In addition to their (usual) meanings as prepositions, many common prefixes ad-, com-, de-, ex-, re-, etc... serve as intensive prefixes; but for a given verb, what governed or influenced or selected the prefix used? Was a prefix chosen randomly?

Please answer this question without loss of generality, but to exemplify, why's ab- the intensive prefix in absurdus?

1 Answer 1


Between languages, there can be some variation of such prefixed prepositions in verbs, but they usually reflect spatial metaphors and other systems of metaphors that partly structure human thought.

A great classic book to start with on this subject is Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. This book can help make sense of phrases in English, like the "up" in "what's up" or the "over" in "oversee." I am sure it can also provide insights into metaphors at work in the prepositional prefixes in Latin verbs, nouns, and adjectives. For instance the "ab" in "absurdus" or "abnegare" can be interpreted as conveying the sense of rejection (compare to physically pushing something away ("ab")).

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