The Most Common Prefixes in English –
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The Most Common Prefixes in English

A prefix is a word placed at the beginning of another word in order to change its meaning.

Here is a list with the most common prefixes in English, their meanings and a few examples:

  1. ante-
  • meaning: before
  • example: The students waited for their interview in the anteroom.
  • other examples: antecedent, anterior, antemeridian
  1. anti-
  • meaning: against, the opposite
  • example: Is this antivirus good for my computer?
  • other examples: antibiotic, antisocial, antipathy
  1. be-
  • meaning: by, to turn someone into
  • example: Today’s actions bespeak a bright future.
  • other examples: below, bestand, belittle
  1. bi-
  • meaning: two
  • example: This competition will be held biannually by our company.
  • other examples: bilingual, bicameral, biped
  1. co-
  • meaning: together, mutually
  • example: Don’t worry about him! He will cooperate sooner or later.
  • other examples: coexist, co-pilot, cohabit
  1. contra-
  • meaning: against
  • example: He knows he is not allowed to park here, but contrariwise, he always does it.
  • other examples: contraindicate, contradict, contravention
  1. de-
  • meaning: opposite
  • example: Fruit help you detoxify your body.
  • other examples: deactivate, decontaminate, degrade
  1. dis-
  • meaning: negation, removal
  • example: He is so disobedient to his mother!
  • other examples: disagree, disappear, disconnect
  1. em-
  • meaning: to cause, to put in
  • example: My parents got emotional during the play.
  • other examples: embrace, embarrassment, emphasize
  1. en-
  • meaning: to cause, to put in
  • example: This University provide scholarships that enable good students to continue with their education.
  • other examples: encourage, enlighten, enlist

Attention: there is a difference between enable and unable:

  • enable is a verb: to allow, to authorize
  • unable is an adjective: not able to do something
  1. ex-
  • meaning: out of, previous
  • example: Her ex-husband is working with us.
  • other examples: exterritorial, ex-wife, exclude
  1. hyper-
  • meaning: more than normal
  • example: Your medical examination didn’t show any signs of hypertension.
  • other examples: hypersensitive, hyperative, hyperglycemia
  1. il-, im-, ir-
  • meaning: not, without
  • example: Driving without a licence is illegal.

     It’s impossible to pass this exam without learning.

     You were so irresponsible when you were a kid!

  • other examples: illogical, illusion, illegible, immature, impolite, immoral, irregular, irrational, irreplaceable.
  1. in-
  • meaning: not, in, into
  • example: My son is insecure about his future.
  • other examples: incorect, incomplete, influence.
  1. inter-
  • meaning: between, among
  • example: Many international conferences are held in Bucharest this year.
  • other examples: intergalactic, interrupt, intermediate
  1. mid-
  • meaning: middle
  • example: The village is midway between Edinburgh and London.
  • other examples: midday, midnight, midterm
  1. mis-
  • meaning: wrong
  • example: All this is a misunderstanding. I haven’t ordered anything!
  • other examples: mislead, misbehave, mistake
  1. non-
  • meaning: not, without
  • example: This is a non-profit organization.
  • other examples: nonsense, non-smoker, nonstop
  1. out-
  • meaning: more than
  • example: My girl may or may not outgrow her interest in cooking.
  • other examples: outnumber, outwit, outcome
  1. over-
  • meaning: too much, excessively
  • example: I forgot to stop the oven so the chicken was overcooked and dry.
  • other examples: overwork, overrate, overlook
  1. pro-
  • meaning: in favour of, forward
  • example: We have a pro-democracy policy.
  • other examples: probable, proceed, pro-communist
  1. re-
  • meaning: again
  • example: You should reconsider our work proposal.
  • other examples: rewrite, return, rename
  1. sub-
  • meaning: under
  • example: Subway is crowded in the mornings.
  • other examples: submit, submarine, submission
  1. un-
  • meaning: not, reverse, remove
  • example: Tom is very unhappy since he lost his job.
  • other examples: unpack, unreal, unlikely, undo
  1. under-
  • meaning: below, down, less than
  • example: Our old house had an underground passage.
  • other examples: underwater, undercooked, underestimate


  1. up-
  • meaning: move higher, upgrade something and also expresses being happier (upbeat, uplifted)
  • example: Go upstairs and change your clothes!
  • other examples: upload, update, upstanding