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Writing With Prefixes: Intra and Inter

This week, we continue our look at prefixes with a pair that people often confuse: intra- and inter-. Intra-, meaning within or inside, comes from the Latin intra, which also means within. Interestingly, the Online Etymology Dictionary notes that the prefix intra- was not often used in Latin. Inter- is also Latin, meaning between or among, as well as reciprocally. The Latin term is believed to descend from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *enter, also meaning between or among. An intranet, then, is a network only for those within a certain group, such as a company, while the Internet is a network open to anyone. Let’s look at some more intra- and inter- words.

  • intramural, adjective: occurring within one community, such as sports within a college.

Republican prospects rest on the savvy and intramural statesmanship of a trio of leaders who were hunkered down last week in an otherwise deserted Capitol: Gingrich in the House, Bob Dole and Phil Gramm in the Senate. —Newsweek

  • intrapersonal, adjective: occurring within one’s self.

The psychological variant emphasizes the intrapersonal origins of poverty: emotional problems (for example, depression) or lack of interpersonal abilities (Alcock, 1997). —Social Work

  • interdependent, adjective: of two or more people or things that rely on one another.

Since then, the operations of multinational corporations have evolved into an integrated, interdependent worldwide network of resources and capabilities best characterized as transnational. —USA Today

  • interfuse, verb: to join two or more things together.

The crisp shadows of afternoon dissolved, and in a progression without increments it seemed that their constituent darkness interfused the remaining light. —Southwest Review

A version of this article originally published on August 17, 2011, on The Writing Resource.


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