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5.24: The Meaning of Mis-

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

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:


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”
mismatch mistrust misread
misdeeds mismatch misspell
mismanage mismatch
mistreat mislead

3. Why do you think a mistake is called a mistake?when you make a mistake,you take somthing incorrectly or badly.

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.

Watch the Middles

mis spell ing
mis spell ing
mis spell ing
mis chief
mis chief
mis chief

Teaching Notes.

Item 2. There is much room for honest difference of opinion here, for there is considerable overlap among the three senses of mis-.

Item 3. Again, there is room for considerable differences among the explanations students present here.

Item 4. Parallel with mischief, the word achieve analyzes to a form of the prefix ad- “to, toward” plus the base chieve, which is a form of the base chief “head.” Achieve originally meant something like “to come to a head.”

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Date Created:

Feb 23, 2012

Last Modified:

Jul 07, 2015
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