Making New Words – Prefixes and Compound Words

Making new words in English can be done by a number of ways. Here we talk about prefixes and about compound words.


1 Prefixes

There are many prefixes in English. The nice thing is that you don’t need to know all the individual words that you can make with prefixes. In many cases it’s enough if you know the meaning of the prefix. Knowing that, you can usually figure out the meaning of the word.

Example: re. Meaning: again.

With re and new you can make renew.

Other words with re are: reread, review, rebuild, and replace.

We’ll mention two other prefixes, just to give you some idea:

Ex. Meaning: former. Examples: ex-husband, ex-girlfriend, ex-student.

Ex can also mean: out of. Examples: exhale, expel, extend.

In. Meaning: not. This prefix can also appear as un, im, ir, or il. Examples: insensitive, unfair, impatient, irreligious, and illegal.

We’ll talk about the rules of this some other time.

Note: many prefixes in English come from Latin or Greek. Latin and Greek are also a basis for many other languages. That’s why words in languages that are very different from English, for instance Russian, Romanian, or Portuguese, can sound remarkably similar, and even have the same meaning!

2 Compound words

Compound words are words that are made by combining two words. In English there are closed compound words such as doorman, open compound words such as travel guide, and compound words that are combined by a hyphen: red-haired.

It’s impossible to give you any rules for when to know when a compound word needs to be spelled as two separate words, or together. However, there seem to be many adjectives that take a hyphen. Examples of this are: blue-eyed, well-spoken, clean-kept, and thick-headed.

In case you’re not sure, consult a dictionary.


Are the following compound words open, closed, or connected by a hyphen?

1 Health & center

2 CD & player

3 Comic & book

4 Dash & board

5 Horse & power

6 Sun & rise

7 Flower & bed

8 Far & sighted

9 Well & being

10 High & speed & train

For the answers: scroll down.







1 Health center

2 CD-player

3 Comic book

4 Dashboard

5 Horsepower

6 Sunrise

7 Flower bed

8 Far-sighted

9 Well-being

10 High-speed train


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