Hindi Language Blog

Improve Your Hindi Vocabulary: Prefixes, Part 2 Posted by on Sep 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

If you’re just catching up with this blog series on prefixes, take a moment to review my first blog in the series here. Learning prefixes, or particles that appear at the beginning of a word to change its meaning slightly, can be enormously helpful if you are trying to expand your vocabulary in Hindi. Rather than memorizing an endless amount of flashcards, you can structure your learning process better by knowing and understanding the numerous prefixes that the Hindi language contains. This way, you can guess the meanings of words you run into in the future through the elements of which the word is composed.

Image by Infinite Eyes on Flickr; licensed under CC0 1.0, public domain. Shiva and Parvati are sometimes known as महादेव (the great god) and महादेवी (the great goddess), words that are formed from the prefix “महा” and the words for god and goddess: देव and देवी.

ग़ैर / gair

Unlike many of the prefixes I discussed last time, this prefix is not from Sanskrit, but Persian (غیر). This prefix is a bit like “un-” in English (unqualified, unincorporated, unselfish, etc.) because it signifies the lack or absence of a certain quality. In fact, this prefix can be likened not only to “un-” in English, but also to “non-” (non-denominational), “in-” (inanimate), “anti-” (antithetical) and “de-” (deduct). As you can see, it possesses many possible meanings, so the easiest way to learn it is through examples and remembering that it generally denotes the absence of a quality. This prefix can be found in words such as the following: ग़ैर-इंसाफ़ (unjust; that is, the absence of justice), ग़ैरकानूनी (unlawful, illegal; that is, the absence of what is legal), ग़ैरज़िम्मेदार (not responsible, irresponsible; the absence of responsibility) and ग़ैरमामूली (out of the ordinary; the absence of the ordinary).

उदाहरण: विनोद जानता था कि एक ही दिन में रट्ठा मारने से परीक्षा पास करना ग़ैरमुमकिन होगा; लेकिन, फिर भी, वह मजबूरी से पढ़ाई करता रहा ।  

दुर् / dur

दुर् /dur is an important prefix from Sanskrit that forms many words in Hindi. Its meanings include “bad, wrong, evil and wicked.” As you can see, this prefix carries a very negative connotation and thus must be used wisely. Some words containing this prefix are the following: दुर्घटना (accident or incident, sometimes violent; दुर्=negative, bad + घटना, an event), दुर्दशा (plight or misery; दुर्=negative + दशा=condition or state), दुर्बल (weak, frail, powerless; दुर्=negative + बल=strength; in this case, दुर् can also mean a deficiency of some kind) and दुर्भाग्य (misfortune; दुर्=negative + भाग्य=fortune or fate).

उदाहरण: कई औरतों के साथ उसके दुराचार के कारण अपराधी को बहुत सख़्त सज़ा मिल गयी ।  

परि / pari

Another extremely important prefix from Sanskrit, परि/pari can be found in numerous words and is thus very useful for the Hindi student hoping to expand his or her vocabulary. Its meanings are various but, as you’ll see, it is fairly simple to understand its meaning through examples. परि/pari connotes “around, abundantly, from/away from and according to.” Some examples of words in which this prefix can be found are the following: परिभाषा (definition; literally: according to or परि and “language,” so a definition is something that is derived from language itself), परिचय (acquaintance with/knowledge or experience of something), परिणाम (change, transformation, conclusion) and परिवर्तन (change, exchange, transformation). Just remember that when you see परि at the beginning of a word, depending on the word following it, it could mean “close to or relevant to something” (as in “around”), an abundant quantity or extent, away from something (the opposite of the first meaning) or “according to” (like अनु, which I discussed in my previous blog).

उदाहरण: अपने परिवार को लेकर, अदिति की भावनाएँ बहुत मिश्रित थीं; कुछ रिश्तेदार थे जिनसे वह बहुत मेल खाती थी लेकिन कुछ और थे जिनसे वह बिल्कुल इत्तफ़ाक नहीं रखती थी ।  

बे / be

बे/be may just be one of the single most useful prefixes you can find in the Hindi language. You will find so many different words with this prefix that you will quickly become acquainted with its connotations. This prefix, like some of the others I’ve discussed, is also from Persian (بی) and therefore combines only with other Persian words to create new words (and meanings) – just as Sanskrit prefixes combine only with other Sanskrit words and suffixes to create new words. Its meanings include a lack or absence of a certain quality (like ग़ैर) and its English equivalents are numerous: “in-” (intolerant), “un-” (unobservant), “im-” (impossible), “dis-” (disinterested) and “-less” (careless), so it is a bit more expansive than ग़ैर. Some words that include this prefix are the following: बेईमान (dishonest, untrustworthy; that is, a lack/absence of honesty), बेचैन (uneasy, restless; a lack of peace), बेकाबू (powerless, beyond one’s power or control; a lack of control or power over something/someone) and बेघर (homeless; lack of a home).

उदाहरण: मेरे ख़्याल से, कोलकाता का खाना बिल्कुल बेमिसाल है ; मांसाहारी और शाकाहारी के लिए भी अलग अलग क़िस्म के खाने हैं ।  

महा / mahaa

To end, “महा” is an important Sanskrit prefix that you are no doubt familiar with, as it appears in numerous words. It means “great, mighty or venerable” and denotes a quality of eminence or respect endowed to the person it describes. Some examples of this prefix in Hindi words include the following: महाकाव्य (“great poem”; a specific type of poetry that is often wide-ranging in its subject matter and written in formal language), महात्मा (a title of Gandhi/गांधी, this word connotes a person of noble nature, lit. “high-souled”), महाराज (great king, emperor), महारानी (great queen, empress) and महामारी (plague, epidemic).

उदाहरण: महादेव शिव का एक दूसरा नाम है; इसी तरह से, महादेवी पार्वती और दुर्गा का एक दूसरा नाम है, हालाँकि उनके बहुत सारे और नाम भी हैं । 

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About the Author: Rachael

नमस्ते, मेरा नाम रेचल है/السلام علیکم، میرا نام ریچل ہے۔ Hello, my name is Rachael, but I also on occasion go by Richa––an interesting story for another time :) My two great loves are Hindi and Urdu. I first traveled to India (Jaipur, Rajasthan) in college on a Hindi study abroad program. A little over a year later, I returned to the same city to study Hindi in a yearlong program. I've also spent a summer in Kolkata, West Bengal learning Bengali, and I studied Urdu at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a graduate student in South Asian Studies. I hope to share with you the fascinating world of Hindi and Urdu literature, society, culture and film through my blogs!


  1. Gul Mohammad sultani:

    I want to improve my hindi and searching for all verbs

    • Rachael:

      @Gul Mohammad sultani बहुत अच्छा! अगर आपके पास किसी खास क्रिया के बारे में कोई सवाल हो, तो मुझे ज़रूर बताइए 🙂

  2. luke singh:

    what is the name of the college you attend in Jaipur.Iwish to learn and speak hindi .Thank you

    • Rachael:

      @luke singh Hi there!
      I attended the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) in Jaipur. It’s a great school with dedicated teachers who can work on all aspects of improving your Hindi skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. सीखते रहो 🙂