Skip to main content

The most confusing prefix "a": NOT? IN? or FROM or TO?

Sample lecture Course syllabus


a- : The prefix “a” is derived from three different origins: Greek, German and Latin-French. 

a-: not, without (Greek origin)

abyss (without bottom)

abysmal (being in a bottomless state, very bad, dreadful)

achromatic (without color) 

amorphous (without a form, formless)

anomaly (non normal thing)

apathy (without feeling, indifference)

a- becomes an- before stems beginning with a vowel or h 

analgesic (without pain, relieving pain)

anarchy (no government)

anecdote (private story)

a-: on, in, into (German origin)

alive (still living)

afresh (in a new way)

asleep (in sleep)

afoot (on foot)

abreast (side by side) 

afire (on fire) 

ashore (on the shore) 

a-: shortened form of ab- (away from) or ad- (toward)  (Latin origin)

a-, ab- : from, away from, off

avert (to turn away, avoid)

abate (to lessen, die down)

abduct (to carry away by force) 

abnormal (not normal) 

absent (not present)

absolve (pardon, forgive a sin) 

a-, ac-, ad-, af-, ag- al-, an-, ap-, at- as-: to, toward, near

access (to enter a place)  

accelerate (to hasten, to increase the speed of) 

adhere (to stick, to hold fast)

adjoin (to join together)

adapt (to make suitable to requirements)

    affable (easy to talk to, friendly)

affinity (sympathy, similarity)

aggrandize (to make grand, to embellish)

    aggregate (to flock, to form into a group)

allegiance (commitment to a superior) 

alleviate (to lighten, to provide relief) 

annihilate (to reduce to nothing, to kill in large numbers)

annul (to reverse)

assimilate (to liken, to make something look  similar)

assuage (to relieve, soothe)

attest (to provide or serve as clear evidence of)

attenuate (to make thin, reduce the force)

ambi-, amphi- : both, on both sides

ambidextrous (able to use both hands equally well) 

ambiguous (having more than one meaning) 

ambivalence (conflicting feelings) 

amphitheater (an open circular theater)

amphibian (animal living on both land and water)

ana- : up, back, against, again, throughout

analysis (a close examination of something) 

anatomy (the structure of something as visible when cut up for analysis) 

anachronism (something not being in the right place in time)

ante- : before, in front

antecede (to come before something else) 

antemeridian (before noon) 

Antebellum (occurring before the American Civil War) 

antediluvian (archaic, antiquated)

anti- : against, opposite of

antibody (a substance that destroys microorganisms) 

antiseptic (preventing infection)

auto- : self, same, one

autocrat (a person who governs with absolute power) 

autograph (a person's own signature) 

automatic (moving by itself)

be- : thoroughly, all over, completely, covered with 

bedeck (to cover with decoration)

besprinkled  (sprinkled all over)

besmirch (to make dirty, damage the reputation of someone, tarnish)

bespoke (made for a particular customer or user)

bi- : two, 

bilateral (relating to two sides, affecting both sides)

bicentennial (occurring every two hundred years)

bisect (cut into two)

biannual (occurring twice a year)

biennial (taking place every other year)

cata- : down, against, completely

cataclysm (a flood or other disaster)

catalog (a complete listing) 

catalyst (a person or thing that precipitates an event)

catastrophe (turning for the worst, a substantial disaster)

cent : one hundred

cent: (one-hundredth of a dollar)

percent (per one hundred) 

century (one hundred years)

centenarian (a person who is one hundred years old)

circum- : circle, around, about

circumscribe (to draw around, to restrict something within limits

circumspect (looking around, cautious, guarded)

circumvent (to find a way around, to overcome)  

circumstance (condition, situation) 

circumlocution (the use of many words where fewer would do, verbosity)

co-, com, col-, con-, cor-: together, common, join

coauthor (writer who collaborates with another author) 

collaborate (to work together) 

collision (smashing together) 

colloquial (words formed by everyday interaction)

collection (a group of things)

colleague (a person working together in business)

commemorate (to memorize together) 

composition (an arrangement or putting together of parts) 

commune (living together while owning things in common)

concur (to agree with someone) 

contemporary (of the same time period as others) 

convention (a gathering of people with a common interest)

correlation (relationship that changes together)

correspondence (agreement)

contra- : against, opposite

contradict (to argue against) 

contraception (anti-pregnancy method)

controversy (disagreement)

counter- : opposite, contrary, opposing

counteract (to oppose the effects of an action) 

countermand (to cancel a previous command)

counterargument (an argument against an opposing argument)

counterfeit (imitation, fake, copy)