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Mega- is a category-neutral prefix, an international prefix ultimately going back to Greek. It attaches productively to adjectives to form adjectives like megaraar extremely strange and to nouns to form words like megatelevisie very big television set. The general function is to denote a high or very high degree. In internationalisms such as Megawatt it means million (10^6).


Mega- is a Greek prefix meaning large or million. The oldest words with mega- entered Dutch only in the nineteenth century (Etymologiebank). It combines productively with nouns and gradable adjectives. It means million in international measurement terms (nouns) like Megawatt and Megahertz, whereas it means large in nouns like mega-gebouw mega-building very large building. In adjectives, such as mega-smal mega-narrow very narrow the prefix denotes a high degree. Mega- combines both with innate stems (megaerg mega-bad) and with bases of foreign origin (megaenthousiast mega-enthusiastic).

Prefixes like mega- are independent phonological words: in nouns with mega-, stress is on the affix, in adjectives with mega-, stress is not fixed, but the prefix minimally carries a secondary accent. Syllabification respects the morphological boundary: mega-optimistisch.

Morphological potential: because of the meaning of the prefix, comparative and superlative forms of mega- formations are impossible. Occasionally one finds emphatic doubling of the prefix, e.g. megamegamegablunder mega.mega.mega.gaffe terrible gaffe.

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Formations with mega- are not inherently negative or positive: megaparty will usually be meant positively, whereas megastal mega-stable will most often be used negatively.

In megamoment fantastic moment the large meaning aspect has mostly disappeared, and only a positive connotation is left. Contrary to expectation, forms like mega-kurk-droog mega cork dry can be found, in which two different ways of strengthening the adjective co-occur, viz. mega- prefixation and a prefixoid.

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

In the large sense, mega- competes with other prefixes of foreign origin such as hyper-, super-, enz., and with all kinds of other means to intensify adjectives.

The prefix has also developed a use as an independent adjective with a meaning fantastic, as in dat feest was echt mega that party was really mega that party was absolutely fantastic. This might be a case of debonding, but the possibility that this usage is a loan from English or German cannot be excluded (De Haas and Trommelen 1993, WNT).

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