Greek and Latin Prefixes: O and P

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

Prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems. (You can browse that link for previous posts on classically derived word stems.) Generally speaking, prefix changes word meaning, not word function.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
ob* up against, in the way obstruct
para aside, apart paramedic, paranormal
per through, thorough; wrongly permeate, persecute
peri around perimeter
poly many polytheism
post after postpone
pre before precedent
pro forward, ahead, for promotion, provoke

*”Ob” tends to change form arbitrarily. (This is probably not arbitrary; there are probably linguistic or phonological reasons some changes happen or some don’t. But it can seem arbitrary.) “Ob” is still connected to words like “oppose” or “offend.”

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.

Greek and Latin Prefixes: E and H

Another prefix post! This installment focuses on Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “E” and “H.” (There are none beginning with “F” or “G.”)

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
e, ef, ex out, out of; very emit, effective, exceed
em, en in, on emblem, encircle
epi upon, to, in addition to epidermis
eu, ev good, well eulogy, evangelist
hypo below, under, up from under hypothermia

Greek and Latin Prefixes: C and D

Time for the next installment in my series on classically derived prefixes. This week I’ll be looking at Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “C” and “D.”

For more context, here is the entire previous series on English root words derived from Greek and Latin. Those are the stems or base words to which these prefixes can (theoretically) be added. And here is the previous entry on Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “A” and “B.”

Prefix Meaning Example
circu(m) around circuit, circumference
co, con (and assimilated forms) with, together; very cohesion, connect, compose, collection, correct
contra, contro, counter against, opposite contradict, controversy, counterpoint
de down, off of demotion, descent
di, dis, dif apart, in different directions, not divert, dismiss, differ
dia through, across, thorough diameter
dys bad, improper dysfunction

Greek and Latin Prefixes: A and B

Now that I finally finished up my series on English roots from Greek and Latin, it’s time for prefixes! In case you forgot, prefixes are little word bits that can be attached to the beginning of a word to alter its meaning. I’ve discussed prefixes earlier on the blog, mostly about how English prefixes relate to Swedish prefixes. This time I’m going to come at the topic from a slightly different angle: English prefixes derived from classical sources.

If you’re curious about how to use these prefixes, you can peruse the entire previous series on English root words derived from Greek and Latin and play a little mix and match. 🙂

As with my list of bases, the list here largely comes from Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary by Timothy Rasinski et al. I will make some small changes throughout, mostly in the choice of sample words. If you’re an English teacher (whether English literature or EFL) or a high-level student, I recommend picking up this book. EFL students may want to jump directly to any number of workbooks focused on Greek- and Latin-based English vocabulary. Or you can follow my series and take notes.

First up: Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “a” and “b”:

Prefix Meaning Example
a, ab, abs away, from avert, abduct, abstain
a, an not, without atheist, anemia
ad* to, toward, add to addition, aggregate, attract
ambi around, on both sides ambidextrous
ana back, again, apart analyze
ante before antecedent
ant(i) against, opposite antithesis, antonym
auto self automatic
bi two bicycle

Paraskevidekatriaphobia: Big Words in English

Big words are fun, aren’t they? Of course they make you sound smart, and they might be handy in a game of Scrabble or Words With Friends, but (at least in English) they often have a specificity that is in and of itself fascinating.

The hyper-linguistic polysyllabic speech association!

If you’re an English student, I admit that precisely because of this specificity many of this words don’t exactly have “high coverage.” In other words, they’re not very useful. But they’re fun, and they can still be useful as a learning tool. Most of the words in English that you would consider “big” aren’t just random collections of letters; rather, they’re collections of different smaller words or word pieces (bases and affixes). The strategy you use to learn about or understand a word like paraskevidekatriaphobia can be applied to shorter, less complex words you might actually encounter in your life or in your studies.

So, in honor of paraskevidekatriaphobia, I’m going to spend every Friday the 13th looking at bigwords! Starting, of course, with paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Now, let’s assume that you didn’t already know that it means “fear of Friday the 13th.” Could you figure it out?

The first and biggest clue is in the last little word piece (or morpheme, if you want to be technical): phobia. Fear. If you know that, then you know that a phobia is a fear of something. You might have seen arachnophobia (fear of spiders) or claustrophobia (fear of small spaces) before, as those seem to be fairly common fears. There’s a whole list of different phobias, in fact, if you feel like whiling away an afternoon.

If you know that “phobia” comes to English, via Latin, from the Greek word for fear (phobos), you might think to look at the rest of the word through a Greek lens: paraskevidekatria-. As it turns out, this would be the right way to go. Paraskevi is Greek for Friday, and dekatreis refers to the number 13. While “paraskevi” might be somewhat obscure, at least for those who don’t speak Greek*, in “dekatreis” one can see connections to other common roots: decem and decim for “ten,” and tri for “three.”

