Giving un- prefix reverse the meaning of the word come after. undo/do, unfair/fair, undying/dying.
I wonder how does these prefixes below modify the original words. Do they have any pattern?

  • Be- bewitch, beknow, befall, behold, befriend, begone, ...
  • A- amiss, amass, arise, atop, afar, amid, alight, abash, await, ...
  • Pro- proactive, provoke, ...
  • be- can be an intensifier or a privative or a locative. a- can express change-of-state or change-of-location, or intention/purpose, or act as an intensifier. pro- has the locative sense of "forth" or "forward" or "ahead" which can be used figuratively; compare "provide" and "look out" for someone.
    – TimR
    Mar 27, 2017 at 11:55
  • English words can often be divided into "prefixes" and "suffixes", each of which does have meaning. See SovereignSun's excellent answer for details on these three, but there are many, many others. This should be part of any English language instruction, though.
    – Andrew
    Mar 27, 2017 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


The Be- prefix

The Be- prefix has a few common implications and they are:

  • to surround completely; cover on all sides. (Befog)
  • to affect completely or excessively. (Bedazzle)
  • to consider as or cause to be. (Befool, befriend)
  • to provide or cover with, wearing (in adjectives ending in -ed). (Bejewel)
  • to make or treat somebody/something as (in verbs). (Belittle)
  • to cause something to be ((in verbs and adjectives ending in -ed). (Besieged, Becalmed)
  • used to turn intransitive verbs (= without an object) into transitive verbs (= with an object). (Bemoan)
  • around, on all sides, by. (Beside, Between, Belay, Besit)
  • to intensify adjectives and verbs. (Beloved, Befeathered, Beclawed, Behate)
  • abundantly, all over. (Bekiss)
  • to forms adjectives from nouns, with the sense "having + noun". (Behearted, Beloved)


  • To turn into, to change, produce. (Bewitch, Beget)

There are a few good examples with be- prefix on ELU.

The A- prefix

A- prefix is reduced form of the Old English preposition on, meaning “on,” “in,” “into,” “to,” “toward,” preserved before a noun in a prepositional phrase, forming a predicate adjective or an adverbial element ( afoot; abed; ashore; aside; away), or before an adjective ( afar; aloud; alow), as a moribund prefix with a verb ( acknowledge), and in archaic and dialectal use before a present participle in -ing (set the bells aringing); and added to a verb stem with the force of a present participle ( ablaze; agape; aglow; astride; and originally, awry).

"A-" prefix mostly means:

  • shortening of in/on/at. (Asail, Abed, Ahead)
  • not referring to an act as a whole, but only to the beginning or end. (Arise, Abide)
  • before a consonant means "without","opposite to","like". (Achromatic, Amoral, Atonal)
  • a reduced form of the Old English prepositions of and from. (Anew, Afresh)
  • in the condition or state of. (Asleep, Await, Alive)
  • "on", "in", "towards". (Abed, Aground, Aback, Afoot)
  • literal or archaic (in the act or process of). (a-running, a-hunting)
  • atomic usage. (A-bomb, A-plant)

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary also states:

A prefix meaning "without" or "not" when forming an adjective (such as amorphous, without form, or atypical, not typical), and "absence of" when forming a noun (such as arrhythmia, absence of rhythm). Before a vowel or h it becomes an- (as in anhydrous, anoxia).

Different dictionaries state that there are "a-" prefixes one of which comes from Greek and the others from Old English and Latin.

The Pro- prefix

This prefix has both Greek and Latin roots.

  • indicating favor for some party, system, idea, etc., without identity with the group. (Pro-communist, Pro-slavery)
  • a prefix of priority in space or time having especially a meaning of advancing or projecting forward or outward, and also used to indicate substitution, attached widely to stems not used as words. (Provision, Prologue, Produce, Protract)
  • acting as a substitute for. (Pronoun)
  • forward and/or out. (Project)
  • forward and down. (Prostrate)
  • away from a place. (Prodigal)
  • onward in time or space (word-forming element meaning "forward, forth, toward the front"). (Proceed)
  • extension outwards. (Propagate)
  • on behalf of (taking care of). (Procure)
  • intensive force. (Promiscuous)
  • before in time or position, anterior, prior to. (Prophase, Procephalic, Prognathous, Progenitor)
  • beforehand, in advance. (Provide)
  • rudimentary. (Pronucleus)
  • pro is a latin preposition and, like all prepositions in any language, it has lots of meanings: translate.google.com/#la/en/pro. Most of the english prefix usages match these meanings.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 27, 2017 at 18:04
  • @JavaLatte Yeh, i found it later, forgot to add that. Mar 27, 2017 at 18:13

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