Etymology
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atto- 

word-forming element meaning "one quintillionth," 1962, from Danish atten "eighteen" (a quintillion is 10 to the 18th power), related to Old English eahtatene (see eighteen).

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nano- 

introduced 1947 (at 14th conference of the Union Internationale de Chimie) as a prefix for units of one thousand-millionth part (now "one-billionth"), from Greek nanos "a dwarf." According to Watkins, this is originally "little old man," from nannos "uncle," masc. of nanna "aunt" (see nana), but Beekes calls it "An onomatopoeic word of unknown origin." Earlier nano- was used as a prefix to mean "dwarf, dwarfish," and still it is used in a non-scientific sense of "very small."

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anti- 

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).

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em- 

word-forming element meaning "put in or into, bring to a certain state," sometimes intensive, from French assimilation of en- "in, into" (see en- (1)) to following labial stop (-b-, -p-, and often -m-), or from the same development in later Latin in- (to im-). "This rule was not fully established in spelling before the 17th c." [OED], but it is likely the pronunciation shift was in Old French and Middle English and spelling was slow to conform. Also a living prefix in English used to form verbs from adjectives and nouns (embitter, embody). In words such as emancipate, emerge, emit, emotion the e- is a reduced form of Latin ex- (see ex-) before -m-.

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deci- 

in the metric system, word-forming element denoting one-tenth of the standard unit of measure, 1801, from French deci-, taken arbitrarily from Latin decimus "tenth," from decem "ten" (from PIE root *dekm- "ten").

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a- (3)

prefix meaning "not, without," from Greek a-, an- "not" (the "alpha privative"), from PIE root *ne- "not" (source also of English un-).

In words from Greek, such as abysmal, adamant, amethyst; also partly nativized as a prefix of negation (asexual, amoral, agnostic). The ancient alpha privatum, denoting want or absence.

Greek also had an alpha copulativum, a- or ha-, expressing union or likeness, which is the a- expressing "together" in acolyte, acoustic, Adelphi, etc. It is from PIE root *sem- (1) "one; as one, together with."

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un- (1)

prefix of negation, Old English un-, from Proto-Germanic *un- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German, German un-, Gothic un-, Dutch on-), from PIE *n- (source of Sanskrit a-, an- "not," Greek a-, an-, Old Irish an-, Latin in-), combining form of PIE root *ne- "not." Often euphemistic (such as untruth for "lie").

The most prolific of English prefixes, freely and widely used in Old English, where it forms more than 1,000 compounds. It underwent a mass extinction in early Middle English, but emerged with renewed vigor 16c. to form compounds with native and imported words. It disputes with Latin-derived cognate in- (1) the right to form the negation of certain words (indigestable/undigestable, etc.), and though both might be deployed in cooperation to indicate shades of meaning (unfamous/infamous), typically they are not.

It also makes words from phrases (such as uncalled-for, c. 1600; undreamed-of, 1630s; uncome-at-able, 1690s; unputdownable, 1947, of a book; un-in-one-breath-utterable, Ben Jonson; etc., but the habit is not restricted to un-; such as put-up-able-with, 1812). As a prefix in telegramese to replace not and save the cost of a word, it is attested by 1936.

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cata- 

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.

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non- 

a prefix used freely in English and meaning "not, lack of," or "sham," giving a negative sense to any word, 14c., from Anglo-French noun-, from Old French non-, from Latin non "not, by no means, not at all, not a," from Old Latin noenum "not one" (*ne oinom, from PIE root *ne- "not" + PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique"). In some cases perhaps from Middle English non "not" (adj.), from Old English nan (see not). "It differs from un- in that it denotes mere negation or absence of the thing or quality, while un- often denotes the opposite of the thing or quality" [Century Dictionary].

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pyro- 

before vowels pyr-, word-forming element form meaning "fire," from Greek pyr (genitive pyros) "fire, funeral fire," also symbolic of terrible things, rages, "rarely as an image of warmth and comfort" [Liddell & Scott], from PIE root *paewr- "fire." Pyriphlegethon, literally "fire-blazing," was one of the rivers of Hell.

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