In Italian, what does the prefix ‘s’ do to the word?
Adding an ‘s’ to the beginning of an Italian word often creates the opposite, often negative meaning of the word.
- vantaggio = advantage / svantaggio = disadvantage
- fortuna = luck / sfortuna = bad luck
- caricare = to load / scaricare = to unload
The ‘s’ comes from the even stronger prefix ‘dis’ that we see in words such as:
- interessato / disinteressato = interested / disinterested
- onesto / disonesto = honest / dishonest
- fare / disfare = to do up / to undo, to tie / to untie, to pack / to unpack, etc.
But be careful, because this rule does not always apply! In the article about Carnival, for instance, we come across the word ‘scherzo’ (practical joke); there is, however, no such word as ‘cherzo’! ‘Scherzo’ is originally a Lombard/Germanic word that can be recognised in words such as ‘scorn’ in English, and ‘scherzen’ and ‘schertsen’ in German and Dutch respectively (to jest, to joke).
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