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What are prefixes?
Prefixes are groups of letters added before a word, which then creates new words.  For example:

   biannual  -  "bi" means twice, so the new meaning is "twice a year"
   distrust  -  "dis" means not, so the new meaning is "not to trust"
   submarine  -  "sub" means under, so the new meaning is "under water"

There are many prefixes in English, some of which are quite common and some of which are used less frequently. In some cases, the same prefix may have more than one meaning, too. If you learn prefixes, your ability to comprehend new words will greatly improve. Unfortunately, it comes down to memorization.

Here's a list of many prefixes. The ones marked with the following symbol (O) are more often used, and should perhaps be studied first.

against; opposite from/to
anti-aging        anti-bacterial        anti-viral
Some anti-aging skin creams can get quite pricey.

twice; to
biannual        biplane        bipolar
The top sales reps have a biannual meeting in sunny Puerto Rico.

around; round about
circumlocution        circumnavigate
It's always been a dream of mine to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat.

opposite; reverse
decompose        defrag        demystify
The news program really demystified the race for the US Presidency.

O dis-
not; opposite from/of
disagree        disappear        disconnect
As the stock market tumbled, my savings disappeared!

en-  or  em-
into; make into;  put into; within
entitled        embed        empower
Bob felt empowered the day of his promotion, and strutted around the office.

ex-boss        ex-colleague        ex-wife
My ex-boss couldn't didn't have a clue.  He was incompetent!

before; front; in front of
forefront        forerunner        foretell
The old lady could foretell when and where a person would die.

O il-  or  ir-
not; opposite from/of; without
illogical        irresponsible        irretrievable
Drinking and driving is pretty irresponsible, don't you think?

in-  or  im-
in; into
import        impale        imperil
I had to pay an import tax on some of my presents that I bought in Guam!

O in-  or  im-
not; opposite from/of; without
immortal        immovable        intolerable
The current work environment has become completely intolerable.

among; between; in the midst of
interact        international        interstate
My younger brother has trouble interacting with people.

midlife        midseason        midterm
I had my first midlife crisis when I was in my early forties.

O mis-
bad; failure; wrong
misdirect        misspell        mistake
There are a few words I always seem to misspell.

alone; one; single
monochrome        monologue        monorail
Seattle's public transportation system includes a monorail.

O non-
absence; lack of; not
nonexistent        nonsense        nonsmoker
The speech given by the professor seemed like a lot of nonsense to me.

O over-
excessive; too much
overachiever        overdo        overreact
My boss completely overreacted when I said the report would be late.

after; later
postgame        postmortem        posttest
There is a posttest at the end of every chapter in the textbook.

before; earlier; prior to
premade        preorder        preview
I love watching the previews at the theater before the movie begins.

O re-
reassess        reemploy        reinvigorate
After the initial data was analyzed, we needed to reassess our initial project deadline.

half; partially
semicircle        semidarkness        semipro
It was difficult to see in the semidarkness of dusk.

O sub-
below; under
submarine        subpar        substandard
My philosopher is you get what you pay for, as a cheap product is often substandard.

above or beyond normal
supernatural        superpower        super-size
I've often dreamed that I was a comic book hero with superpowers.

triangle        tricolor        tricycle
I bought my daughter, who just turned two last week, a tricycle for her birthday.

across; on the other side
transatlantic        transcontinental        transoceanic
It used to be quite difficult to make transatlantic phone calls.

O un-
not; opposite from/of
unaware        unsure        unused
Because I left China as a child, I'm pretty unused to speaking Chinese all day.

beneath or below in position
underachiever        underpass        underwear
My son seems to be an underachiever, as he is quite happy to get Cs and Ds in his classes.



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