Glossary: prefix


A prefix is added at the beginning of a word in order to turn it into another word.

Contrast suffix.

  • overtake, disappear

See also affix.

Building words

Exploring the internal structure of words


  • Identify prefixes, base words, and suffixes.
  • Build words by combining prefixes, base words, and suffixes.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of word classes by identifying the word class of the newly derived words.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of derivational morphology by using newly derived words in sentences.

Lesson Plan

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right.

Building words: Activity

In this activity, explore how words are built ouit of a prefix, base form and a suffix

What meanings do different prefixes and suffixes have? Can any base form take any prefix or suffix? How can you manipulate language to create new forms? For example, deread is not an English word. What might it mean?

Morphology - an introduction

In this lesson, students explore word morphology. Morphology is an area of language study concerned with how words are formed. While syntax is about the larger structures formed when words are put together, morphology is about the structure within words.

Morphology - an introduction: Activity 1

Activity 1: Finding word parts

From the list below, pick out the words that are complex. Can you break them down into meaningful parts?

  1. bread
  2. sunshine
  3. fossil
  4. sleepwalker
  5. unhappy
  6. umbrella
  7. rebuild
  8. laughing

There are some further questions on the next slide.

Now look at the parts of the words that you have found. Which ones can be used on their own?

Morphology - an introduction: Activity 2

Activity 2: Same word or different words?

Would you say the following are different words or the same word?

  • hesitate, hesitates, hesitated, hesitating

It depends what we mean by ‘word’! In one everyday sense, they are all different words.

Morphology - an introduction: Activity 3

Activity 3: How many words?

Look at the sentence below and answer the following questions:

  1. How many different words, in the sense of dictionary words, are there?
  2. Which items can be grouped together as forms of the same word?
  • I think teasing tigers is unwise, because I teased a tiger once and barely escaped alive.


Prefixes in adjectives

In this lesson, students will look at some common prefixes that can be added to adjectives and see how they change meanings.


  • Identify some common prefixes in adjectives.
  • Describe the meanings contributed by common adjective prefixes.
  • Experiment with acceptable and unacceptable prefixes for particular adjectives.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at adjectives with distinctive prefixes.

Compounds: Break apart the words

Break down each of the following words into its meaningful parts. Label each part as either a prefix, a suffix, or a lexical base (a part which can typically be used as a word on its own).

Example: unkindness: un- (prefix) + kind (lexical base) + -ness (suffix)

You can check your work by pressing the buttons to see the answers.

Spelling: Spelling and word structure

Many common spelling errors occur with double consonants or vowel combinations, as in the following words:

Spelling: Suffixes

Suffixes cause many of our common spelling mistakes. One challenge is simply to know which is correct: for example, legible or legable? In fact, −ible and −able serve the same function, and sound the same. As a matter of history, -ible entered English from Latin, while −able entered English from French, but there’s no easy rule for knowing when to use which suffix. Each word with each suffix just requires practice.

Word structure

The study of word structure is called morphology. Understanding word structure helps us:

  • improve spelling
  • expand vocabulary

In studying word structure, we start by looking at a few key concepts first:

  • root words
  • prefixes
  • suffixes

Root words are words, or parts of words, that can usually stand alone. The following are all root words:

Word structure: Derivation

Derivation is the process of creating new words. The technical term derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words. Here are some examples of words which are built up from smaller parts:


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