Prefix: A Big List of 20 Common Prefixes and Their Meaning

In this lesson, we’ll study common prefixes with their meaning and examples for ESL Students.


A prefix is a group of letters that is added to the beginning of a word and changes the meaning of the word.

Below is a list of prefixes plus definitions and examples you should know.

1. Ex-

  • Definition: Former, older
  • Words: ex-president, ex-boyfriend, exterminate, ex-wife
  • Example sentence: I needed a lot of retail therapy to help me get over my ex-boyfriend.

2. Dis-

  • Definition: Not, opposite of
  • Words: discord, discomfort, disengage
  • Example sentence: Some patients don’t refer to the discomfort of angina as an ache; rather they describe it as sudden sharp pains.

3. Anti-

  • Definition: Against
  • Words: antidote, antisocial, antifreeze, antithesis
  • Example sentence: She was aware that, because of their circumscribed and antisocial existence, the question of godparents would probably pose yet another problem.

4. Pre-

  • Definition: Before
  • Words: preview, pretest, prevent, preplan
  • Example sentence: The news that no less than five new endings were shot due to poor reaction at the preview screenings hardly augers well.

5. Mis-

  • Definition: Wrong, wrongly
  • Words: misjudge, misinterpret, misguided, mismatch, misplace
  • Example sentence: He had misjudged the situation, and if he had added to his problems, it was his own fault.

6. Post-

  • Definition: After
  • Words: postgraduate, postdate, postnatal
  • Example sentence: For these students, this was manifested by a decision not to continue with physics at postgraduate level.

7. Auto-

  • Definition: Self
  • Words: automobile, autobus, automatic
  • Example sentence: I think that it comes down to the fact that people do feel very dependent on their automobile.

8. Re-

  • Definition: Again
  • Words: rewrite, reread, return, review
  • Example sentence: Take one of your recent essays and rewrite the introduction according to the pattern suggested.

9. Un-

  • Definition: Not
  • Words: uncover, unlock, unsafe, unemployment
  • Example sentence: Marco was in his room and wouldn’t unlock the door until Jamieson banged on it and ordered him to come out.

10. Ir-

  • Definition: Not
  • Words: irregular (irregular plural nouns or irregular verbs), irresponsible, irritate
  • Example sentence: We don’t want to squander that through lax cost control, irresponsible pay increases and things like that.

11. Mid-

  • Definition: Middle
  • Words: midterm, Midwest, midstream, midway, midnight
  • Example sentence: The midterm tests for background information on the U.S. system.

12. Over-

  • Definition: Too much
  • Words: overload, overdo, overact, overboard, overdose, overweight
  • Example sentence: Don’t overload your lecture with details that do not bear on the topic under discussion.

13. Semi-

  • Definition: Half
  • Words: semicircle, semiprecious, semicolon, semifinal
  • Example sentence: I looked through the window, a large semicircle that extended almost to the ceiling.

14. Fore-

  • Definition: Before
  • Words: foreshadow, foresight, foreseeable, forecast, foreground
  • Example sentence: If you had had more foresight, you would have saved yourself a lot of trouble.

15. In-

  • Definition: Not
  • Words: invade, inedible, incapable
  • Example sentence: He seems incapable of walking past a music shop without going in and buying another CD.

16. Non-

  • Definition: Not, without
  • Words: nonsense, nonverbal, nonstick, nonspecific
  • Example sentence: It is a nonspecific test and must be interpreted in the context of the total clinical presentation.

17. Inter-

  • Definition: Between, among
  • Words: interstate, international, intermission, intermingle, interface
  • Example sentence: From the interstate highway which runs nearby, nothing about this bluff looks any different from thousands of others.

18. Sub-

  • Definition: Under
  • Words: submarine, subtext, substandard, substitute, subversive
  • Example sentence: The submarine had had time to submerge before the warship could approach.

19. Super-

  • Definition: Above
  • Words: supersonic, superstar, supernatural, superstore
  • Example sentence: Residents were accused of nimbyism when they tried to stop the new superstore development.

20. Trans-

  • Definition: Across
  • Words: transatlantic, transcend, transfer, transact, transport
  • Example sentence: We also want to see more transatlantic flights, particularly to regional airports.

Learn more about common suffixes in English.

 English Prefixes | Infographic

Common Prefixes with Their Meanings

List of Prefixes

Last Updated on February 21, 2023

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