Understanding the most common Greek and Latin prefixes will help you recognize the meaning of a large number of English words. (Besides, that, it's fun to see where different words came from!)
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 and Greek prefixes for each meaning. (Several do not have a Greek prefix that is commonly used in English.).
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 main List of Prefixes because they are not used as commonly in English.
Many Greek and Latin prefixes are closely related.
They may be cognates (ambi-/amphi-, extra-/ exo-) or directly borrowed terms like macro-.
(The Romans, like the English, 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.
(To save space, 'prefix' is written as 'PF' in the table titles.)
|MEANING||LATIN PF||GREEK PF|
|above, excess||super-, ultra-||hyper-|
|across, beyond, through||trans-||dia-|
|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||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.
(The most common negative prefix of all in English is 'un-'. We have two others that are also not from Latin or Greek: 'mis-' and 'non-'.)
Recognizing these word roots can help you learn words from emissions to transmit, aggression to progress & regressive , and so many more!
Learn and practice the Greek roots most commonly used in English (from tele: far and graph: writing to psych: soul and logy: study of). Some of these, like bio-, cardio-, & tele-, above, can also be used as prefixes.
Knowing a few roots & prefixes can help you figure out meanings of new words. These worksheets show you how, step by step.