Welcome to my guide on how to write technobabble! Every post will start with one letter of the alphabet, from A to Z, and cover tips and ideas for all you writers of sci-fi. Whether you’re writing about near-future science fiction, far-flung alien worlds, or historical steampunk adventures filled with advanced technology that never was – these posts are designed to help you write convincing and unique tech for your story!
P is for Prefixes
This post is another short tip on how to actually create names for your pieces of tech. You can create new words—or simply change the meaning of a regular word—by adding a prefix. A prefix is a word—or even a symbol or a number—that is put before another word, and changes its meaning.
For example, “un” is a prefix, and it either negates the word it’s placed before, or changes the meaning to the opposite. As in: “necessary,” versus “unnecessary.” Pretty simple, and it’s a common part of the English language.
Here’s a quick list of some great prefixes that you can add to words to create some technobabble:
-Hyper—it means “high” or “beyond.” A “hyper drive” is a common word in sci-fi for a faster-than-light space ship engine.
-Kilo (or deca, hect, deci, centi, etc)—any prefix from the metric system of measurement, for weight, length, volume, etc. Just make sure that you use the correct prefix (or something close to it). You don’t want to give something that’s supposed to small a prefix that actually means large.
-Quasi—means “partially” or “seemingly.”
-Ante or anti—can be easily confused, but they have different meanings. “Ante” means “before,” “anti” mean “opposite.”
-Inter or intra—another two that are easy to mix up. “Inter” means “between” (as in, between two separate objects), “intra” means “within.”
-Macro and micro—“large” and “small.”
-Auto—“by oneself” or just “self.” (For example, an “automobile” is something that is mobile by itself, as opposed to being propelled by external forces, like a horse-drawn carriage.)
-Xeno—“foreign” or “other.”
There are plenty of other prefixes, of course, or even full words that you can adapt as prefixes to name your technological creations. Let this list help you get started with naming your tech!
5 thoughts on “Writing Technobabble: P is for Prefixes”
Good tip. I used a similar technique by creating compound words to name tech e.g. AutoTaxi, TouchScreen.
Yes, combining words into new compound words is a great way to name tech.
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Don’t forget the suffixes, too: -ilyzer, -alator, -meter… =)
Black and White: P for Plurimiregia
Absolutely! I thought about doing suffixes for “s.” Maybe I should have just done both in this post, lol.
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