• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
Adjectival prefixes

Quite a number of prefixes are found in adjectives. Usually, the basis is either an adjective or a participle used as an adjective, that is, most adjectival prefixation is category-neutral. Smessaert (2013: 65) distinguishes three classes of adjectival prefixes: negative, amplifying and classical, but not all fit in equally easily, and prefixes like non- are both negative and classical. The native negative prefix is on-, as in ondiep un.deep shallow; the most important non-native one is in- and its allomorphs, as in intransitief intransitive and irreëel unreal. Amplifying adjectival prefixes include native aarts- as in aartslui arch.lazy extremely lazy and non-native super- as in superziek super.ill extremely ill; a boundary category is fourmed by affixoids such as steen- stone and spin- spider that have an amplifying meaning when combined with specific adjectives in so-called elative compounds such as steengoed stone-good very good and spinnijdig spider-angry very angry. The classical prefixes, finally, belong to the realm of neoclassical wordformation and combine mostly with non-native words and bound forms; an example is extra- in extramuraal extramural, where *muraal is not an existing word in Dutch. Many prefixes that are found in complex adjectives combine with bases of other categories as well.


There are two native negative adjectival prefixes in Dutch, and a few non-native ones. In addition, there are also a few prefix-like elements that are not negative in the logical sense but that have a semantics which is related to negation:

  • native on- as in oneffen uneven and onacceptabel inacceptable.
  • native niet as in niet-ontvankelijk inadmissible.
  • native wan- as in wanordelijk unorderly.
  • non-native a- and an- as in atonaal atonal and anisotroop anisotropic.
  • non-native in- and its allomorphs as in incongruent incongruent, irrationeel irrational, immoreel immoral and illegaal illegal.
  • non-native non- as in non-figuratief non-figurative.
Prefixes with a meaning related to negation include
  • native namaak- fake, nep- fake and wan- bad and non-native pseudo-
  • non-native (international) prefixes such as anti-, contra- and extra-

    anti- ( against), contra- ( counter) and extra- ( outside) attach to adjectives (anti-autoritair anti-authoritarian, contraproductief counterproductive, extraterritoriaal extraterritorial) but semantically the prefix appears to scope over the underlying noun: anti-autoritair anti-authoritarian does not mean against authoritarian but rather being against authority. anti- also combines with nouns. The result is either a noun (antiheld anti-hero) or a predicative adjective (antikernbom anti nuclear bomb against nuclear weapons) that does not inflect (cf. its antonympro-). anti- can be used recursively: an anti-antiraketraketraket is a missile against missiles against missiles. contra- combines with nouns as well (contraspionage counterespionage); the same holds for extra- but then the semantics is different: a extraspeler is an additional player.

The most important native amplifying prefixes are
  • aarts as in aartslui extremely lazy
  • aller- that only combines with superlative forms, as in zij is de allerleukste she is the aller.funniest she is the funniest of all
  • in- as in intriest very sad and in- en intriest extremely sad
  • oer- as in oerlelijk very ugly
These prefixes compete among other things with the process of elative compounding (e.g. reuzetrots giant.proud very proud).

The most important non-native amplifying prefixes are

  • giga- as in gigadronken extremely drunk
  • hyper- as in hyperactief hyperactive
  • mega- as in megazwaar extremely heavy
  • super- as in superzelfverzekerd extremely self-confident
  • ultra- as in ultraliberaal ultra-liberal.

  • Smessaert, Hans2013Basisbegrippen morfologieBasisbegrippen taalkundeLeuven/Den HaagACCO
printreport errorcite