before vowels actin-, word-forming element meaning "pertaining to rays," from Latinized form of Greek aktis (genitive aktinos) "ray of light, beam of light; spoke of a wheel;" a word of unknown etymology. It is perhaps cognate with Sanskrit aktuh "light, ray," Gothic uhtwo "dawn, daybreak," Lithuanian anksti "early" [Beekes].
before vowels xyl-, word forming element meaning "wood," from Greek xylon "wood cut and ready for use, firewood, timber; piece of wood; stocks, a plank, beam, or bench," in New Testament, "the Cross," a word of uncertain origin. It seems to correspond with Lithuanian šulas "post, pole, stave," Russian šulo "garden-pole," Serbo-Croatian šulj "block," Old High German sul "style, pole," Gothic sauls "pillar," but the exact relationship is unclear, and Beekes asks, "Was the word taken from a non-IE substrate language?"
word-forming element meaning "cold, characterized by cold, capable of enduring low temperatures," from Latinized form of Greek psykhros "cold," from psykhrein "blow, make cool or cold," which is perhaps from the same root as yielded psyche.
consonant cluster at the head of some words; the -g- formerly was pronounced. Found in words from Old English (gnat, gnaw), in Low German, and Scandinavian as a variant of kn- (gneiss), in Latin and Greek (gnomon, gnostic) and representing sounds in non-Indo-European languages (gnu).
word-forming element meaning "below, beneath," from Latin infra (adverb and preposition) "below, underneath, on the under side, beneath," also "later than; smaller than; inferior to," related to infernus "low, below," from PIE *ndher "under" (source also of Sanskrit adnah "below," Old English under "under, among;" see under). Modern popular use of it dates from the 1920s, as an opposite to super-, often in science fiction. "This use of infra- is scarcely a Latin one" [OED].
Old English steop-, with connotations of "loss," in combinations like steopcild "orphan," related to astiepan, bestiepan "to bereave, to deprive of parents or children," from Proto-Germanic *steupa- "bereft" (source also of Old Frisian stiap-, Old Norse stjup-, Swedish styv-, Middle Low German stef-, Dutch stief-, Old High German stiof-, German stief-), literally "pushed out," from PIE *steup-, from root *(s)teu- (1) "to push, stick, knock," with derivatives referring to fragments (see steep (adj.)). Barnhart suggests the forms in -f- are by assimilation of the first sound in following words for "father."
Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan, but the notion of orphanage faded in 20c. and came to denote simply relation through marriage. For sense evolution, compare Latin privignus "stepson," related to privus "deprived." Compare orphan (n.).