Word Formation

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The basic part of any word is the root. You can add a prefix at the beginning and/or a suffix at the end to change its meaning. For example, the root of the word unflattering is flatter. The prefix un reverses the meaning of the word, and the suffix ing changes it from a verb into an adjective.

English does not use prefixes as much as it once did to form new words. However, many English words come from Latin, which uses prefixes and suffixes quite extensively. The word affix refers either to a prefix or a suffix. For example, the words prefix, suffix and affix are all formed from the root fix as follows:

  • ad (to) + fix (attached) = affix
  • pre (before) + fix = prefix
  • sub (under) + fix = suffix

Note that both the d of ad and the b of sub change to the letter f.

The following are some of the most common Latin prefixes (for the meanings of the Latin roots, look up the words in a good dictionary):

  • ab (away)
  •     - abrupt, abstain, abstract
  • ad (to)
  •     - admit, adverb, affluent
  • in (not)
  •     - incapable, indecisive, intolerable
  • inter (between, among)
  •     - intercept, interdependent, interprovincial
  • intra (within)
  •     - intramural, intrapersonal, intraprovincial
  • post (after)
  •     - postpone, postscript, postwar
  • pre (before)
  •     - prefabricate, preface, prefer
  • sub (under)
  •     - submarine, subscription, suspect
  • trans (across, through)
  •     - transfer, transient, translucent

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