10 Prefixes That will Dramatically

Improve Your Vocabulary

10 Prefixes That Will Dramatically Improve Your Vocabulary

Although my mother tongue is English, there are still a ton of words that I don’t know. Many of these English words are technical or related to an unfamiliar topic, like geology, chemistry, or computer engineering. When I come across one of those words, I can often guess the meaning.


Sometimes, I rely on the context. I ask myself, "What do I know about the situation that can help me decode this new word?" Or "Is the speaker happy, sad, tired, or disappointed?"


Other times, there is a part of the word that has a specific meaning that helps me get to the essence of the word. Like, if I see “photo” in a word, I know it’s going be related to light: photograph, photosynthesis, photon.


You can do the same!


In today’s top ten list, I’m going to give you ten commonly used word beginnings, called prefixes, that have very specific meanings. These little guys are special keys that can unlock the mysteries of vocabulary that you already know, and even better, allow you to quickly understand new words that you’re going to see in daily life.


Oh, I should mention one more thing before we get started. For today’s list, I’ve decided to list them alphabetically, rather than in order of least to most importance. So, (drum roll,please) here goes.



not enough


underpaid: paid too little for work or a service

undercooked: not cooked enough

underrated: rated or valued too low, as in movie that is not appreciated for its quality

underage: not old enough



under, or lower than


subway: an underground electric railroad

subterranean: existing, situated, or operating below the surface of the earth; underground

substandard: below average, less than adequate

subtitle: captions displayed at the bottom of a movie or television screen that translate or transcribe the dialogue or narrative






semiannual: happening twice a year, every six months, at the half year point

semicircle: half a circle or sphere

semiconscious: not quite awake, not quite unconscious



mind, mental


psychiatric: a branch of medicine that deals with mental or emotional disorders

psycho (short for psychopathic): a person who is mentally ill and often dangerous or violent

psychosomatic: caused by mental or emotional problems rather than by physical illness





prefix: a letter or group of letters that is added at the beginning of a word to change its meaning

premature: happening or born too soon or before expected

prepare: to make someone or something ready before an activity, use, purpose

prediction: a statement or guess about something before it happens




polyglot: knowing and using many languages

polygamy: the practice of being married to more than one person at the same time

polymer: long or larger molecule consisting of a chain or network of many repeating units)

polyamorist: a person who has in more than one open romantic relationship at a time



too much, more than is needed

overpaid: receiving more money than deserved

overwhelm: having too many things to deal with, such as work, money problems, stress

overdress: to be wearing clothes that are too formal or fancy for an event



life, living organisms


biology: the science and study of things that are alive, such as plants and animals

biodiversity: the existence of many different kinds of living things in one environment

biography: the story a real person’s life written by someone else





bicycle: A vehicle with two wheels

bisexual:  Sexually attracted to both men and women

biweekly: Happening every two weeks or twice a week

bilingual: Knowing and using two languages

# 1




antidepressant: used to treat or help depression, usually referring to a type of medicine

antibiotic: a type of drug used to kill harmful bacteria in animals and humans

antisocial: refers to behaviours or people that are harmful or violent, or go against social norms

Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.

- Confucius


Here are a few more prefixes that didn’t make the list: co (together: coworker, collaborate), hydro (water: hydrate, hydroelectric), mal (bad: malady, malaise, malaria), photo (light: photograph, photocell, photosynthesis), re (again: reuse, recycle, remarry)

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