Definition of prefix
- prefix a syllable to a word
Prefix “un” to “do” to form the word “undo.”
The cost of the item was prefixed by a dollar sign.
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
Add the prefix “re-” to form the words “retell” and “recall.”
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prefix.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Prefixes and suffixes are both kinds of affixes. That is, they are word parts that attach to the beginning or end of a word or word base (a word stripped down to its simplest form) to produce a related word or an inflectional form of a word. Examples are in- in informal and both re- and -ing in reporting.
A third kind of affix is called an infix. Infixes are inserted into a word or word base. English uses very few infixes, but a couple examples are the plural-making s in words like cupsful and passersby, and various swear words, like damn in informal constructions like guaran-damn-tee.
A combining form is a form of a word that only appears as part of another word. There are a number of kinds of combining forms, each classified by what kind of word results when the form is used. For example, -wise in clockwise is an adverb combining form; -like in birdlike is an adjective combining form; -graph in photograph is a noun combining form; and -lyze in electrolyze is a verb combining form.
Combining forms are similar to affixes but can have a bit more lexical substance to them. Unlike affixes, combining forms are substantial enough to form a word simply by connecting to an affix, such as when the combining form cephal- joins with the suffix -ic to form cephalic. A combining form can also differ from an affix in its being derived from an independent word. For example, para- is a combining form in the word paratrooper because in that word it represents the word parachute. Para- is a prefix, however, in the words paranormal and paramedic. A combining form can also be distinguished historically from an affix by the fact that it is borrowed from another language in which it is descriptively a word or a combining form, such as the French mal giving English the mal- in malfunction.
: to add a letter, number, or symbol at the beginning of a word or number
: a letter or group of letters that is added at the beginning of a word to change its meaning
: a title (such as “Mr.” or “Dr.”) that is used before a person's name
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