• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
Nominal prefixes

Quite a number of prefixes are found in nouns. Usually, the basis is a noun as well, that is, most nominal prefixation is category-neutral, an exception is nominal ge- as in gehuilcrying that takes a verb (huilento cry) as input. Haeseryn (1997: 643) distinguish native and non-native prefixes, with a sometimes different distribution: native prefixes such as amplifying aarts- and negative on- typically prefer native bases, whereas non-native ones such as contra- and pre- are found mostly with non-native bases. Certain non-native prefixes such as ex-, extra- and super- are moving towards native status as they become common with native bases as well, as in ex-manex-husband, extra-voordeeladditional benefirt and superzaaksuperstore. Many prefixes that are found in complex nouns combine with bases of other categories as well.


On the basis of a mix of criteria, we can distinguish various subclasses of nominal prefixes (cf. also Haeseryn (1997: 644 ff); note that various prefixes occur in more than one category):

[+] The negative prefixes on-, niet- and non-

The negative prefixes on- (as in ontrouwinfidility < trouwfidelity and onmensfiend < mensman), niet- (as in niet-rokernon-smoker) and non- (as in non-interventionnon-intervention and non-informatieuseless information have a negative semantics.

[+] The prefixes wan- and mis-

The prefix wan- (as in wansmaakbad taste < smaaktaste) expresses a negative evaluation. The element mis- (as in misdaadcrime < daaddeed, act) can be analyzed along the same lines.

[+] Amplifying prefixes like aarts-, hyper-, super- and ultra-

Prefixes such as aarts- (as in aartsleugenaarterrible liar), hyper- (as in hypercorrectiehypercorrection), super- (as in superstersuperstar) and ultra- (as in ultramicroscoopultramicroscope) have an amplifying semantics; the same holds for prefixes such as mega- and giga-

[+] The prefixes anti-, contra- and pro-

The prefixes anti- (as in antifascistantifascist, opponent of fascism) and contra- (as in contrarevolutiecounter-revolution) are found in nouns that express a negative stance or action towards something or someone, whereas pro- expresses a positive attitude.

[+] The prefixes aarts-, loco-, opper-, sub-, super- and vice-

The prefixes aarts- (as in aartsbisschoparchbishop), loco- (as in locoburgemeesterdeputy mayor), opper- (as in opperbevelhebbercommander in chief), sub- (as in subdiakensub-dean), super- (as in superarbitermain referee) and vice- (as in vice-admiraalvice admiral) are found in personal nouns; they usually denote a certain rank; in this use the prefixes compete with the process of nominal composition with an adverbial or prepositional left-hand part, as in bovenmeesterabove.masterhead-teacher and onderdirecteurunder.directorsubdirector (ANS).

[+] The prefixes ex- and oud-

The prefixes ex- and oud- usually combine with personal nouns, expressing that the referent used to have the position denoted by the base: ex-burgemeesterformer mayor, oud-verpleegkundigeformer nurse.

[+] The prefix ge-

The prefix ge- forms neuter abstract nouns on the bases of verbal stems, e.g. geblafbarking < blaffento bark; quite often, the words are somewhat pejorative. There also some ge- derivations with a more concrete meaning, e.g. gebouwbuilding.

[+] The prefix her-

There are a few forms in which her- combines with (deverbal) nouns to form nouns, such as heruitgavereprint (cf. uitgaveedition < uitgevento publish), herkomstorigin (cf. komstcoming, arrival < komento come) and herbewapeningrearmament. Most nouns with the prefix, however, are best analyzed as nominalizations of verbs with verbal her-.

[+] The prefix oer-

The prefix oer- is found in nouns that denote first in its class or the original, e.g. oerbosprimeval forest and oertekstoriginal text.

[+] Other prefixes of foreign origin

There are many more prefixes and prefix-like elements of foreign origin found in Dutch words, e.g.

  • co- and its allomorphs col-, com-, con- and cor- (co-auteurco-author, colloquiumcolloquium, commissiecommission, committee, conrectorvice-principal, correlatiecorrelation), inter- (interfaculteitinterfaculty), post- (postconcentratiekampsyndroompost concentration camp syndrome) and pre- (pre-adviespre-advice) can be traced back to Latin prepositions. The formations mentioned are comparable to nominal compounds with an adverbial left-hand part like mede-auteurco-author, tussenoplossingbetween.solutioninterim solution, naverbranderafterburner and voorwoordbefore.wordpreface.
  • Many Greek and Latin bound forms that are somewhere in the grey area between parts of (non-native) compounds (cf. here) and prefixes (cf. Meesters (2004)). Haeseryn (1997: mention auto (self) as in autobiografieautobiography, bio- (life) as in biotechnologiebiotechnology, eco- (< ecologieecology) as in ecostroomsustainable electricity, Euro- as in EuroparlementEuropean parliament, macro-large as in macro-economiemacro-economics and macrofotografiemacrophotography, mega-very large as in megabioscoopvery large cinema and Megahertzmillion cycles per second, micro (very small) as in microkredietmicrocredit and micrometerone millionth of a meter, neo (new) as in neorealismeneorealism, pseudo as in pseudowetenschapperpseudoscientist, psycho-soul- (< psychologiepsychology) as in psychodramapsychological drama, socio- (< sociologiesociology) as in sociotherapiesocial therapy, tele- (far) as in telewerkenteleworking, and amplifying turbo- (< turbine) as in turbokoeextremely productive cow, possibly the result of genetic manipulation.

  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Meesters, Gert2004Marginale morfologie in het Nederlands. Paradigmatische samenstellingen, neo-klassieke composita en splintercompositaGentKoninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde
Suggestions for further reading ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
  • Adjectival prefixes
    [76%] Dutch > Morphology > Word formation > Derivation > Adjectives
  • wan-
    [75%] Dutch > Morphology > Word formation > Derivation > Nouns > Nominal prefixes
  • -ij and allomorphs
    [74%] Dutch > Morphology > Word formation > Derivation > Nouns > Nominal suffixes
  • -aal and -eel
    [73%] Dutch > Morphology > Word formation > Derivation > Nouns > Nominal suffixes
  • -ist
    [72%] Dutch > Morphology > Word formation > Derivation > Nouns > Nominal suffixes
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