Here’s a great prefix: wan-. It is the affixed form of the adjective wane (related to the verb wane). It is “a prefix expressing privation or negation (approximately equivalent to UN- prefix or MIS- prefix)”, so says the OED. It was very common in Old English, but had more-or-less wholly died out by Middle English. I think it’s a great little affix and could be brought back to life as a useful variant to distinguish it from un– and mis– words; perhaps we could use it as a like-for-like (=equivalent) of “anti-“… We might need to say it the stressed way, though: wane.
How many words do you think you can make up using this affix? Do people understand you? Here are some great English words that have this prefix — sadly, all of these words are no longer in use.
- wanbody n miscreant, infidel (“body” as in “anybody”, meaning “any person/individual”)
- wandought n, adj (said as “won-dawt”) a feeble or puny person; feeble, ineffective, worthless
- wanhap n misfortune (think “mishap”, “hap” meaning “luck, chance”)
- wanhope n, adj, v despair, hopelessness; to despair; despairing.
- wanhue v to stain (that is, to give a bad hue/colour to a thing)
- wanluck n unhappy fate
- wansome adj miserable, unhappy
- wanspeed n ill-success, adversity, poverty (think speed as in God speed).
- wanthriven adj failing to thrive, stunted
- wanton n, adj as in… wanton(!)
- wantruke n failure, doubt (from wan– + troke “to fail, lack, deceive”)
- wantrust n distrust, doubt
- Why did we ever bother to borrow doubt when we had wantrust and mistrust? We also had twēo and twēogan/twēonian in Old English using the root for “two”, just like in German! So why not even something like “twofulness”?
- wantruth n lack of belief, especially proper Christian belief, a state of unbelief
- wanweird n ill-fate, misfortune
- Weird is the original English word for “fate, destiny”, hence the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare.
- wanwit n foolishness, witlessness; a foolish or witless person;
- wanworth n, adj a price below the real value, an undervalue, a bargain; a worthless person, a good-for-nothing, a trifle; worthless, unworthy.
Now you only have to work out if you say “wan” to rhyme with “can” or “con”.
© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry
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in answer to the last … might it not depend if you are saxon or anglian?
Hi Simon, extremely good point, there. However, the difference between, say, “lond” and “land” which you allude to is not quite the same as “won” or “wan”. I believe that in , the vowel became rounded as in “wander”, “want”, “swarty”, “wart”, “wall”, and so on. Only later did the spelling pronunciation creep back in — as it has with “twat”.
Since “wanton” in still in use today, I would say we base it off that pronunciation.
For “equivalent”, Wiktionary has an entry for “evenlike”, which means “Characteristically even, equal, or level.” A good evenlike for “equivalent”?
I think I hold with you on both points.
happened upon this talkfall anent the wan- forefast
If this post works, will do a follow-up post with a lengthy list of wan- words, attested!
A thought-making thread, Unoverwordinesslogged, thank you for sharing it!