Prefixes: Definition & Examples

Prefixes: Definition & Examples
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  • 0:01 The Power of Prefixes
  • 2:27 Other Common Prefixes
  • 3:24 Using Prefixes with…
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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.

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