religion.”

BI- = two

  • bicycle – (has two wheels): “My son’s learning how to ride a bicycle.”
  • bilingual – (speaks two languages): “Most of the company managers are bilingual.”
  • bipartisan – (involving two political parties): “The law has bipartisan support.”

OVER- = too much

  • oversleep – “I overslept by an hour and missed my first class.”
  • overpriced – “Everything in that store is overpriced. They charge $60 for a T-shirt!”
  • overheat – “Stop the car! I think the engine is overheating.”

UNDER- = too little

  • undercooked – “This chicken is undercooked; I don’t think it’s safe to eat.”
  • underrepresented – “Women are underrepresented in our company leadership – only 2 of the 35 managers and directors are women.”
  • underestimate – (to think too little of something) – “I underestimated the cost of our vacation, and we ended up spending far more than we’d budgeted.”

SUPER- = extra, extreme, over, above

  • supermodel – (a really famous, highly-paid model): “Gisele Bündchen is a Brazilian supermodel.”
  • supercomputer – (an extremely powerful computer): “NASA’s supercomputers control the rocket launch.”
  • superfluous – (something extra and not needed): “You should cut superfluous words from your sentences.”

MIS- = wrong

  • misunderstand – “I misunderstood the teacher – I did exercise 5 instead of exercise 4.”
  • misbehave – “My children were misbehaving at the birthday party, so I took them home early.”
  • misplace – (to lose something because you put it in the wrong place): “I seem to have misplaced my glasses.”

ANTI- = opposite, against

  • antisocial – “She’s a bit antisocial – she avoids parties and other social situations.”
  • anti-aging – “My mother uses anti-aging lotion to make her skin look younger.”
  • anticlimactic – (an event that was not as exciting / interesting as imagined): “The end of the movie was rather anticlimactic.”

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