back, again

Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The prefix re-, which means “back” or “again,” appears in hundreds of English vocabulary words, for example: reject, regenerate, and revert. You can remember that the prefix re- means “back” via the word return, or turn “back;” to remember that re- means “again” consider rearrange, or arrange “again.”

TheRE and Back Again

Today we will focus on the prefix re-, which can mean “back” or “again.” Prefixes are morphemes which begin words, attaching to a word’s main part, the “root” or “stem.” For instance, in the word return, re- is the prefix, and “turn” is the root or stem.

One meaning of the prefix re- is “back.” For instance, when you reject a plan, you throw it “back.” When a man’s hair recedes, his hairline continues to move “back” as he loses hair. When you reduce the amount of money you spend, you lead it “back” to a smaller amount. When light reflects off a surface, it bends “back.” When you are returning home from an outing, you are turning “back” home. And when a criminal reverts to being good again, he turns “back” to morally upright behavior.

Another primary meaning of the prefix re- is “again.” For instance, when you rearrange the furniture in a room, you arrange it “again” into a different configuration. A marathon runner can become rejuvenated or etymologically made young “again” by sleeping and eating after a long race. Some newts regenerate limbs once they’ve lost them; that is, they grow them “again.” When a teacher recapitulates something she’s just taught, she goes over it “again” by summarizing it. Some religious faiths believe in reincarnation, or the taking of a body “again” after death to live another life.

In a few rare instances the prefix re- adds a “d” to make a word easier to say; this occurs before some vowels some of the time. The word redeem, for instance, as in to redeem a coupon, adds a “d” because reeem would have an unpronounceable 3 es. In the same vein, redundant is much better than “reundant.”

Now your brain will never reject that the meaning of the prefix re- is “back” or “again.” Reflect upon re-, and your vocabulary prowess will never regress!

  1. reject: throw ‘back’
  2. recede: move ‘back’
  3. reduce: lead ‘back’
  4. reflect: bend ‘back’
  5. return: turn ‘back’
  6. revert: turn ‘back’
  7. rearrange: arrange ‘again’
  8. rejuvenate: make young ‘again’
  9. recapitulate: say ‘again’, going ‘back’ to the head of what you’re saying
  10. reincarnate: return into a body ‘again’
  11. redeem: buy ‘back’
  12. redundant: flow ‘again’ unnecessarily

Related Rootcasts


  • redoubtable

    If you describe someone as redoubtable, you have great respect for their power and strength; you may be afraid of them as well.

  • rejuvenate

    To rejuvenate someone is to make that person feel young and strong again; to rejuvenate something is to make it like new once more.

  • repute

    A person's repute is what others think of them; repute can also refer to someone's standing in society.

  • renege

    If you renege on a deal, agreement, or promise, you do not do what you promised or agreed to do.

  • reprobate

    A reprobate has a bad character and behaves in an immoral or improper way.

  • requisite

    If something is requisite for a purpose, it is needed, appropriate, or necessary for that specific purpose.

  • recapitulate

    When someone recapitulates, they summarize material or content of some kind by repeating the most important points.

  • reprehensible

    If you think a type of behavior or idea is reprehensible, you think that it is very bad, morally wrong, and deserves to be strongly criticized.

  • reconnoiter

    To reconnoiter an area is to go and get preliminary information about it, especially for military purposes.

  • irrefutable

    An irrefutable argument or statement cannot be proven wrong; therefore, it must be accepted because it is certain.

  • refrain

    If you refrain from doing something, you do not do it—even though you want to.

  • revile

    If something is reviled, it is intensely hated and criticized.

  • recant

    If you recant, you publicly announce that your once firmly held beliefs or statements were wrong and that you no longer agree with them.

  • refractory

    Refractory people deliberately don't obey someone in authority and so are difficult to deal with or control.

  • remuneration

    Someone's remuneration is the payment or other rewards they receive for work completed, goods provided, or services rendered.

  • remonstrate

    To remonstrate with someone is to tell that person that you strongly disapprove of something they have said or done.

  • relegate

    You relegate someone or something if you give that person or thing a less important position than before.

  • raconteur

    A raconteur is a person who tells stories with great skill.

  • irreproachable

    An irreproachable person is very honest and so morally upright that their behavior cannot be criticized.

  • reductive

    If you describe something as reductive, such as an explanation or a theory, you disapprove of it because it describes or explains something in such a simple way that it misses important details.

  • reprisal

    A reprisal is something violent or harmful that you do to punish someone for something bad or unpleasant that they did to you.

  • recalcitrant

    A recalcitrant animal or person is difficult to control and refuses to obey orders—even after stiff punishment.

