Understanding the most common Greek and Latin prefixes will help you recognize the meaning of a large number of English words
For examples and a list of the most common of these prefixes in alphabetical order (plus a few tips on understanding their use), you might want to see List of Prefixes.
The list on this page is arranged according to the meaning of the prefixes in English, followed by the Latin Greek prefixes for each meaning. The prefixes on the alphabetical list that aren’t included here (and others that are obvious, like over- and under-) are English, except non- and counter-, which come to English from French.
The list below also includes some Greek (and a few Latin) prefixes that were not included on the first list because they are not used as common in English as the others.
The illustration below gives two examples of the way prefixes change the meaning of roots. It uses 'mission', derived from Latin, and 'logical', originally from Greek.
Many Greek and Latin words are closely related. They may be cognates (ambi-/amphi-, extra-/ exo-) or directly borrowed terms like macro-. (The Romans, like the English, greatly expanded their vocabulary with terms and ideas from the peoples they contacted or conquered.)
Latin prefixes are used more frequently than most Greek ones in common English words, but both are important . Most medical and mathematical terminology comes from Greek.
|PREFIX MEANING||LATIN PREFIX||GREEK PREFIX|
|above, excess||super-, ultra-||hyper-|
|against||contra-, (in-, ob-)||anti-|
|away or from||ab- (or de-)||apo-, ap-|
|bad, difficult, wrong||mal-||dys-|
|completely or very||de-, ob-|
|in, into||il-, im-, in-, ir-||en-|
|in front of||pro-||pro-|
|large||(macro-, from Greek)||macro-|
|not*||de-, dis-, in-, ob-||a-, an-|
|out of||ex-, e-||ek-|
|outside||extra-, extro-||ecto-, exo-|
|to or toward||ad-, a-, ac-, as-||epi-|
|with||co-. com-, con-||sym-, syn-|
|without||sine-, dis- (sometimes)||a-, an-|
* These negative prefixes mean 'not' or something similar, or reverse the action or meaning of the word they attach to. For more information, see Negative Prefix List.
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