The Prefix “Hyper” and Related Words

By Mark Nichol

Words with the Greek prefix hyper– (meaning “above,” “beyond,” or “over”) are listed and defined in this post. (A subsequent post will focus on words with the antonymic prefix hypo.)

In the medical realm, hyperactivity is excessive behavior often associated with attention deficit disorder (ADD)—also referred to as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—though the term often refers informally to overactivity in general; the adjectival form is hyperactive, which is commonly colloquially abbreviated to hyper.

Meanwhile, hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure and the attendant condition affecting the entire body. Another of numerous medical terms with the root hyper– is hyperventilation, which originally referred to medical treatment by exposure to drafts of air; now, the word pertains to excessively rapid breathing and is often employed informally to describe overexcitement.

Hyperplasia and hypertrophy both refer to excessive growth; the roots mean “formation” and “nourishment,” respectively. Hyperaphia, meanwhile, is excessive sensitivity to touch; the adjectival form is hyperaphic.

Hyperbole (literally, “throwing beyond”—bole is cognate with ball) is exaggeration; a hyperbola, by comparison, is a specific type of geometric curve. (Hyperbolic serves as an adjective for both words.) Another term pertaining to rhetoric is hyperbaton (literally, “overstepping”), which refers to an inversion of the traditional word order in a sentence.

A hyperborean is someone who lives in the far north regions of Earth; borean is cognate with boreal, meaning “northern”—a form of which is seen in “aurora borealis,” or “northern lights.” (Because the Hyperboreans of Roman mythology were beyond the reach of Boreas, the Roman god of the north wind, their domain was thought to be a paradise. Another name from Roman mythology is that of Hyperion, a Titan later associated in his characteristics with the god Apollo.)

To be hypercritical or hypersensitive is to be excessively judgmental or emotionally vulnerable in the face of judgment, respectively.

A hyperlink is an electronically enabled connection between a document or file and a similar element online or an online location; the word is derived from the notion of such a connection being “super.” (Hyperlink is also employed as a verb to describe making such a connection.) Hypermedia is a lesser-known term encompassing forms of media other than writing.

In science, hyperspace describes multidimensional space; in science fiction, the term denotes a distinct dimensional region that enables faster-than-light travel. In the latter realm, hyperdrive is a form of propulsion that enables entering hyperspace, and the velocity at which hyperspace travel can occur is hyperspeed (prominent in Star Wars media but not to be confused with the concept of warp speed, which was popularized by the Star Trek entertainment franchise).

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17 Responses to “The Prefix “Hyper” and Related Words”

  • Dale A. Wood

    There is a large set of literary works all named “Hyperion”
    “Hyperion” a long poem by the Briton John Keats
    “Hyperion” a novel the German Friedrich Hölderlin
    “Hyperion” a novel by the American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    “Hyperion” an SF novel by the American Dan Simmons
    “Hyperion” magazine, an old literary journal noted for publishing many of the works of Franz Kafka.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Other words from technology, including devices:
    hyperbaric: pressures significantly higher than atmospheric, used in medicine, and especially with pure oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen is useful in treating cases of carbon-monoxide poisoning, infections with anaerobic bacteria, and reputedly with neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis.
    ultramicroscope: a super-duper optical microscope for observing things like viruses.
    ultrapasteurize – something that is done to milk sometimes to kill ALL of the bacteria and viruses in it.
    ultraheavy – elements with atomic numbers higher than 100, such as dubnium, seaborgium, bohrium, and hassium.
    ultraheavy – particles containing such items as top quarks and bottom quarks.
    ultralow frequencies (ULF)
    very low frequencies (VLF)

  • Dale A. Wood

    In velocities:
    subsonic, transonic, supersonic, hypersonic.
    subluminal, transluminal, superluminal.
    In frequencies:
    subsonic (again), sonic, ultrasonic
    very high frequency, ultrahigh frequency, superhigh frequency, extremely high frequency.
    VHF, UHF, SHF, EHF

  • Dale A. Wood

    Diseases: hyperthyroidism, hyperglycemia, hypergonadism, hypersexuality, hypersomnia, hypermania, hyperventilation, hypervertigo, hyperacidity (in the stomach),…
    (hyperheaving?)

  • Dale A. Wood

    Hyperborea was the domain of the Hyperboreans.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Close: “Hibernia” was the old Roman name for Ireland.
    Just change it a little: Hibernia –> Hybernia –> Hyberbia –> Hyperbola–> Hyperborea

  • Dale A. Wood

    The spellchecker changed my “hyperredundant” into “ultraredundant”, but I did not catch it.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Diseases: hyperthyroidism, hyperglycemia, hypogonadism, hypersexuality, hypersomnia, hypermania, hyperventilation, hypervertigo, hyperacidity (in the stomach),…
    (hyperheaving?)

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Multidimensional space”. That’s nothing. In science fiction, there is “hyperdimensional space”. That is a good place to get these to work:
    hyperdrive, hypervelocity, hyperwave video, and hypergravity..

