Friday, June 19, 2015

Our All-American Prefix of the Month: "Trans"

America, often in a trance, has woken up to trans. Sure, "tranvestite" has long been in circulation. But now trans-the-friendly-prefix has dramatically expanded its reach in the Land of Personal Re-Invention.

Thank transgendered former male Olympic star Bruce Jenner for this linguistic revolution! "Caitlyn," his transname, went viral, giving the prefix the kind of lift no bra could provide.

And even more recently, trans has found a long-lost stem, "racial." The "hi 'I'm black'" -- according to her parents, "white" lady -- Rachel Dolezal, who was much in the news lately, described her family as "transracial."

And let's not forget Hillary Clinton, whose mysterious "non-profit" Foundation has energized another transword : "transparency."

Image from

As for trans fat (which recently earned a headline in The Wall Street Journal, "Trans Fats Transphobia:
Government flips over the additive it once promoted
") it's lost its ten seconds (pounds?) of fame, gained by revelations that it could poison us all. Dictionaries even don't seem to consider "trans" worthy of being joined to "fat," thereby (if my poor grammar serves me correctly) depriving it of its prefix-identity. How tragically post (trans?)-modern!

What will the future bring to trans? Perhaps a new word - transfatigue. All these transes are bound to get bring America back to its trances.


Also found in: MedicalAcronymsEncyclopediaWikipedia.


1. Across; on the other side; beyond: transpolar.
2. Through: transcontinental.
3. Change; transfer: transliterate.
4. Having a pair of identical atoms on opposite sides of two atoms linked by a double bond. Used of a geometric isomer: trans-butene.

[From Latin trāns-from trānsacross, beyond, throughsee terə- in Indo-European roots.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


 or sometimes before s- tran-
1. across, beyond, crossing, on the other side: transoceanictrans-Siberiantransatlantic.
2. changing thoroughly: transliterate.
3. transcending: transubstantiation.
4. transversely: transect.
5. (Elements & Compounds) (often in italicsindicating that a chemical compound has a molecular structure in which two groups oratoms are on opposite sides of a double bond Compare cis-2trans-butadiene.
[from Latin trāns across, through, beyond]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


1. prefix meaning “across,” “through,” occurring orig. in loanwords from Latin, used in particular to form verbs denoting movement orconveyance from place to place (transfer; transmit; transplant) or complete change (transform; transmute), or to form adjectivesmeaning “crossing,” “on the other side of,” or “going beyond” the place named (transmontane; transnational; trans-Siberian).

2. prefix used in the names of chemical compounds that are geometric isomers having two identical atoms or groups attached onopposite sides of a molecule divided by a given plane of symmetry Compare cis- (def. 2).
[< Latin, prefixal use of trāns (preposition) across, through]


1. transaction.
2. transfer.
3. transferred.
4. transformer.
5. transit.
6. transitive.
7. translated.
8. translation.
9. translator.
10. transparent.
11. transportation.
12. transpose.
13. transverse.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

No comments: