Prefix

A prefix is an affix which is placed before the stem of a word.[1] Adding it to the beginning of one word changes it into another word. For example, when the prefix un- is added to the word happy, it creates the word unhappy. Particularly in the study of languages, a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the words to which it is affixed.

Prefixes, like other affixes, can be either inflectional, creating a new form of the word with the same basic meaning and same lexical category (but playing a different role in the sentence), or derivational, creating a new word with a new semantic meaning and sometimes also a different lexical category.[2] Prefixes, like all other affixes, are usually bound morphemes.[1]

In English, there are no inflectional prefixes; English uses suffixes instead for that purpose.

The word prefix is itself made up of the stem fix (meaning "attach", in this case), and the prefix pre- (meaning "before"), both of which are derived from Latin roots.

This is a fairly comprehensive, although not exhaustive, list of derivational prefixes in English. Depending on precisely how one defines a derivational prefix, some of the neoclassical combining forms may or may not qualify for inclusion in such a list. This list takes the broad view that acro- and auto- count as English derivational prefixes because they function the same way that prefixes such as over- and self- do.

As for numeral prefixes, only the most common members of that class are included here. There is a large separate table covering them all at .

The choice between hyphenation or solid styling for prefixes in English is covered at Hyphen > Prefixes and suffixes.

The most commonly used prefix in Japanese, o-, is used as part of the honorific system of speech. It is a marker for politeness, showing respect for the person or thing it is affixed to.[3]

In the Bantu languages of Africa, which are agglutinating, the noun class is conveyed through prefixes, which is declined and agrees with all of its arguments accordingly.[4]

Verbs in the Navajo language are formed from a word stem and multiple affixes. For example, each verb requires one of four non-syllabic prefixes (, ł, d, l) to create a verb theme.[5]

In the Sunwar language of Eastern Nepal, the prefix ma- म is used to create negative verbs. It is the only verbal prefix in the language.

As a part of the formation of nouns, prefixes are less common in Russian than suffixes, but alter the meaning of a word.

In German, derivatives formed with prefixes may be classified in two categories: those used with substantives and adjectives, and those used with verbs.[8] For derivative substantives and adjectives, only two productive prefixes are generally addable to any substantive or adjective as of 1970: un-, which expresses negation (as in ungesund, from gesund), and ur-, which means "original, primitive" in substantives, and has an emphatic function in adjectives. ge-, on the other hand, expresses union or togetherness, and cannot simply be added to any noun or adjective.[9]

Verbal prefixes commonly in use are be-, er-, ent-, ge-, ver-, zer-, and miss- (see also Separable verb).[9] be- expresses strengthening or generalization. ent- expresses negation. ge- indicates the completion of an action, and that's why its most common use has become the forming of the past participle of verbs; ver- has an emphatic function, or it is used to turn a substantive or an adjective into a verb.[8] In some cases, the prefix particle ent- (negation) can be considered the opposite of particle be-, while er- can be considered the opposite of ver-.[10][11]

The prefix er- usually indicates the successful completion of an action, and sometimes the conclusion means death.[12] With fewer verbs, it indicates the beginning of and action.[8][12] The prefix er- is also used to form verbs from adjectives (e.g. erkalten is equivalent to kalt werden which means to get cold).[12]