Joseph Bonneau
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Orphaned word stems

Certain words in the English language are only defined with prefixes attached to them, but not by themselves. The example that got me thinking of this, which I've heard used in really poor standup comedy routines, is whelm, which seems to only exist as part of the words "overwhelm" and "underwhelm." Surprisingly, this is not a true example, "whelm" is actually a a word, so I listed in the non-examples section. Nevertheless, I've found a few true examples. I think they can only count if the etymology of the word shows that exists in English as a root plus one more normal prefixes.

Good examples

Dependent Word Prefixed forms Linguistic Root Meaning
flect deflect, inflect, reflect flectere (Latin) bend
gress congress, egress, ingress, progress, regress gradi (Latin) step
plode explode, implode plaudere (Latin) beat
spect expect, inspect, introsprect, prospect, respect, retrospect spectere (Latin) look
turb disturb, perturb turbare (Latin) disturb
vert introvert, extrovert vertere (Latin) turn


Dependent Word Prefixed forms Linguistic Root Meaning
gruntle disgruntle grunnire (Latin) grunt
whelm overwhelm, underwhelm helmian (Old English) cover