Most words only add one prefix to their roots, or at the most two. Here is a good example of how prefixes can alter the meanings of those words:
venue: a place where an event is held. Note that there are no prefixes that comprise this word. Here is a podcast on the root word ven: “come”.
convene: to come “together” somewhere, often at a venue. Note that adding one prefix to a root is the most common practice. Podcast: prefix con-: “with, together”
reconvene: to come “together” “again.” It is also fairly common to add two prefixes to the root of a word. Podcast: prefix re-: “back, again”
The addition of prefixes onto a root word usually ends with one, or at the most two. There are some words, however, that add on more than two prefixes. If you know the meanings of the prefixes, it is not particularly daunting to figure out the meaning of the word. Let’s consider two examples of such prefix agglutination (from the Latin “to glue together”):
ultimate: the last of something.
penultimate: the “nearly” last of something, or second to last
antepenultimate: “before” the “nearly” last of something, i.e. third to last Podcast: the prefix ante-: “before”
preantepenultimate: “before” the “before” the “nearly” last of something, that is, fourth to last Podcast: the prefix pre-: “before”
quaver: eighth note
semiquaver: one-half of an eighth note, or a sixteenth note
demisemiquaver: one-half of one-half of an eighth note, or a thirty-second note
hemidemisemiquaver: one-half of one-half of one-half of an eighth, or a sixty-fourth note
Wasn’t that fun?
Many words with more than one prefix have added on a negative prefix, such as “in-” or “non-” or “un-” to make the opposite of a word:
conceivable–inconceivable Podcast: the prefix in-: “not”
reversible–irreversible Podcast: prefix assimilation of the prefix in-: “not”
conformist-nonconformist Podcast: the prefix non-: “not”
If you know your prefixes, words become much easier to divine the meaning of, so don’t be put off by the length of a word. Membean’s podcasts of root words and prefixes are very helpful in picking apart words–there is a new one each month.
Here are some fun words that have some pretty major prefix agglutination going on:
Can you pick out the prefixes in the above words?
Stay tuned for our next blog post which will discuss the bifunctional nature of suffixes.