  • retribution

    Retribution is severe punishment that someone deserves because they have done something very wrong; it especially refers to punishment or revenge that is carried out by someone other than official authorities.

  • irrevocable

    An irrevocable action or decision is impossible to change, reverse, or stop.

  • resounding

    A resounding success, victory, or defeat is very great or complete.

  • derelict

    Something, such as a building, is derelict if it is empty, not used, and in bad condition or disrepair.

  • revelry

    Revelry is a festive celebration that includes wild, noisy, and happy dancing, eating, and drinking.

  • respite

    A respite is a short period of rest from work or something troubling.

  • recognizance

    A recognizance is a promise or formal bond made to a court that someone will attend all court hearings and will not engage in further illegal activity.

  • rapprochement

    Rapprochement is the development of greater understanding and friendliness between two countries or groups of people after a period of unfriendly relations.

  • irreconcilable

    Two irreconcilable opinions or points of view are so opposed to each other that it is not possible to accept both of them or reach a settlement between them.

  • redress

    If you redress a complaint or a bad situation, you correct or improve it for the person who has been wronged, usually by paying them money or offering an apology.

  • rapport

    If two people have established a good rapport, their connection is such that they have a good understanding of and can communicate well with one other.

  • regale

    If someone regales you, they tell you stories and jokes to entertain you— and they could also serve you a wonderful feast.

  • unremitting

    A thing or person that is unremitting is persistent and enduring in what is being done.

  • restitution

    Restitution is the formal act of giving something back to the rightful owner that was taken away—or paying them money for the loss of the object.

  • unrequited

    If you feel unrequited love for another, you love that person, but they don't love you in return.

  • recoup

    To recoup is to get back an amount of money you have lost or spent.

  • resonate

    If you say that something, such as an event or a message, resonates with you, you mean that it has an emotional effect or a special meaning for you that is significant.

  • recluse

    A recluse is someone who chooses to live alone and deliberately avoids other people.

  • remiss

    When you have been remiss, you have been careless because you did not do something that you should have done.

  • refurbish

    When you refurbish something, you repair it in order to improve its appearance or function.

  • repugnance

    Repugnance is a strong feeling of dislike for something or someone you find horrible and offensive.

  • recidivism

    Recidivism is a falling back into an undesirable activity, especially crime, after one has temporarily stopped doing so.

  • recumbent

    A recumbent figure or person is lying down.

  • repudiate

    If you repudiate something, you state that you do not accept or agree with it and no longer want to be connected with it in any way.

  • retinue

    A retinue is the group of people, such as friends or servants, who travel with someone important to help and support that person.

  • rejoinder

    A rejoinder is a quick answer to a reply or remark that can be rude, angry, clever, or defensive.

  • retrench

    If governments, companies, or other institutions retrench, they reduce costs and/or decrease the amount that they spend in order to save money.

  • resilience

    Something or someone that shows resilience is able to recover quickly and easily from unpleasant, difficult, and damaging situations or events.

  • rebuff

    If you rebuff someone, you give an unfriendly answer to a suggestion or offer of help; you hastily turn that person away.

  • rescind

    When someone in power rescinds a law or agreement, they officially end it and state that it is no longer valid.

  • recompense

    When you offer recompense to someone, you give them something, usually money, for the trouble or loss that you have caused them or as payment for their help.

  • correlate

    When you correlate two things, you compare, associate, or equate them together in some way.

  • irrelevant

    Irrelevant information is unrelated or unconnected to the situation at hand.

  • rebuke

    When you rebuke someone, you harshly scold or criticize them for something they've done.

  • recrimination

    A recrimination is a retaliatory accusation you make against someone who has accused you of something first.

  • referendum

    A referendum is a proposed measure or other concern that is brought before the people for a vote.

  • refulgent

    Something refulgent is glowing, shining brightly, or brilliant.

  • regression

    Regression is the falling back or return to a previous state.

  • regurgitate

    When you regurgitate, you throw up or vomit; this word also refers to simply repeating what someone else has already said so you don't have to put in any thought.

  • rehabilitate

    When someone is rehabilitated, they are restored to a more normal way of life, such as returning to good health or a crime-free life.

  • reimburse

    When you reimburse someone, you pay back the money that you borrowed from them, or you repay them for damages or losses they have suffered because of you.

  • reinstate

    When you reinstate someone, you give back their job or position that they lost; this word also refers to restoring to use something that was no longer being used.

  • reiterate

    When you reiterate what you've just said, you repeat it or say it again.

  • relinquish

    When you relinquish something, you give it up or let it go.

  • reminiscent

    Something that is reminiscent of something else reminds you of it in some way.

  • remission

    When something, such as a disease or storm, is in remission, its force is lessening or decreasing.

