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8.3: §59. A Summary of Latin Prefixes

  • Page ID
    8376
  • The time has come to present a summary of the most common Latin prefixes, including several that have not yet been mentioned. The table on the next page is intended mainly for future reference, since Latin prefixes are most closely associated with verb vocabulary. You should learn to recognize them in a general fashion now; their use will become much clearer as you work through the chapters that follow.

    LATIN PREFIX ENGLISH TRANSLATION Intensive?[1] Altered form[2]
    a- ab- abs- (away) from
    ad- to, toward yes
    ante- before
    circum- around
    con- co- with, together yes
    contra- against counter-
    de- down; off, away yes
    di- dis- apart, asunder, in two
    e- ex- out (of) yes s-
    extra- outside
    in- in(to), against; not en-, em-
    inter- between, among
    intra- intro- within, inside
    ob- against, face-to-face yes
    per- through; to the bad yes
    post- after
    prae- before, ahead; surpassing pre-
    pro- before; forward pur-
    re- red- back, again yes
    retro- back(ward)
    se- apart
    sub- under
    super- over, above sur-
    trans- across

    It may be helpful to comment on a few of the more important Latin prefixes not yet discussed. One of these is prae- (“before,” “ahead”), which always assumes the English form of pre-, as in the word prefix itself. In Latin, prae- is a close synonym of ante-, meaning “before” either in time or in place. When combined with the noun via, it provides the source of the English adjective previous (L prae-vi-us, “ahead on the road”).

    Another common form is ob- (“against”), a prefix that suggests a collision course: if something is obvious (L ob-vi-us), it is on the road directly in front of you. Rather different in meaning is contra-; though it also means “against,” it suggests a deliberate opposition of will or purpose. Watch out for assimilation in the case of ob-: we have just met it in the word opposition, and we’ll see it also in words like occur and offer.


    1. The Latin prefixes identified in this column can at times merely intensify or strengthen the meaning of a verb. If a prefix has this INTENSIVE force, its customary meaning will not likely be apparent. ↵
    2. This column shows the altered form that some prefixes may take after transmission through French. ↵
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