before vowels gon-, word-forming element from Greek gonos "seed, that which engenders," from PIE *gon-o-, suffixed form of root *gene- "give birth, beget."
prefix of Germanic origin affixed to nouns and verbs and meaning "bad, wrong," from Old English mis-, from Proto-Germanic *missa- "divergent, astray" (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon mis-, Middle Dutch misse-, Old High German missa-, German miß-, Old Norse mis-, Gothic missa-), perhaps literally "in a changed manner," and with a root sense of "difference, change" (compare Gothic misso "mutually"), and thus possibly from PIE *mit-to-, from root *mei- (1) "to change."
Productive as word-forming element in Old English (as in mislæran "to give bad advice, teach amiss"). In 14c.-16c. in a few verbs its sense began to be felt as "unfavorably," and it came to be used as an intensive prefix with words already expressing negative feeling (as in misdoubt). Practically a separate word in Old and early Middle English (and often written as such). Old English also had an adjective (mislic "diverse, unlike, various") and an adverb (mislice "in various directions, wrongly, astray") derived from it, corresponding to German misslich (adj.). It has become confused with mis- (2).
Middle English spelling of a common Germanic consonant-cluster (in Old English it was graphed as cn-; see K). The sound it represented persists in most of the sister languages, but in English it was reduced to "n-" in standard pronunciation by 1750, after about a century of weakening and fading. It was fully voiced in Old and Middle English.
because g- followed by some vowels in English usually has a "soft" pronunciation, a silent -u- sometimes was inserted between the g- and the vowel in Middle English to signal hardness, especially in words from French; but this was not done with many Scandinavian words where hard "g" precedes a vowel (gear, get, give, etc.). Germanic -w- generally became -gu- in words borrowed into Romance languages, but Old North French preserved the Frankish -w-, and English sometimes borrowed both forms, hence guarantee/warranty, guard/ward, etc.
word-forming element usually meaning "with, together," from Latin com, archaic form of classical Latin cum "together, together with, in combination," from PIE *kom- "beside, near, by, with" (compare Old English ge-, German ge-). The prefix in Latin sometimes was used as an intensive.
Before vowels and aspirates, it is reduced to co-; before -g-, it is assimilated to cog- or con-; before -l-, assimilated to col-; before -r-, assimilated to cor-; before -c-, -d-, -j-, -n-, -q-, -s-, -t-, and -v-, it is assimilated to con-, which was so frequent that it often was used as the normal form.
word-forming element meaning "back, back from, back to the original place;" also "again, anew, once more," also conveying the notion of "undoing" or "backward," etc. (see sense evolution below), c. 1200, from Old French re- and directly from Latin re- an inseparable prefix meaning "again; back; anew, against."
Watkins (2000) describes this as a "Latin combining form conceivably from Indo-European *wret-, metathetical variant of *wert- "to turn." De Vaan says the "only acceptable etymology" for it is a 2004 explanation which reconstructs a root in PIE *ure "back."
In earliest Latin the prefix became red- before vowels and h-, a form preserved in redact, redeem, redolent, redundant, redintegrate, and, in disguise, render (v.). In some English words from French and Italian re- appears as ra- and the following consonant is often doubled (see rally (v.1)).
The many meanings in the notion of "back" give re- its broad sense-range: "a turning back; opposition; restoration to a former state; "transition to an opposite state." From the extended senses in "again," re- becomes "repetition of an action," and in this sense it is extremely common as a formative element in English, applicable to any verb. OED writes that it is "impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use," and adds that "The number of these is practically infinite ...."
Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is forgotten, lost in secondary senses, or weakened beyond recognition, so that it has no apparent semantic content (receive, recommend, recover, reduce, recreate, refer, religion, remain, request, require). There seem to have been more such words in Middle English than after, e.g. recomfort (v.) "to comfort, console; encourage;" recourse (n.) "a process, way, course." Recover in Middle English also could mean "obtain, win" (happiness, a kingdom, etc.) with no notion of getting something back, also "gain the upper hand, overcome; arrive at;" also consider the legal sense of recovery as "obtain (property) by judgment or legal proceedings."
And, due to sound changes and accent shifts, re- sometimes entirely loses its identity as a prefix (rebel, relic, remnant, restive, rest (n.2) "remainder," rally (v.1) "bring together"). In a few words it is reduced to r-, as in ransom (a doublet of redemption), rampart, etc.
Prefixed to a word beginning with e, re- is separated by a hyphen, as re-establish, re-estate, re-edify, etc. ; or else the second e has a dieresis over it: as, reëstablish, reëmbark, etc. The hyphen is also sometimes used to bring out emphatically the sense of repetition or iteration : as, sung and re-sung. The dieresis is not used over other vowels than e when re is prefixed : thus, reinforce, reunite, reabolish. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
consonant cluster that can represent five distinct sounds in English; it first was used by Middle English writers to render Old English sc-, a sound now generally pronounced (and spelled) "-sh-." Sometimes it was miswritten for ch. It also was taken in from German (schnapps) and Yiddish (schlemiel). In words derived from classical languages (school (n.1)), it represents Latin sch-, Greek skh-, but in some of these words the spelling is a restoration and the pronunciation does not follow it (as in schism; Middle English sisme, cisme).
The Yiddish words with it, often derisive or dismissive, tended to come into 20c. American English. In addition to those with entries here, Saul Bellow used schmegeggy, "Portnoy's Complaint" has schmatte "a ragged garment;" schmeck "a sniff" figures in heroin jargon, and schmutz "dirt, filth" has been used. Directly to English from German also are some specialized words: Schmelz "enamel," schmerz "grief, pain, sorrow,"
before vowels cac-, word-forming element meaning "bad, ill, poor" (as in cacography, the opposite of calligraphy and orthography), from Latinized form of Greek kakos "bad, evil," considered by etymologists probably to be connected with PIE root *kakka- "to defecate." The ancient Greek word was common in compounds; when added to words already bad, it made them worse; when added to words signifying something good, it often implies too little of it.
word-forming element referring to the environment and man's relation to it, abstracted from ecology, ecological; attested from 1969.