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Prefix Definition

A prefix is an affix which is placed before the stem of a word to denote additional information or change the meaning of that word. Particularly in the study of languages, a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the word to which it is affixed.

Overview

Prefixes, like other affixes, can be either inflectional or derivational. Inflectional prefixes create a new form of a word with the same basic meaning and same lexical category. In contrast derivational prefixes create a new word with a new semantic meaning and sometimes also a different lexical category. Prefixes like all affixes, are usually bound morphemes.

English has no inflectional prefixes, using only suffixes for that purpose. Adding a prefix to the beginning of an English word changes it to a different word. For instance, when the prefix un- is added to the word happy, it creates the word unhappy thus altering the meaning of the word.

The word prefix is itself made up of the stem fix (meaning attach), and the prefix pre- (meaning before), both of which are derived from Latin roots.

Numeral or number prefixes are prefixes derived from numerals or occasionally other numbers. In English and various other languages, they are used to coin numerous series of words.

Examples

Some examples of prefixes include:

  • Unicycle, bicycle, tricycle (1-cycle, 2-cycle, 3-cycle)

  • Biped, quadruped (2 legs, 4 legs)

  • Dyad, triad (2 parts, 3 parts)

  • Decimal, hexadecimal (base-10, base-16)

  • September, October, November, December (month 7, month 8, month 9, month 10)

  • Centipede, millipede (around 100 legs, around 1000 legs)

  • Septuagenarian, octogenarian (70-79 years old, 80-89 years old)

SI Prefixes

Here is a table of the SI prefixes and some of their properties:

Name & Symbol

Base 10

Decimal

English Word

Adoption

Short Scale

Long Scale

Quetta (Q)

1030

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Nonillion

Quintillion

2022

Ronna (R)

1027

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Octillion

2022

Yotta (Y)

1024

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Septillion

Quadrillion

1991

Zetta (Z)

1021

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Sextillion

Trilliard

1991

Exa (E)

1018

1,000,000,000,000,000,000

Quintillion

Trillion

1975

Peta (P)

1015

1,000,000,000,000,000

Quadrillion

Billiard

1975

Tera (T)

1012

1,000,000,000,000

Trillion

Billion

1960

Giga (G)

109

1,000,000,000

Billion

Milliard

1960

Mega (M)

106

1,000,000

Million

1873

Kilo (k)

103

1,000

Thousand

1795

Hecto (h)

102

100

Hundred

1795

Deca (da)

101

10

Ten

1795

One (1)

100

1

One

-

Deci (d)

10-1

0.1

Tenth

1795

Centi (c)

10-2

0.01

Hundredth

1795

Milli (m)

10-3

0.001

Thousandth

1795

Micro (µ)

10-6

0.000001

Millionth

1873

Nano (n)

10-9

0.000000001

Billionth

Milliardth

1960

Pico (p)

10-12

0.000000000001

Trillionth

Billionth

1960

Femto (f)

10-15

0.000000000000001

Quadrillionth

Billiardth

1964

Atto (a)

10-18

0.000000000000000001

Quintillionth

Trillionth

1964

Zepto (z)

10-21

0.000000000000000000001

Sextillionth

Trilliardth

1991

Yocto (y)

10-24

0.000000000000000000000001

Septillionth

Quadrillionth

1991

Ronto (r)

10-27

0.000000000000000000000000001

Octillionth

2022

Quecto (q)

10-30

0.000000000000000000000000000001

Nonillionth

Quintillionth

2022

Other Prefix Unit Definitions

Convert to Another Prefix Unit

Alphabetical

Reverse Alphabetical

Greatest to Smallest

Smallest to Greatest

Alphabetical

Reverse Alphabetical

Greatest to Smallest

Smallest to Greatest

Round (decimal places):

Disclaimer

Though every effort has been made to test this unit converter, we are not to be held liable for any special, incidental, indirect or consequential damages or monetary losses of any kind arising out of or in connection with the use of any of the converter tools and information sourced from this website. This unit converter is provided as a service to you, please use at your own risk. Do not use calculations for anything where loss of life, money, property, etc could result from inaccurate unit conversions.

For more information: please see our full disclaimer.

Sources

“Prefix.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Sept. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefix.

“Numeral prefix.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Sept. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numeral_prefix.

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