Posted: February 28th, 2014, 9:39 am   By: erin.hempfling

“I’m gonna do what’s sensible. I’m gonna file for unemployment. Then I’m gonna try to get a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, because they got an excellent corporate structure, and they . . . they give you the tools to be your own boss.”—Brennan Huff, with his prefix-related (un)employment plan

Let’s look at prefixes, which give you the tools to give words different meanings.

What Is a Prefix?

A prefix is an affix (a letter or group of letters) attached to the beginning of a word to modify its meaning. English prefixes commonly derive from Latin or Greek. Brace yourself for a self-reflexive fact of “WOOOAAAHHH!!!” proportions: the word prefix contains the prefix pre, which means “before.” OK, maybe it’s not that impressive.

Six Common Prefixes

We have scores of prefixes at our disposal. Here is a brief review of a handful of the most common prefixes and their meanings.

anti– means opposed to, against: If you wrestle the Nasty Boys, you might need some antibacterial face wash—actually, you should probably just peel your entire face off and start over.

dis– expresses negation, reversal, removal: This boxing match would merely dishonor the venerable sport built by moral luminaries like Don King.

en-, em– indicate 1) movement/change into; 2) in, into, on; or 3) intensifying: Instead of throwing them in jail, we should encourage more people to explore innovative outdoor activities.

in-, im-, il-, ir– mean 1) not, lacking, without; or 2) within, into, toward, in: It is impossible to look at just one album cover and infer anything about the rumors surrounding John Travolta.

re– most commonly signifies 1) again; 2) in return; or 3) after, behind: If this is what rehabilitation is like in the Philippines, I’m going to move to Manila and try to get a DUI everyday.

un– means not, opposite, cancellation, absence: It’s nice to see that people like this young man remain unconcerned with concealing their true motivations—we need more honesty in this world.