Prefixes & Suffixes

Prefixes and suffixes are groups of letters that appear at the beginning and end of some words. Memorizing prefixes and suffixes can help you guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word, such as during a language test, if it has a prefix at its beginning or a suffix at its end.

For example, “pre” is a prefix that means before or in advance, just like a prefix appears before the rest of a word. When you buy ‘precooked’ rice, you’re buying rice that has already been cooked. When you ‘predict’ an outcome, you’re guessing what will happen before it happens.

A suffix can also help you determine a word’s meaning, but it appears at the end of a word. The suffix “-less” means without. So someone who is ‘powerless’ does not have power. Someone who is ‘heartless’ is not someone you’d want to befriend.

Not all words that start or end with one of these examples are related to the prefix or suffix, but knowing these might help you determine the meaning of a word when context alone doesn’t.

Prefixes – at the beginning of a word


an-, un- not, without anarchy, anaerobic, unconditional, unkind, unlikable, unfair, unacceptable
ann-, annu- yearly anniversary, annually
*anti- against, opposite, not antisocial, antibiotic, antipathy, antibody
aqu[a]- water aquatic, aquarium, aquamarine, aqueduct
bi-, di- two biweekly, bilingual, bicycle, biracial, dioxide, dissect, diode
con- with connect, convince, convene, congregate, consensus
dis- not disagree, dislike, dishonest, dissimilar, distasteful, disadvantage, disappear, disloyal
equi- equal equivocate, equivalent, equidistant
exo, exter- outside exoskeleton, exoplanet, external, exterior
hyper- over, excessive hyperactive, hypercritical, hyperextend
in-, im-, il-, ir- not inadequate, inaccurate, inopportune, inferior, impossible, impersonal, impervious, illegal, illiterate, illogical, irrelevent, irreversible, irrefutable, irresistible
inter- between international, interact, interview, interweaving
macro- large macrocosm, macrofossil
micro- small microscope, microchip, microwave, microbe
min- small, less minimum, minimal, minority, miniscule, miniature, minute (adj. extremely small)
mis- wrong, bad, lack of misbehave, mistake, misfortune, mispronounce, misinterpret, misjudge, mismanage, miscalculate
mono- one monopoly, monochrome, monocle, monologue
poly- many polygon, polysyllabic, polyglot
pre- before, in advance prefix, precaution, precede, predict, preview, prevent, prepay, precooked, predetermine
re- again redo, reuse, reevaluate, reheat, reunite
*semi- half, partially semisweet, semicircle, semiannual, semiform, semifrozen
sub- below substandard, subfreezing, submerge, submarine, subway, subordinate
super- above superior, supercede, supermarket, superman
trans- across, beyond, change transaction, transcontinental, transfer, transit, transcend, transform, translate, transparent
tri- three triangle, tricycle, trifold
un- not, reverse unknown, unhappy, unapologetic, undo, unlock, unwind
under- beneath, too little underneath, underestimate, underdeveloped, underpaid, underachiever, understate
uni- one united, uniform, unique, universal

*You can use these prefixes with many words to specify the quality or state of someone or something, e.g. semi-happy, semi-blue, anti-running, anti-meat


Suffixes – at the end of a word


-able, -ible can be done likeable, doable, possible, legible, flexible
-er more greater, prettier, uglier
-est most greatest, prettiest, ugliest
-ful full of beautiful, wonderful, fruitful, bountiful
-ity quality or state of ability, possibility, fragility, stability
-ist person who tourist, archaeologist, dentist, pharmacist, extremist, activist
-less without powerless, penniless
-logy the study of biology, archaeology, geology, sociology
-ness quality or state of awareness, greatness, forgiveness, helpfulness
-ous has qualities of anonymous, adventurous, courageous, grievous
-tion act, process of creation, elation, motivation, dedication