Prefixes: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Structure of the PSAT Reading Section

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 The Power of Prefixes
  • 2:27 Other Common Prefixes
  • 3:24 Using Prefixes with…
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Learn how the meanings of simple words can be changed with the addition of a prefix. Using this knowledge, you will gain the skill of quickly unlocking the meanings of more complex words.

The Power of Prefixes

Even Mrs. Brown's careful oversight couldn't prevent some of her students from causing trouble at the science fair. In hindsight, Jesse's decision to use real live dynamite in her science project, showed a lack of insight. Hopefully, next time she'll have the foresight to try a less explosive experiment.

In these three sentences, can you see how there are four words that all include 'sight' but all four of them have different beginnings? Those different beginning parts are called prefixes. Prefixes are groups of letters added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning. In these sentences, we have four prefixes attached to 'sight' - 'over,' 'hind,' 'in,' and 'fore.' 'Sight' is called the root word, the word that the prefixes are attached to. 'Sight' is a perfectly good word all on its own but you can add prefixes to it to create a whole new word that builds on the original root word.

Oversight = over + sight

Here the prefix 'over' gives you an idea of a high place. When you combine that with 'sight,' you get the idea of looking down at someone from a high place, or supervising them. So 'oversight' means watching someone to make sure they're doing what they are supposed to. Mrs. Brown was supposed to have 'oversight' for her class but she missed Jessie's volcano.

Hindsight = hind + sight

Think about the word 'behind.' 'Hind' means 'backwards,' so if you are looking backwards, you're looking into the past. For Jessie, after her volcano explodes, she's looking back into the past to say, 'hey maybe that was a bad plan after all.'

Insight = in + sight

If you think about the motion of going in, or looking in, it means that you're going closer to the center of something, so 'insight' means looking deeper into the center or seeing what's really there. That's exactly what Jessie didn't do when she decided to put dynamite in her volcano.

Foresight = fore + sight

Think about the word 'forward.' 'Fore' is motion into the future. Foresight is the opposite of hindsight; it's looking into the future to understand what's going to happen. Hopefully for Jessie's next project, she'll look into the future and think about what will happen before she tries it.

These four words are examples of how you can make completely different words by attaching different prefixes to a root word.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account