The Fa’a Prefix in Samoan

Faa Prefix in Samoa

Quick lesson about the prefix fa’a.  

You’ll see fa’a in front of thousands of Samoan words

Right after fa’a is usually a root word

when you add fa’a as a prefix, to MOST WORDS not all because there are a couple of other functions of fa’a

but for a lot of words, fa’a means to cause the root word to happen 

masima mean salt….fa’amasima is to add salt 

pa’u means to fall…fa’apa’u is to cause to fall or cut down

tofa is goodbye…fa’atofa is to cause or initiate a goodbye

Another function of fa’a means “likened to” or style or “way” “ish)

Samoa is Samoa, but fa’aSamoa is Samoan style or Samoan way, Samoan like, Samoan ish

Fafine means woman

Fa’afafine means like a woman, woman style

you’ll hear people say fafa a lot but it’s actually fa’afafine or fa’afatama

then when you add fa’a in front of numbers 

fa’alua, fa’atolu, fa’afa, fa’alima

ia tatou fa’atofa!

English Prefixes that Indicate Causation

Understanding the Influence of “en-“, “em-“, “be-“, “de-“, and “re-“

The English language, with its rich tapestry of vocabulary and grammar, offers a multitude of ways to express causation. One significant method is through the use of prefixes that modify base words to convey the idea of causing an action or state. Among these, prefixes such as “en-“, “em-“, “be-“, “de-“, and “re-” play crucial roles. This essay explores these prefixes, examining their origins, meanings, and applications, to provide a comprehensive understanding of how they function in the English language to indicate causation.

The Prefix “en-“

The prefix “en-” originates from the Old French “en-” or “an-“, and ultimately from the Latin “in-“. It is used to form verbs that mean to cause a person or thing to be in a certain state or condition. For example, “enable” means to cause someone to be able to do something, while “enlarge” means to cause something to become larger.

“En-” often combines with adjectives or nouns to create verbs. Consider the word “encourage”. Here, “courage” is a noun, and the addition of “en-” transforms it into a verb meaning to instill courage in someone. Similarly, “enrich” comes from “rich”, indicating the act of making someone or something richer.

Another noteworthy aspect of “en-” is its versatility. It can form verbs from a wide range of base words, adapting to different contexts while maintaining its causative essence. For instance, “enlighten” (from “light”) means to cause someone to have more knowledge or understanding, and “enslave” (from “slave”) means to cause someone to become a slave.

The Prefix “em-“

Closely related to “en-” is the prefix “em-“, which also conveys causation. “Em-” is a variant of “en-” used before base words starting with b, m, and p. This slight alteration in spelling maintains the phonetic harmony of the word while preserving its meaning.

For example, “empower” combines “em-” with “power” to mean giving someone the power or authority to do something. “Embody” means to give a tangible or visible form to an idea or feeling, and “embrace” involves causing oneself to hold someone or something closely.

The use of “em-” often emphasizes the act of causing something to become or assume a particular state. It is seen in words like “embolden” (to cause someone to become bold) and “embitter” (to cause someone to become bitter). The prefix thus continues to serve its causative function effectively across various contexts.

The Prefix “be-“

The prefix “be-” is another causative element in English, derived from Old English “be-” meaning around, about, or to make. “Be-” typically attaches to nouns, adjectives, and verbs to create transitive verbs that imply causing something to happen or bestowing a certain quality upon someone or something.

For instance, “befriend” means to cause someone to become a friend, and “belittle” means to cause something to seem less important or significant. “Bewilder” combines “be-” with “wilder” to mean causing someone to become confused.

“Be-” is also used to form verbs that imply covering or affecting something thoroughly. In “besiege”, it means to surround and attack, while in “besmear”, it means to cover with a substance. This comprehensive application underscores the prefix’s role in indicating the causation of actions or states.

The Prefix “de-“

Unlike the previous prefixes that generally denote positive or neutral causation, “de-” often indicates a negative or reversing action. Originating from Latin, “de-” means down, away, or reverse the action of. It suggests the removal or reduction of a certain state or condition.

For example, “deconstruct” means to take apart or analyze something in detail, often implying the removal of its original structure. “Deactivate” combines “de-” with “activate” to mean causing something to stop being active or effective. Similarly, “devalue” means to reduce the value of something.

“De-” can also imply a downward movement or separation, as seen in “descend” (to move downwards) and “detach” (to separate or unfasten something). The prefix “de-” thus plays a critical role in conveying the causation of reduction, reversal, or removal.

The Prefix “re-“

The prefix “re-” signifies repetition or backward motion and is derived from Latin “re-“, meaning again or back. It indicates the causation of a repeated action or the restoration of a previous state.

For instance, “redo” means to do something again, and “rebuild” means to build something again that has been destroyed or damaged. “Reassure” combines “re-” with “assure” to mean causing someone to feel confident or certain again.

“Re-” can also imply a backward motion or return to a previous state. In “return”, it means to go back, and in “retrieve”, it means to get something back. This prefix thus effectively communicates the causation of repetition or restoration.


Prefixes that indicate causation in English, such as “en-“, “em-“, “be-“, “de-“, and “re-“, enrich the language by providing nuanced ways to express the initiation or alteration of states and actions. Each prefix, with its unique etymology and application, contributes to the dynamic and flexible nature of English vocabulary.

“En-” and “em-” are versatile in creating verbs that cause a change of state, often positively or neutrally. “Be-” also suggests causing or making something happen, often thoroughly or comprehensively. In contrast, “de-” generally indicates a negative change, removal, or reversal, while “re-” emphasizes repetition or restoration.

Understanding these prefixes not only enhances vocabulary but also provides insight into the mechanisms of word formation and meaning in English. By mastering these causative prefixes, speakers and writers can convey complex ideas more precisely and effectively, showcasing the depth and adaptability of the English language.

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