Using Prefixes to Expand Your Vocabulary

Common Prefixes, StudentYou must understand what a root word is in order to understand what a prefix is.

A root word is a word you can change into a new word by adding a beginning and/or an ending.

A prefix is a beginning that is added to a root word.

For example, take the root word “purpose.” By adding the prefix “multi” to “purpose,” the new word “multipurpose” is formed.

Every prefix has its own meaning. When added to a root word, a prefix changes the meaning of the root word to which it is added. The root word “purpose” means “an aim or a goal one wishes to achieve.” The prefix “multi” means “many.” The new word “multipurpose” means “designed or used for many purposes.”

Learning to identify prefixes and knowing their meanings are great ways to expand your vocabulary. An expanded vocabulary will increase your listening and speaking comprehension. It will also help you communicate more effectively when writing or taking tests.

Some Common Prefixes

Here are some common prefixes. The meaning of each prefix is shown, as well as words that can be formed by adding the prefix to root words. Using these prefixes and others will expand your vocabulary.

Prefix Meaning of Prefix Words Formed Using the Prefix
re again replay, resend, replace
hyper over hyperactive, hypersensitive, hyperventilate
un not unclear, unsure, undecided
tri three triangle, tricycle, triweekly
pre before prepay, prepackage, predate
mis wrong misconduct, misspell, misunderstand
sub below subway, substandard, submarine

Some More Prefixes

Here are some more prefixes and their meanings. You can add these prefixes to many root words to form new words and expand your vocabulary.

Drawing of submarine

Prefix Meaning Prefix Meaning
ante before auto self
bi two circum around
equi equal im not
hypo under inter between
neo new omni all
poly many retro backward
semi half trans across

To build your vocabulary using prefixes, do the following:

  1. When you see a prefix whose meaning you do not know, look up its meaning in a dictionary.
  2. Write the prefix and its meaning where you can refer to it easily and often.
  3. Review the meaning of these prefixes from time to time.
  4. Form words by adding these prefixes to root words.
  5. Use these words when you speak and write.

Watch your vocabulary grow!