Greek and Latin Prefixes: I and M

Another prefix post brought to you by the letters “I” and “M.” (As per Greek and Latin Roots, there aren’t any Greek- or Roman-derived prefixes in English beginning with “K” or “L,” so we’re skipping ahead a bit here.

Prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems to form completely new words. Prefixes in particular tend to change a word’s meaning (rather than a word’s part of speech). If you’d like, you can read more about English root words derived from Greek and Latin. Those are the stems or base words to which these prefixes can (theoretically) be added.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
in, im, il not (negative) inequity, improper, illegal
in, im, il in, on, onto (directional) induct, impose, illuminate
infra beneath infrastructure
inter between, among intervene
mega, megalo big megachurch, megalomaniac
meta* across, change metamorphosis
micro small microcosm
mis wrongly misinterpret, mistake
multi many multivitamin

*”Meta” has also taken on its own meaning of something like “above” or “outside of.” Something that deals with the metaphysical, in everyday language, is almost synonymous with supernatural, or realities that people perceive as being above or beyond our own.** Scholars refer to metatexts and metatextual discourse: texts that are about another text. Stories that refer to the fact that they are stories, and where the person or people writing want to remind you that this is a story, are often casually described as meta. A recent example of a meta movie would be Deadpool, a superhero movie where the lead character constantly takes breaks from the action to directly address the audience and generally exists outside the story as well as within it. And while only fairly intense scholars will throw around words like “metatextual,” even casual audiences will describe a book or movie as “meta.”

**As a student of philosophy, I have to be pedantic and point out that that the word metaphysics was originally used to describe the line of philosophical inquiry that focused the nature of the reality we see here and now, not reincarnation and chakras and auras. The two meanings of “metaphysics”/”metaphysical” are related, but not identical.

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