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Giga- is an international category-neutral prefix, ultimately going back to Greek. It attaches productively to adjectives to form adjectives like gigagezellig extremely cosy and to nouns to form words like gigaprobleem huge problem. It has two meanings: the lay use is to denote a high or very high degree, a more scientific use is found in internation units of measurement such as Gigawatt where it it means billion (10^9).


Giga- is an international category-neutral prefix; it is a clipping from gigantisch gigantic, which ultimately derives from the Greek noun gigasgiant (see Etymologiebank). Two meanings can be distinguished for the prefix: it means billion in international measurement terms (nouns) like Gigawatt and Gigahertz, and it means great or extremely in nouns like giga-feest giga-party very large party and in adjectives like giga-duur giga-expensive extremely expensive(De Haas and Trommelen 1993). Formations with giga should be written as one word, unless the prefix is followed by a vowel giga-aardig giga-nice (Woordenlijst); in practice, however, one finds spellings with and without a hyphen or as two words.

Prefixes like giga- are independent phonological words: in nouns with giga-, stress is on the affix, in adjectives with giga-, stress is not fixed, but the prefix carries at least a secondary accent. Syllabification respects the morphological boundary: giga-aardig giga-nice, that is, giga- is a non-cohering prefix.

Morphological potential: because of the meaning of the prefix comparative and superlative forms of giga- formations are impossible.

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In the billion sense, giga- forms a paradigm with prefixes like femto-, pico-, nano-, micro-, milli-, centi-, deci-, deca-, hecto-, kilo-, mega-, tera-, peta-, etc. (see Affixes).

In the great, extremely sense, the prefix forms a paradigm with prefixes such as super-, mega- etc. In this use, emphatic doubling is possible for some speakers: gigagiga-gezellig extremely cosy.

  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij