under, from below

Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The prefix sub-, with its variants which all begin with su-, is a prolific part of the English language. Examples using this prefix include subway, suffer, supply, and suggest. An easy way to remember that the prefix sub- means “under” is through the word submarine, or a vehicle that travels “under” the sea.

Undertake the Sub Prefix Subway

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The prefix sub-, with its variants suc-, suf-, sug-, sup-, and sur-, all mean “under.”

Sub- is the most common form of this prefix. A submarine, for instance, travels “under” the sea. A subway is the way to travel “under” a city. When you have a subpar performance, it is “under” what it should be. When you subscribe to a magazine, you "under"write it so as to provide the writers of the magazine with money for their efforts. And a subterranean cave is “under” the earth.

Sub- also has a large number of variant spellings, which not only all begin with su-, making them easy to spot, but also follow the rules of prefix assimilation, which makes the word easier to say. Let’s take a look at a number of these spelling variants so that you can get the hang of them.

The prefix sub- changes naturally to suf-, which also means “under,” in front of roots that begin with an f. If a prefix begins or sits at the “top” of a word, a suffix is fixed “under” or “at the foot of” it. How silly “subfix” would sound! If something is sufficient, enough has been made or done “under” it to hold it up. Again, “subficient” just doesn’t work. And when one suffers, one carries “under” herself a heavy burden. Imagine our suffering if we had to say “I am subferring from a cold!”

Let’s look at some other variants of sub-, which follow three common rules:
1. All mean “under.”
2. All begin with su-.
3. All follow the rules of prefix assimilation.

  • Succor: When you succor another person, you run “under” her in order to help her.
  • Suggest: When you suggest something, you carry it “under” the notice of other people.
  • Support: When someone supports you, she goes “under” you to carry you in some way.
  • Surreal: Something surreal is not quite real, but is “under” that which is real, hence seems dreamlike.

Don’t be taken “under” by words that contain sub-, but realize that sub- and its variants beginning with su- just want to take you “under” their linguistic wing!

  1. submarine: vehicle which goes ‘under’ the sea.
  2. subway: ’under’ground transportation
  3. subpar: of a performance that is ‘under’ what it should be
  4. subscribe: to ’under’write a magazine
  5. subterranean: pertaining to ‘under’ the ground
  6. suffix: morpheme fastened ‘under’ a word
  7. sufficient: a doing ‘under’
  8. suffer: a carrying ‘under’
  9. succor: a running ‘under’
  10. suggest: a carrying ‘under’
  11. support: a carrying ‘under’
  12. surreal: ‘under’ reality


  • subjugate

    If someone subjugates a group of people or country, they conquer and bring it under control by force.

  • subservient

    If you are subservient, you are too eager and willing to do what other people want and often put your own wishes aside.

  • substantive

    Substantive issues are the most important, serious, and real issues of a subject.

  • subterfuge

    If you employ subterfuge, you use a secret plan or action to get what you want by outwardly doing one thing that cleverly hides your true intentions.

  • subvert

    To subvert something, like a government, is to try to destroy or damage its power and influence; to subvert someone is to corrupt her morals, loyalty, or faith.

  • suborn

    If you suborn someone, you persuade them to do something illegal, especially by giving them money to do so.

  • subsume

    If something is subsumed, it is included within a larger class or group as a member rather than being considered separately.

  • subjective

    A subjective opinion is not based upon facts or hard evidence; rather, it rests upon someone's personal feelings or beliefs about a matter or concern.

  • subside

    When something subsides, it begins to go away, lessen, or decrease in some way.

  • subsistence

    Subsistence is the means someone has to support their existence, usually referring to food and shelter.

  • subterranean

    A subterranean place is underground or below the earth, often hidden or secret.

  • subtle

    A subtle point is clever or so fine or slight that it is not obvious; it can also be deep or highly sophisticated.

  • subversive

    A subversive act is undertaken usually to overthrow or do significant harm to a government or other institution.

  • substantial

    A substantial amount of something, such as food, is a lot of it.

  • subordinate

    A subordinate position is lower or lesser in rank than another.

  • subsequent

    Something that is subsequent to something else is later than or after it in time.

  • submissive

    When someone is submissive, they are highly obedient or inclined to give in to the demands of others.

  • subdue

    When you subdue something, like an enemy force or emotions, you defeat or bring them under control.

  • substitute

    A substitute is one person or thing that takes the place of another person or thing for a short period of time.

  • submit

    When you submit something, you give, send, or present it to someone.

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