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5.24: The Meaning of Mis-

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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The Meaning of Mis-

1. The prefix mis- can mean different things, but it always means something negative or bad. Most of the time it means one of these three things:

“Bad or badly” as in mistreat. If you mistreat people, you treat them badly.

“Lack of, failure to” as in misfire. If a gun misfires, it fails to fire.

“Mistakenly, incorrectly” as in misread. If you misread a sign, you read it incorrectly.

2. Here are twelve mis- words:

\begin{align*}& \text{misread} && \text{mismatch} && \text{misunderstand} && \text{mislaid} \\ & \text{misspell} && \text{misdeeds} && \text{mismanage} && \text{miscues} \\ & \text{mistrust} && \text{mislead} && \text{misquote} && \text{mistreat}\end{align*}

Think about what each word means and compare that meaning with the meaning of the free stem that remains when you take away the mis-. Then sort the twelve words into the three groups below.

We've given you a few extra lines because sometimes you might feel that a certain word could go into more than one group. That's okay. If you don't have all the blanks filled in, don't worry about it. And if you decide that you need more blanks than we've given you in a group, just add them. Be ready to talk about your choices:

Words in which mis- means . . .
“Bad, badly” “Lack of, failure of” “Mistakenly, incorrectly”

3. Why do you think a mistake is called a mistake? ______________________________


4. Mis- is the prefix in the word mischief. The free stem is chief, which comes from an old French word that meant “head” and is also the source of chef, “head cook.” The French source of the word mischief meant “to come to a head badly or mistakenly.” So mischief originally meant behavior that would cause things to turn out badly.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Jan 16, 2015
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