Latin Vocabulary Building Through Word Formation: Prefix re-

Preview: starting with what you know:
I. Read through the following sentences and think about the meaning of the maroon colored words. Be careful; the English prefix will lead you astray here. If you want to check (after you have read it yourself) your translation of the rest of the sentence, hold the cursor over the (translation) after the clause/sentence. After you have read the maroon words in context and think you know what they mean, you can check by holding the cursor over them. Remember, you will learn better and more (especially long term) if you practice recall and process your own thoughts before you check.

(From Vergil’s Aeneid (2.537-543) The speaker is king Priam, after he has seen his son killed by Achilles’ son, Pyrrhus.)

"praemia reddant [di] debita. (translation) . . . at non ille . . . Achilles talis . . . fuit; sed . . . corpus(que) . . . reddidit Hectoreum (translation) meque in mea regna remisit." (translation)

[For another passage with lots of re- words, see Aeneid 2.740-760, when Aeneas goes back to look for Creusa. See also the passages (excerpts below) in Ovid’s Metamorphoses X of Eurydice slipping back down and (XI) Orpheus returning to the Underworld after his death)

II. Read through the following definitions of English derivatives of Latin words and fill in the blanks with the appropriate translations of the Latin. Practicing analyzing derivatives in this way will help you practice translating Latin compound verbs and will also help you use your English in analyzing and translating unknown Latin compound verbs. Again, after you have come up with your answer, you may check by holding the cursor over the maroon words. Think about the order that you translate the parts in. (See point 5 on the introductory page).

1. To reduce a fracture is to (ducere) _________ the broken part(s) of a bone (re-) ______ into the correct position.

2.To remit payment is to (mittere) ___________ your payment (re-) ______ with the invoice to the person to whom you owe it.

3.When the tide recedes, the water (cēdit) ______ (re-) _____ into the ocean.

III. Look at the words below, and check the four that share a common prefix. Then choose the correct meaning of the prefix.

____ rediit A. again
____ regnare B. under
____ repellere C. un-
____ regredi D. back
____ rerum Answer ______
____ retegere

IV. How many of the following from the most frequent verbs can you give the meaning of?
refero (Group 3):
Aurora interea miserīs mortalibus almam extulerat lucem referrens opera atque laborēs (Verg. Aen. 11.183)
redeo (Group 4)
reddo (Group 8)
reverto (Group 8)
respicio (Group 13) (Eurydicemque suam iam tuto [adverbial] respicit Orpheus [now in the underworld again after his death] (Ov. Met. XI.66)
retineo (with vowel weakening; from what verb? answer) (Group 8)
recēdo (Group 8)(cf. II.3 above)
*revoco (Group 8)
reduco (Group 8)
*remaneo (cf. below) (Group 9)
removeo (Group 15)
*remitto (Group 8)
*repeto (Group 8)

Recap: The most common meaning of the prefix re- in Latin is "____ (something/someone) back." (If it helps, think of the song "Do(e), a dear," with "do,re . . . . that will bring us back to do." (For the origin of the musical syllables do, re, mi, etc., see Guido’s Hymn)

N.B. *The noteworthy ones of the most frequent:

*relinquo (cf. below) (Group 3)

*recipio (with reflexive, often in a military context: retreat, withdraw)(verb root?) (Group 4)

*reperio (re- + aperio, see Group 15 right above reperio) (Group 15)

*requiro (verb root?(Group 14)

*resisto (Follow the English; for the sense of "back against," cf. below; this takes a dative) (Group 16)

*respondeo (Follow the English) (Group 1)

V. Can you give the meaning of the following, which are based on most frequent verb stems? Words that are themselves among the most frequently used words have links to their regular vocabulary group section.

resono (English derivatives?)
reprimo (e.g. iracundiam; furorem)
revenio (e.g. domum; in urbem; in gratiam)
regredior (military context: also retreat, retire)
(Caesar sent out scouts.) Renuntiatum est . . . (BG I.21)

revolvo (see also next)
relabor: ([Orpheus] when almost back to the top with Eurydice: flexit amans oculos et protinus illa [Eurydice] relapsa est . . . revolutaque rursus eodem est. (Ovid Met. X.57.) (Note the inclusion of rursus)

refugo: (stag, wounded by Ascanius) nota intra tecta refugit (Verg. Aen. 7.500)
repello: (eos [= hostes] in silvas reppulerunt Caes. B.G. 3.28) (Note the order of translation)
(Sabinos cum a moenibus urbis reppulisset, Cic. Rep. 2.20.36)
re(i)icio (What verb root?)
retraho (Hannibalem in Africam Cic.) (cf. English retract)

Note how back in the following can have the sense of back again (into a previous state or position). How do you think this influenced the English? What is the difference between the sense in Latin and in English?:

recido: (What verb root?) (How does this help explain the meaning of English recidivism?)
(in eandem illam recidere fortunam Cic. Sest. 69.146)
(Syracusae in antiquam servitutem recciderunt Liv. 24.32)
Note eandem and antiquam

restituo (statuam Cic.;
Siciliam in antiquum statum Cic.;
tribunos plebis in suam dignitatem)

reficio (What verb root?) (e.g. pontem; naves; classem; templa; ea quae sunt omissa Cic.)

resurgo (e.g. amor; regna Troiae)

repleo (exhaustas domos Cic.; exercitum Liv.)


recognosco (recognosce mēcum noctem illam Cic.)
(Ov. Met. XI.62)


recurro (sol recurrens Verg.)

resumo (e.g. tabellas; arma; pugnam)

Note that in the following, the sense of back has the idea of un-, not:
retego (arcanum consilium Hor.; caecum scelus Verg.)(uncover, reveal)
recludo (What verb root?) (e.g. portas; viam; ensem) (unclose, open)
recingo (e.g. tunicas Ov.) (ungird, loosen)

Note that in the following, back can have the sense of back against: (back to resisto)
celeriter hostēs in fugam dat sīc uti . . . resisteret nemo, (Caes. BG V.51)

In some, the prefix does not seem to have a meaning, often because it is contrasted with others, i.e. the one/some remains (behind/ doing something/in a state), while others move on, stay, etc.:


*remaneo: Catulus remansit, nos ad naviculas nostras descendimus (Cic. Ac. 2.4.148) (back to remaneō above

requiesco (cf. R.I.P.: Requiescat in pacem)

* relinquo (This compound form essentially replaced the simple verb linquo, which is found mostly in Vergil and poetry, rarely in prose. Note that relinquo even came to have a prefix added: derelinquo. See more at Synonyms "leave")
(catalogue of immortal guests coming to the wedding) . . . Inde pater divum sanctā cum coniuge natisque advenit caelō,te solum, Phoebe [= Artemis] relinquens, . . . (Cat. 64.298-299)