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

Greek and Latin Roots: V and Z

Here it is, the last post in my series on classically derived base words! You can browse the rest of the series at these links:

Next week, I’ll take a look at English prefixes that come to us from Latin and Greek. Stay tuned!

Base Meaning Example
val be strong, be healthy valid
ven(t) come convene, advent
ventr(i) belly ventriloquist
ver true veritable
verb word verbal
vers, vert turn, change adverse, advertise
vest clothing vestments
via way, road viaduct
vid, vis see video, visual
vigil awake vigilant
vit, viv live, life vital, revive
voc, voke, voice voice, call, sound vocal, revoke, invoice
vol wish, will volunteer
volv, volu, volut roll revolve, volume, revolution
vor eat, devour voracious
vulp fox vulpine
zo(o) animal zodiac, zoology

Greek and Latin Roots: T and U Base Words

Next up in this series on classical root words in English: root words beginning with the letter “T” and “U”! You can refer to previous lists below if you’d like a refresher. We’re almost finished! The next installment will be the last one (“V”, “X,” and “Z”).

These are all base words; classical affixes will come in a later series.

Base Meaning Example
tang, ting, tig, tact touch tangent, contingent, contiguous, intact
taph grave, tomb epitaph
taur bull Minotaur
techn art, skill, fine craft technique
tempor time temporary
ten, tin, tent, tain hold tenacious, continent, contents, retain
tend, tens, tenu stretch, thin extend, tensile, tenuous
ter(r) land, ground, earth inter (verb), territory
test witness testify
tetra four tetrahedron
thanas, thanat death euthanasia
theater, theatr theater, watch theatrical
the(o) god atheist, theology
therm heat thermal
thes, thet put, place thesis, synthetic
tom cut anatomy
ton tone monotonous
trac(t), treat pull, draw, drag trace, tractor, retreat
trop turn tropics
trud, trus push, thrust intrude, protrusion
turb shake, agitate turbulence
urs bear (animal) ursine

Greek and Latin Roots: S Base Words

After a book break, I’m back with more linguistic roots from Greek and Latin. These are all of the base words that begin with S. (Suffixes and prefixes will come later.) For a review, you can browse old entries.

Base Meaning Example
sanct(u) holy, sacred sanctuary
scend, scens step, climb descend, ascension
scop look, watch microscope
scrib, script write scribe, scripture
sec(t) cut, slice secant, section
secut, sequ follow prosecute, sequel
sed, sid, sess sit, settle sediment, reside, session
semi one half semicircle
sent, sens think, feel sentence, sensation
seps, sept infection sepsis, antiseptic
serv, servat save, keep, serve servile, reservation
sex six sextet
sist stand persist
sit food, feed parasite
sol(i) alone, only, one solitaire
solv, solut free, loosen dissolve, solution
somn(i) sleep insomnia
son, sound sound resonate, resound
soph wisdom, wise philosophy
sorb soak absorb
spec, spic, spect watch, look at specimen, conspicuous, spectacle
(s)pir breathe perspire, expire
sta, stanc, stat stand stable, stance, static
stle, stol send epistle, apostle
strain, strict, string tie, bind, squeeze restrain, restrict, stringent
stru, struct build construe, destruction
sui (swi) pig, hog swine

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.

Greek and Latin Roots: Q and R Base Words

It’s time for the next installment in this series on classically-derived roots in the English language! Q and R are both small categories, so I’ve put them together. Remember, these are word bases, not prefixes or suffixes.

If you would like to review previous entries, you can browse the links below:

Base Meaning Example
quadr, quart four quadrilateral, quarter
quint five quintillion
ras scrape rash, erase
reg, rig, rect straight, guide regular, incorrigible, correct
rupt break interrupt