So, do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia? Or how about somniphobia? Nyctophobia? When I was a child, I had a pretty bad case of agyrophobia: fear of streets. (Don’t worry. I got better!)

A final point on phobias: since the word has crystallized into the language both as “fear” and “aversion” (see, for example, homophobia and Islamophobia to refer to attitudes that aren’t the traditional irrational fear of a phobia, but rather a cultural and/or personal revulsion), English has taken a tendency to take words from other languages and stick them on the end. Not just with phobia, either; there is a tendency to mix different languages. But that’s what makes English so fascinating!

*While writing up this blog post, I wondered if the para- in “paraskevi” might have the same root as pent (five), as in the fifth day of the week (much like the Russian names for the weekdays), but this turned out not to be the case. The word is related to the Greek word “to prepare” and apparently is named after Friday preparations for the Sabbath.

Book Review: Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary

Authors: Timothy Rasinski, Nacy Padak, Rick M. Newton, Evangeline Newton

Genre: Specialist non-fiction

My GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Average GoodReads rating: 4.44

Target audience: English teachers and etymology nerds

Topic matter: The classical roots of English vocabulary

In-depth thoughts: If my affixes series didn’t make it abundantly clear, I’m a big fan of teaching (at appropriate levels) etymology along with vocabulary. A solid background in prefixes, suffixes, and bases helps EFL students learn words quicker and easier. This is the philosophy of Rasinski, Padak, Newton, and Newton, the authors of Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary.

Image courtesy Shell Education
Image courtesy Shell Education

This is a must for any English teacher, EFL or otherwise. English looks random and chaotic on the surface, so the more systems teachers can provide for their students, the better. Greek and Latin Roots does a very thorough job on how and why teachers of every grade and ability level should focus on classical roots when teaching English, with numerous activities and even a couple of sample lessons. They also provide a brief history of the development of English, useful for placing certain words and constructions in context. (My only quibble here is they have the usual breathless “Shakespeare invented so many words!” history without considering the context in which he was writing, but this is a book on teaching vocabulary and not a comprehensive history of English, so it’s easily ignored.)

As Greek and Latin Roots is a book for teachers, it might not be immediately useful for students, except for the appendixes. Appendix A has recommendations for student resources, both digital and dead tree. The recommendations in Appendix B are intended for teachers, but students might still find the word lists and puzzles helpful. Appendix C is a goldmine: a good, foundational list of classical word roots, arranged alphabetically. Finally, Appendix D has a collection of English’s many loan words from other languages categorized by language or language family. (There’s also Appendix E, but that’s a professional development section intended specifically for teachers who want to hone their craft.)

If you’re a word nerd interested in the history of English words rather than how to teach them, David Crystal has some recommendations.

English Vocabulary With Affixes: Using Affixes to Make Adjectives

This is the fourth and final post (for now) in my affixes series. There are a lot more affixes in English than I’ve covered here, but as this part of the series wraps up the list over on UEFAP, it feels like a natural stopping point.

This post will cover using both prefixes and suffixes to create new adjectives, as well as their Swedish equivalents.

1. Noun + Suffix = Adjective; Verb + Suffix = Adjective

Suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-al relating to a noun (central, professional) -al (central), -ell (professionell), -sk (politisk)
-ive relating to a verb (imaginative, effective) -iv (attraktiv)
-ful having or being full of a noun (beautiful, careful) -full (fridfull)*
-less lacking a noun (endless, homeless) -lös (tanklös)*
-able / -ible to be able to verb (drinkable, countable) -bar (ätbar)*

*indicates a group of adjectives that often have -lig or –ig adjective endings in Swedish

2. Negative Prefix + Adjective = Opposite Adjective

Note that all of these prefixes have the same essential meaning and job—to reverse the meaning of the root word. It’s simply that some root words take one prefix and some take another. To avoid redundancy, I’ve omitted the middle column for this last table.

Prefix Swedish equivalent
im-/in-/ir-/il- (immature, inconvenient, irreplaceable, illegal) o- (omjölig)
non- (non-fiction, non-political) o- (obefintlig), non- (nonstop), icke (a full-fledged word, not a suffix)
dis- (disloyal, dissimilar) o- (oärlig)
un- (unfortunate, uncomfortable) o- (orättvist)

Though you can see that this whole table is largely redundant, as a large number of English prefixes fall under the o- umbrella in Swedish. This certainly simplifies things for English-speaking learners of Swedish, but complicates things for Swedish-speaking learners of English!

