word-forming element used in making names for very small units of measure, 1915 (formally adopted as a scientific prefix meaning "one trillionth" by the International System of Units, 1960), from Spanish pico "a little over, a small balance," literally "sharp point, beak," a word of Celtic origin (compare Gaulish beccus "beak").
before vowels tel-, word-forming element meaning "far, far off, operating over distance" (also, since c. 1940, "television"), from Greek tele "far off, afar, at or to a distance," related to teleos (genitive telos) "end, goal, completion, result," from PIE root *kwel- (2) "far" in space or time.
word-forming element meaning "beyond" (ultraviolet) or "extremely" (ultramodern), from Latin ultra- from ultra (adv. and prep.) "beyond, on the other side, on the farther side, past, over, across," from PIE *ol-tero-, suffixed form of root *al- "beyond." In common use from early 19c., it appears to have arisen from French political designations. As its own word, a noun meaning "extremist" of various stripes, it is first recorded 1817, from French ultra, shortening of ultra-royaliste "extreme royalist."
word-forming element of Greek origin meaning "against, opposed to, opposite of, instead," shortened to ant- before vowels and -h-, from Old French anti- and directly from Latin anti-, from Greek anti (prep.) "over, against, opposite; instead, in the place of; as good as; at the price of; for the sake of; compared with; in opposition to; in return; counter-," from PIE *anti "against," also "in front of, before" (from root *ant- "front, forehead," with derivatives meaning "in front of, before"), which became anti- in Italian (hence antipasto) and French.
It is cognate with Sanskrit anti "over, against," and Old English and- (the first element in answer). A common compounding element in Greek, in some combinations it became anth- for euphonic reasons. It appears in some words in Middle English but was not commonly used in English word formations until modern times. In a few English words (anticipate, antique) it represents Latin ante.
In noun compounds where it has the sense of "opposed to, opposite" (Antichrist, anti-communist) the accent remains on the anti-; in adjectives where it retains its old prepositional sense "against, opposed to," the accent remains on the other element (anti-Christian, anti-slavery).
word-forming element meaning "down, downward," but also "through, on, against, concerning," etc., from Latinized form of Greek kata-, before vowels kat-, from kata "down, downward, down from, down to," from PIE *kmt- "down, with, along" (source also of Hittite kattan (adv.) "below, underneath," katta "along with"). Occasionally in Greek it had senses of "against" (catapult) or "wrongly" (catachresis), also "along, through, over, across, concerning." Also sometimes used as an intensive or with a sense of completion of action (catalogue). Very active in ancient Greek, this prefix is found in English mostly in words borrowed through Latin after c. 1500.
Also used with native and imported elements to form verbs from nouns and adjectives, with a sense "put in or on" (encircle), also "cause to be, make into" (endear), and used as an intensive (enclose). Spelling variants in French that were brought over into Middle English account for parallels such as ensure/insure, and most en- words in English had at one time or another a variant in in-, and vice versa.
word-forming element meaning "bad, ill; hard, difficult; abnormal, imperfect," from Greek dys-, inseparable prefix "destroying the good sense of a word or increasing its bad sense" [Liddell & Scott], hence "bad, hard, unlucky," from PIE root (and prefix) *dus- "bad, ill, evil" (source also of Sanskrit dus-, Old Persian duš- "ill," Old English to-, Old High German zur-, Gothic tuz- "un-"), a derivative of the root *deu- (1) "to lack, be wanting" (source of Greek dein "to lack, want").
Very productive in ancient Greek, where it could attach even to proper names (such as dysparis "unhappy Paris"); its entries take up nine columns in Liddell & Scott. Among the words formed from it were some English might covet: dysouristos "fatally favorable, driven by a too-favorable wind;" dysadelphos "unhappy in one's brothers;" dysagres "unlucky in fishing;" dysantiblepos "hard to look in the face."
before a vowel, anthrop-, word-forming element meaning "pertaining to man or human beings," from Greek anthrōpos "man; human being" (including women), as opposed to the gods, from andra (genitive andros), Attic form of Greek anēr "man" (as opposed to a woman, a god, or a boy), from PIE root *ner- (2) "man," also "vigorous, vital, strong."
Anthropos sometimes is explained as a compound of anēr and ops (genitive opos) "eye, face;" so literally "he who has the face of a man." The change of -d- to -th- is difficult to explain; perhaps it is from some lost dialectal variant, or the mistaken belief that there was an aspiration sign over the vowel in the second element (as though *-dhropo-), which mistake might have come about by influence of common verbs such as horao "to see." But Beekes writes, "As no IE explanation has been found, the word is probably of substrate origin."
word-forming element expressing direction toward or in addition to, from Latin ad "to, toward" in space or time; "with regard to, in relation to," as a prefix, sometimes merely emphatic, from PIE root *ad- "to, near, at."
Simplified to a- before sc-, sp- and st-; modified to ac- before many consonants and then re-spelled af-, ag-, al-, etc., in conformity with the following consonant (as in affection, aggression). Also compare ap- (1).
In Old French, reduced to a- in all cases (an evolution already underway in Merovingian Latin), but written forms in French were refashioned after Latin in 14c. and English did likewise 15c. in words it had picked up from Old French. In many cases pronunciation followed the shift. Over-correction at the end of the Middle Ages in French and then English "restored" the -d- or a doubled consonant to some words that never had it (accursed, afford). The process went further in England than in France, where the vernacular sometimes resisted the pedantic, resulting in English adjourn, advance, address, advertisement (Modern French ajourner, avancer, adresser, avertissement). In modern word-formation sometimes ad- and ab- are regarded as opposites, but this was not in classical Latin.