  • Dale A. Wood

    Seen recently on the Web, and ultraredundant:
    “The Rio de la Plata River”.
    Of course, this one is closely related to these:
    “The Rio Grande River”, “the Rio Blanco River”, “The Rio Negro River”, “The Rio Verde River”, and the “The Rio Colorado River”.

  • Dale A. Wood

    General terminology about “ultramarine” (Wikipedia)
    Ultramarine is a blue pigment made from natural lapis lazuli, or its synthetic equivalent…
    More generally, “ultramarine blue” can refer to a vivid blue.
    [I.e. “beyond sea blue”].
    [Also] “Ultramarine is a deep blue color and a pigment that was made originally by grinding lapis lazuli into a powder. Its name comes from the Latin word ‘ultramarinus’, literally ‘beyond the sea’, because the pigment was imported into Europe from mines in Afghanistan [questionable] by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries.
    [Why not also Pakistan, Persia, Palestine? These are all in the same part of the world, mineralogically, and especially Pakistan. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkestan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan : geologists can hardly tell the difference.]
    ————————————————————————–
    Another blue pigment made from a mineral: turquoise.
    Sapphires and emeralds would be way too expensive.

  • Dale A. Wood

    In the world of metallurgy and materials science, there are substances that are called “superdense”.
    That’s nothing! Just go to astrophysics and science fiction where you can find substances that are “ultradense” and “hyperdense” like
    “neutronium”, “condensed quarks”, and “ylem”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ylem

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Warp speed” and “hypervelocity” are essentially the same thing, and I would not waste any effort in distinguishing these two
    “Hyperspace” and “subspace” are essentially the same thing, also.
    “Spacewarp” and “subspace” are essentially the same thing, too.
    Starships like the USS “Enterprise” use spacewarp to get into and out of “subspace”, and thus they achieve “hypervelocity” (superluminous speeds) and get from one part of the galaxy to another quickly.
    This is exactly the same as making a “Jump through hyperspace” like Han Solo and Chewbacca so do in STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and THE RETURN OF THE JEDI.
    On the other hand, what is really nonsense is all of that talk of using “wormholes”. In every theory that there is, all wormholes are VERY unstable.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Other such words crafted by science fiction writers:
    “Hyperwave” as in “hyperwave radio” and “hyperwave video”.
    Hyperwave communication is the same thing as “subspace radio” in STAR TREK. The whole idea is “far faster than the speed of light”, or “superluminous”.
    In the galaxy of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novels, there is a planet named Rossum that is sparsely populated by people who are rather like Mennonites or the Amish. One difficulty with Rossum is that it is freezing cold about nine months out of the year.
    Not so surprising is that on Rossum, hyperwave video receivers are popular purchases, despite the conservativism of the Rossumites. (I guess that they could watch the soap operas and cartoon shows from other solar systems!)
    Other places in S.F. had “hypermen” and “hyperwomen”, much higher than Superman and Supergirl. From other planets came “hyperbeings”, too, much like the Organians and the Melkotians of STAR TREK, and the two “parents” of “Trelane” in “The Squire of Gothos” – which I saw AGAIN recently,
    D.A.W.

  • venqax

    And here I always thought UHF just meant “bad reception channels.” You know, in Latin or something.

  • Dale A. Wood

    So, there is a satellite of Saturn named “Hyperion”, so now we know that this name came from the name of a titan. “Titan” is also the name of the largest moon. I just looked this one up: The male titans were Oceanus, Hyperion, Coeus, Cronus, Crius ,and Iapetus, and the females were Mnemosyne, Tethys, Theia, Phoebe, Rhea, and Dione.
    There are satellites of Saturn named Titan, Hyperion, Iapetus (also spelled Japetus), Tethys, Phoebe, Dione, and Rhea.
    There are others named Mimas, Enceledas, and Janus. Mimas and Enceledas were another son of the same mother, Gaia.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Note: The Prefix “Hyper” and Related Words
    This is a quite misleading title because of the simple fact that a prefix is a prefix and a word is a word – deeply logical, but a rule that is often broken by the inhabitants of the British Isles.
    There are sets of prefixes that are arranged in the order of their intensity, and one of these is {ultra, super, hyper}. The British want to use some of these as words, such as “Ultra” (capitalized) and “hyper”. Some examples of these used correctly are {ultrasonic, supersonic, and hypersonic}, and there is another one that is not a superlative: “transonic”. Some want to hyphenate these prefixes, but in correct usage, they are not hyphenated.
    Another set of such prefixes is standard in the metric system: {deka, hector, kilo, myria, mega, giga, and tera}, but unfortunately some want to use these alone, such as “kilo” and “mega”. In the metric system, these are specified NOT to be hyphenated. Here are some examples: {kilogram, kilometer, megawatt, megavolt, gigahertz, gigawatt, terabyte}.
    Another set has a combination of words and prefixes, for historical reasons, and it is used in the field of electromagnetic waves, i.e. radio waves. It goes like this: high frequency (HF), very high frequency (VHF), ultrahigh frequency (UHF), superhigh frequency (SHF), and extremely high frequency (EHF). So now when people say abbreviations like SHF and EHF, you will know what they are talking about.

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