Chapter 8: Latin Prefixes

§59. A Summary of Latin Prefixes

The time has come to present a summary of the most common Latin prefixes, including several that have not yet been mentioned. The table on the next page is intended mainly for future reference, since Latin prefixes are most closely associated with verb vocabulary. You should learn to recognize them in a general fashion now; their use will become much clearer as you work through the chapters that follow.

LATIN PREFIX ENGLISH TRANSLATION Intensive?[1] Altered form[2]
a- ab- abs- (away) from
ad- to, toward yes
ante- before
circum- around
con- co- with, together yes
contra- against counter-
de- down; off, away yes
di- dis- apart, asunder, in two
e- ex- out (of) yes s-
extra- outside
in- in(to), against; not en-, em-
inter- between, among
intra- intro- within, inside
ob- against, face-to-face yes
per- through; to the bad yes
post- after
prae- before, ahead; surpassing pre-
pro- before; forward pur-
re- red- back, again yes
retro- back(ward)
se- apart
sub- under
super- over, above sur-
trans- across

It may be helpful to comment on a few of the more important Latin prefixes not yet discussed. One of these is prae- (“before,” “ahead”), which always assumes the English form of pre-, as in the word prefix itself. In Latin, prae- is a close synonym of ante-, meaning “before” either in time or in place. When combined with the noun via, it provides the source of the English adjective previous (L prae-vi-us, “ahead on the road”).

Another common form is ob- (“against”), a prefix that suggests a collision course: if something is obvious (L ob-vi-us), it is on the road directly in front of you. Rather different in meaning is contra-; though it also means “against,” it suggests a deliberate opposition of will or purpose. Watch out for assimilation in the case of ob-: we have just met it in the word opposition, and we’ll see it also in words like occur and offer.

  1. The Latin prefixes identified in this column can at times merely intensify or strengthen the meaning of a verb. If a prefix has this INTENSIVE force, its customary meaning will not likely be apparent.
  2. This column shows the altered form that some prefixes may take after transmission through French.


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Greek and Latin Roots: Part I - Latin by Peter Smith (Estate) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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