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, whereas a noise of this kind is loud, powerful, and ringing.

  • 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 that was taken away back to the rightful owner—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 to improve its appearance or ability to function.

  • repugnance

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

  • recidivism

    Recidivism is someone's falling back into an undesirable activity—especially crime—after they had temporarily refrained from committing such acts.

  • 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 suggested 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 or event 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 a 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 themself, 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 accepting something that you really don't want to do.

  • remorse

    Someone who is feeling remorse feels bad or guilty about something they've done.

  • 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 uncovering or telling 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 or live that offers shelter and 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 you reveal something, you show or tell people about it who did not know about it before.

  • resident

    A resident of a place—such as a town, apartment building, or country—lives there on a long-term basis.

  • retain

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

  • reverse

    When something is reversed, it is changed 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 report, you give information or tell about something.

  • reject

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

  • respect

    When you have respect for someone, you value that person highly or believe in them; thus, you treat them in a fair and kind 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 something else.

  • recognize

    If you recognize someone, you know them when you see them because you have seen, learned about, or met them 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 act on it 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 tell you about it because they think that it would be useful or good for you.

  • relation

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

  • reform

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

  • refer

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

  • recovery

    When someone is in recovery, they are getting better and becoming healthy once again.

  • 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.

  • rearrangement

    changing an arrangement

  • recede

    pull back or move away or backward

  • reciprocal

    concerning each of two or more persons or things

  • redeem

    save from sins

  • reduction

    the act of decreasing or reducing something

  • reflect

    manifest or bring back

  • regenerative

    able to give new life or vigor to

  • reincarnate

    be born anew in another body after death

  • rejuvenation

    the phenomenon of vitality and freshness being restored

  • remit

    send (money) in payment

  • repeal

    cancel officially

  • repel

    cause to move back by force or influence

  • referent

    having reference

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