  • renounce

    To renounce something, such as a position or practice, is to let go of it or reject it.

  • renovate

    When you renovate something, such as a home or other building, you modernize or make it like new again.

  • repercussion

    A repercussion of an act is the result or effect of it.

  • replenish

    When you replenish something, you refill or restock it.

  • repose

    If you are in a state of repose, your mind is at peace or your body is at rest.

  • repository

    A repository is a safe place, such as a chest or storage area, to keep possessions or other objects.

  • reprieve

    A reprieve is a temporary relief from or cancellation of a punishment; it can also be a relief from something, such as pain or trouble of some kind.

  • reprimand

    When you are given a reprimand, you are scolded, blamed, or given a talking-to by someone for something wrong that you did.

  • repulsive

    Something that is repulsive is offensive, highly unpleasant, or just plain disgusting.

  • requiem

    A requiem is a mass at a funeral or a piece of music written for the dead.

  • residual

    Something that is residual is the part that still stays or remains after the main part is taken away.

  • resurgence

    A resurgence is a rising again or comeback of something.

  • retaliate

    When you retaliate, you get back at or get even with someone for something that they did to you.

  • retention

    Retention is the act or condition of keeping or holding on to something, including the ability to remember things.

  • retort

    When you give a retort to what someone has said, you reply in a quick and witty fashion.

  • reverberate

    When a sound reverberates, it echoes or rebounds continuously from one place to another.

  • reversion

    A reversion is turning back again to a previous state or condition.

  • unrelenting

    If you are unrelenting in your desire to do something, you stop at nothing until you've done it.

  • unrestrained

    Someone who is unrestrained is free to do as they please; they are not controlled by anyone but themselves, which can lead to excessive behavior.

  • revulsion

    When you experience revulsion, you feel a great deal of disgust or extreme dislike for something.

  • restore

    When you restore something, you bring it back to its original condition.

  • resignation

    A feeling of resignation is one of submission, acceptance without protest, or an unresisting attitude.

  • remorse

    When you feel remorse for something that you have done, you regret it or have a guilty conscience about it.

  • reserved

    Someone who is reserved is quiet, self-controlled, and keeps their thoughts mostly to themselves.

  • irreversible

    When an irreversible act is done, it cannot be undone or fixed in any way.

  • revelation

    A revelation is the disclosure of once-secret information that is often surprising or valuable.

  • reinforce

    When you reinforce something, you make it stronger or give extra support to it.

  • refuge

    A refuge is a place to stay that offers shelter or protection.

  • resume

    When you resume an activity, you start it up again or return to it.

  • reliquary

    A reliquary is a receptacle or container that displays sacred relics—and keeps them safe.

  • responsible

    If you are responsible for something, you are the cause of it and so can be blamed for it.

  • reveal

    When something secret is revealed, it is made known or shown to people who did not know about it before.

  • resident

    A resident of a place, such as a town, apartment building, or area, is living there on a long-term basis.

  • retain

    When you retain something, you keep it or have it for a long time.

  • reverse

    When someone reverses something, they change it so that it is the opposite of what it was before, such as changing their mind to something completely different.

  • reaction

    A reaction to something is a person's response to it or how they act when it happens.

  • report

    When you are reporting, you tell about something that happened in order to give information about it.

  • reject

    When you reject something, you do not accept or agree with it.

  • respect

    When you respect someone, you either treat that person the way they should be treated instead of treating them poorly, or you believe that person is good in some way.

  • release

    When you release something, such as a bird, you let it go or give it freedom.

  • remove

    When you remove something, you take it away from or off of something else.

  • recognize

    If someone recognizes another person, she knows him when she sees him because she has seen, learned about, or met him at some point in the past.

  • reserve

    When you reserve something, you keep it for yourself so that you are able to use it when you need to.

  • reduce

    When you reduce something, you make it smaller in size or amount.

  • respond

    When you respond to something that someone does or says, you react or reply to it.

  • relax

    If someone is relaxing, they are resting, not working, and being calm.

  • recommend

    When someone recommends something to you, they say that you should do it too based on their own good past experience with it; therefore, they think it would be useful or good for you as well.

  • relation

    A relation is a link of some kind between two things or people.

  • reform

    When someone or something reforms, they or it changes in some way for the better.

  • refer

    When you refer to something or someone, you mention or speak about it or them.

  • recovery

    When someone is undergoing recovery, they are getting better and becoming healthy once again from an illness or injury that they suffered.

  • revert

    When something reverts, it turns back to a former state or condition.

  • relate

    When you relate two things, you show how they are linked to or like one another.

  • resist

    When you resist something, you try to stop it from happening by fighting or working against it.

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