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Most Common Prefixes With Meanings and Examples

Most Prefixes

Prefixes are negative letters that come at the beginning of nouns, verbs, adjectives (opposites of adjectives by adding prefixes), or adverbs to change the meaning of the word or reflect it from positive to negative meaning NOT. The most common prefixes in the English language are:

  • mis
  • un
  • over
  • non
  • a
  • dis
  • il
  • im
  • in
  • ir

Remember that not all words with negative beginnings are negative:

  • alike
  • discuss
  • universe
  • illuminate
  • important
  • involve
  • irrigate

List of common prefixes


We have said the prefix is placed at the beginning of a word to modify or change its meaning. This is a list of the most common prefixes in the English language, along with their basic meaning and some examples.

1. mis

Added to the nouns that indicate an error, here are some examples:

  • take - mistake
  • understand - misunderstand
  • read - misread
  • use - misuse
  • spell - misspell
  • behave - misbehave

Example phrases:

  • Confusion can lead to misunderstanding.
  • Mispronunciation is making a mistake in how you say a word.
  • I misread my lines in the school play.
  • Do not misbehave in class.
  • I misspell words when I am typing.

2. un

Words that take "un" are added to nouns that start with a consonant or vowel, and often negate the past participle, here are some examples:

  • able - unable
  • interesting - uninteresting
  • usual - unusual
  • comfortable - uncomfortable
  • helpful - unhelpful
  • prepared - unprepared
  • broken - unbroken
  • done - undone
  • happy - unhappy

Example phrases:

  • They were unable to open the door.
  • The scenery is dull and uninteresting.
  • I was waiting on an uncomfortable plastic chair to be seen by a nurse.
  • The government has taken the unusual step of calling home its ambassador.
  • Of course, this was a slightly unhelpful five years after the event.
  • We were unhappy to lose the game by one goal.

3. over

Added to the names you want redundant, here are some examples:

  • estimate - overestimate
  • pressure - overpressure
  • exercise - overexercise
  • active - overactive
  • works - overworks
  • write - overwrite
  • design - overdesign
  • colors - overcolors

Example phrases:

  • The figure of 30 per cent was an overestimate
  • It is not good to work in a company has overworks it will make you overpressure.
  • You're probably not overexercising.
  • At least Aya will be there to help harness my overactive imagination.
  • We need to delete overwrite data.

4. non

It negates groups and adds to nouns that start with a consonant or vowel, here are some examples:

  • conformist - nonconformist
  • essential - nonessential
  • fiction - nonfiction
  • sense - nonsense
  • smokers - nonsmokers
  • residents - nonresidents

Example phrases:

  • They were and still are nonconformist pacifists.
  • During the strike nonessential hospital services were halted.
  • It is nonfiction according to history.
  • He was talking nonsense.
  • The smell of nonsmokers mouths is better.
  • Parking permits are available for residents and nonresidents.

5. ir

It is added to nouns that always start with the letter "R", here are some examples:

  • rational - irrational
  • reconcilable - irreconcilable
  • regular - irregular
  • resistible - irresistible

Example phrases:

  • Sure that fathi's fears were completely irrational.
  • To us, all our different visions are irreconcilable.
  • Her features were too irregular.
  • He found the delicious-looking cakes irresistible.

6. in

It is added to nouns that often start with a consonant or vowel, except for "I and U", here are some examples:

  • accurate - inaccurate
  • eligible - ineligible
  • organic - inorganic
  • decent - indecent

Example phrases:

  • False or inaccurate descriptions of goods.
  • They were ineligible for jury duty.
  • He used to study molecules and inorganic ions in solution.
  • The film was grossly indecent.

Note: There are many words that start with "in" and are not negative, as follows:

  • incline
  • indulge
  • insist
  • invoke

7. im

It is added to nouns that often start with the letter "M and P", here are some examples:

  • mobile - immobile
  • moral - immoral
  • perfect - imperfect
  • possible - impossible
  • polite - impolite

Example phrases:

  • She sat immobile for a long time.
  • An immoral and unwinnable war.
  • An imperfect grasp of English.
  • A seemingly impossible task.
  • It would have been impolite to refuse.

8. il

Added to nouns that often start with the letter "L", here are some examples:

  • legal - illegal
  • legible - illegible
  • literate - illiterate
  • logical - illogical

Example phrases:

  • It's illegal to park there.
  • His handwriting is totally illegible.
  • His parents were illiterate.
  • There is nothing illogical about fear.

9. dis

Added to nouns that often start with a consonant or vowel, here are some examples:

  • agree - disagree
  • comfort - discomfort
  • count - discount
  • like - dislike
  • honest - dishonest

Example phrases:

  • No one was willing to disagree with him.
  • The discomforts of too much sun in summer.
  • Many stores will offer a discount on bulk purchases.
  • I dislike this work intensely.
  • Stealing from a shop is dishonest.

10. A

Added to nouns that often start with a consonant, here are some examples:

  • political - apolitical
  • sexual - asexual
  • theist - atheist

Example phrases:

  • The population is very apolitical, except for the nationalists.
  • He has asexual feelings.
  • He is a committed atheist.
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