Micro-: Not a "Small" Prefix


Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The origin of the prefix micro- is an ancient Greek word which meant “small.” This prefix appears in no “small” number of English vocabulary words; microphone, microwave, and micromanager are a few noteworthy examples. An easy way to remember that the prefix micro- means “small” is through the word microscope, an instrument which allows the viewer to see “small” living things.

Micro-: Not a "Small" Prefix

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. Today we will micromanage your learning in no “small” way to tell you all about the Greek prefix micro-!

When someone refers to something as simply micro, she means that it is “small.” A microscope, for instance, enables a scientist to see “small” living organisms. Living creatures viewed under a microscope are called microorganisms, or very “small” one-celled creatures, such as viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Microbiologists study these “small” life forms, also known as microbes.

Many inventions use the prefix micro- which means “small.” A microphone, for instance, makes a “small” voice louder, just like a microscope makes “small” images larger. A microwave is a relatively “small” radio wave, measuring in length from one millimeter to one meter; a microwave oven uses these “small” radio waves to heat food. A microprocessor is a “small” processor at the heart of a computer that performs such tasks as computation, communication, and multimedia functions.

I hope that you have never been saddled with a boss who is a micromanager, or who likes to control every “small” aspect of everything that his employees do, no matter how “small!”

Now the next time you speak into a microphone, peer into a microscope, or use a microwave, you will know that it is no “small” potatoes to know what micro- is all about!

  1. micro: ‘small’
  2. microscope: instrument that makes ‘small’ things perceptible
  3. microorganism: very ‘small’ living creature consisting of one cell
  4. microbiologist: a scientist who studies ‘small’ living creatures
  5. microbe: very ‘small’ life form
  6. microphone: makes a ‘small’ voice loud
  7. microwave: ‘small’ radio wave
  8. microprocessor: ‘small’ computer processing unit
  9. micromanager: supervisor who looks at every ‘small’ thing her employees do

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