There is much more to English affixes than what I’ve been able to cover so far, of course. And I’m far from an expert in either linguistics or Swedish! As I progress in my own studies, I will update here. Good luck with your own learning!

English Vocabulary With Affixes: Using Suffixes to Make New Nouns

This is the next part in my series on English affixes and their Swedish equivalents. You can start with part 1 (an introduction, and using prefixes to alter verb meanings), and also check out part 2 (using prefixes to create new nouns). This time, I’m focusing on creating new nouns out of a verbnoun, or adjective by way of a suffix. This process can be classified into three groups: nouns from verbs, nouns from other nouns, and nouns from adjectives.

I’ve taken the English list from UEFAP, but all of the Swedish translations are my own. This and all other posts on affixes will probably be edited as my Swedish improves. Sometimes there’s not really a Swedish equivalent; in those cases, I just skip to the next. Also note that there is rarely a true 1-to-1 correspondence; what I list here are what (in my experience) are the most common equivalents.

1. Verb + Suffix = Noun

English suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-tion,  -sion an action/instance of the verb (alteration, demonstration) -tion (dedikation)
-er a person who does the verb / something used for the verb (advertiser, silencer) -ör (redaktör), -are (ägare)
-ment an instance of the verb (development, punishment) -ing (utnämning)
-ant,   -ent a person who performs the verb (assistant, student) -ent (student), -ant (officiant)
-ence, -ance the act of the verb, or the result of the verb (dependence, endurance) -ans (acceptans)*
-ery,   -ry an action or instance of the verb (bribery) or a place where the verb happens (bakery) -eri (raffinaderi)*

*indicates a suffix that is often also -ing in Swedish, instead of a close 1-to-1 correspondence with English

2. Noun + Suffix = New Noun

English suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-er person associated with the noun (astronomer, geographer) -are (juvelerlare)*
-ist person associated with the noun (biologist, scientist) -ist (buddist)*
-ism doctrine of a noun (Maoism, materialism) -ism (buddism, marxism)
-ship state of being the noun (friendship, citizenship) -skap (ledarskap)

*indicates situations where, if the base noun ends in “i,” the “i” is removed but no suffix is added (astronomi -> astronom, biologi -> biolog)

3. Adjective + Suffix = Noun

English suffix Meaning Swedish equivalent
-ity, -ness, -cy state or quality of being the adjective (ability, similarity) -het (nyfikenhet, gulhet), -itet (graviditet)

To a lesser extent in this category you see -skap (beredskap), -ing (besittning), and a handful of others, but in my experience -het and -itet are the most common.

English Vocabulary With Affixes: Using Prefixes to Make New Nouns

This is part 2 of an ongoing series about common English affixes and their Swedish equivalents. You can find part 1 here: using prefixes to make new verbs.

I’m using the most common prefixes, as compiled by UEFAP. Today’s segment is about using prefixes with nouns to make new nouns. When it comes to the Swedish translations of this prefixes, you’ll notice that they’re often identical or close enough. This list, and other upcoming posts on affixes in English and Swedish, is not a complete list! (For a more complete list, refer to the above UEFAP link.) These are simply the ones that have something like a Swedish equivalent.

Prefix English meaning Swedish equivalent
anti- against (antibiotic, antithesis) anti (antiklimax), mot (motgift)
auto- self (automobile) auto (autobiografi)
counter- against (counterargument, counterattack) mot- (motargument)
dis- the converse or opposite of (discomfort, dislike) o- (obehag, olust), av- (avsmak), mot- (motvilja)
hyper- extreme (hyperactive hyper (hyperinflation)
in- converse or opposite of (inattention, incoherence) in- (inkompatibilitet), o- (oförenlighet)
inter- between (interaction) inter- (interaktion)
kilo- thousand (kilobyte) kilo- (kilogram)
mega- million (megabyte) mega- (megabyte)
mis- wrong (misunderstanding, misapprehension) miss- (missförstånd)
mono- one (monoculture, monogamy) mono- (monoton)
neo- new (neoliberal) neo- (neonatal)
poly- many (polyphony) poly- (polygraf)
pre- before (prefix) pre- (prefix), för(e) (förord, företal)
pseudo- false (pseudoscience) pseudo- (pseudonym)
semi- half (semi-completeness) halv- (halvcirkel), semi- (semikolon)
sub- below (subset) under- (underavdelning)
super- more than (superpower), above (supervisor) över- (överflödig), stor- (stormakt)
tele- distant (television) tele- (telesystem)
under- below (undergraduate), too little (underpayment) under- (underplagg)
vice- deputy, assistant (vice president) vice- (viceordförande)