Learn English    

Common English Prefixes

April 20th, 2010

English has many interesting mechanics for an English language student to use for easier memory and understanding of English words. Many of the words in the English language are actually made of more than one part. Many of these parts are historically documented as having originated in other languages. Knowing what some of these smaller words mean can help a student understand a larger word that begins with the smaller word. The beginning of a word is known in English as a prefix. Here are some common English prefixes and an explanation of each so that you can better understand new words without a dictionary. It should be noted that a dictionary is always good to reference, even when the parts of a word are understood.


One common example is the prefix “Uni” that is used in many English words. The word is Latin for “One” and essentially is present in words representing an indivisible whole. Here are some of the words “Uni” is used in and also their meanings. “Unity” is a state of indivisible togetherness. “Unison” is singing together in perfect harmony. “Uniform” means that a form is always the same and this is why identical clothing worn by many people in an organization is called a uniform.


Some prefixes are actually a commonly used English word. Here is another prefix used in many common English words. “Act” is a prefix that basically means “to do”, just as the word “Act” when it is used in a normal sentence. Here are some of the words the prefix “Act” is used in and also their meanings. An “Activity” is something to do. “Activity” can also be used when saying that something is happening or being done. “Action” is a word that means doing something. “Activation” means to enable the possibility to do.


“Auto” is a prefix that essentially means “self.” This is used as a prefix in words for things that are able to be complete by themselves. Here are some words “Auto” is used in and also their meanings. “Automatic” is a word that means something happens without anyone doing something. “Automobile” is a vehicle that moves along without needing to be pulled by a horse. “Autopilot” is a mode in which a plane can fly without a pilot. An “Autobiography” is a biography (story about a person) that is written by the person it is about. See how much easier understanding words can be when you know what the parts mean?


The prefix “Bene” is used in many English words and essentially means good or positive. Here are some of the common words using the prefix “Bene.” “Benefit” is a word meaning a positive gain or improvement. It can also be used as a word for an event raising funds for an organization, such as a charity. “Benefactor” is a person or organization that gives positive support to another person or organization. “Beneficial” is an adjective describing something that provides a good improvement.

Hopefully this introduction to some of the common prefixes of English words has helped you to better understand new English words you may find along the way.