The Prefix DE- 110 Common Words (PDF-Definitions-Examples)

Prefixes and suffixes are like puzzle pieces. They can be used to greatly increase your English vocabulary. I have written this guide to help you use the prefix DE- with confidence by listing lots of common words with real example sentences. (Images too!)

The prefix DE- shows that something is the opposite: decompress – to have air pressure return to normal. (Opposite – compress)
OR something is removed: defrost – to remove frost
OR something is moved to a lower level: demote – to move somebody/something to a lower position

I thoroughly researched this prefix and collected 110 words with the prefix DE-. Then I wrote the meaning with example sentences to help you understand and use these words just like a native speaker. Turn words you already know into new words and quickly increase your English vocabulary.

The prefix DE-

I found a huge list on Wiktionary dot-com of almost 2,000 words with the prefix DE- and there are even more words that begin with the letters DE but they are not used a prefix.

For a word to make this list, the prefix de- must be added to an already existing word to change the meaning. Words like delay and demand did not qualify.  

Some exceptions:
If the word has a direct opposite with a different prefix I included it on the list. Words like:

  • DEflate – INflate 
  • DEcline – INcline
  • DEscend – Ascend

I sorted through the Wiktionary list and I used two rules for deciding which words made it onto this blog post. 

Rule #1 – I have heard the word used before, used it myself, or seen it written in a book or article. If I haven’t heard the word before it may be too strange or too scientific to be useful for ESL students and teachers.
Words from the Wiktionary list like degelify and devascularization didn’t make my list. (Have you ever heard or used these words before?!)

Rule #2 – If a word was new to me but sounded natural I entered it into Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries dot com. If it didn’t have a definition on Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries I probably left the word out of the post.

de prefix – OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com

Table of Contents

The prefix DE- (Verbs)

deactivate – to make something such as a device or chemical process stop working

  • You need the code to deactivate the alarm.

deauthorize – To revoke permission, sanction or consent.

  • Before you sell your Apple Mac you should deauthorize your computer from Apple Music.

debase – to make somebody/something less valuable or respected

  • Gold coins can be debased by melting them down and mixing them with cheaper metals/

debeak – To remove part of the beak of a chicken or other bird to prevent pecking in chicken farms

  • Chickens in factory farms are debeaked to keep them from pecking each other in their small and crowded cages.

debone – to remove the bone

  • When I was 8 my grandfather taught me how to debone the fish we caught. This made the fish easy to cook and eat.

The full video can be found at my Root Word blog post here >>> Increase your vocabulary FAST with Prefixes and Suffixes (Free PDF)

debrief –  to ask somebody questions officially, in order to get information about the task that they have just completed

  • The soldiers were debriefed after their mission into enemy territory. 

debug –  to look for and remove the faults in a computer program

  • I use my computer a lot so I need to debug it every 3 months. 

debunk –  to show that an idea, a belief, etc. is false; to show that something is not as good as people think it is

  • The article debunks 5 myths that people believe about cloud computing. 

decalcify – To decrease the quantity of calcium salts

  • Doctors in Japan have found a new way to decalcify clogged heart valves.

decapitate –  to cut off somebody’s head

  • In ancient times criminals were often decapitated in public.

decentralize – to give some of the power of a central government, organization, etc. to smaller parts or organizations around the country 

  • People think that we should decentralize energy production and allow private companies to produce it too.

declassify – to state officially that secret government information is no longer secret

  • The government has just declassified some documents related to area 51. 

declaw – to remove the clause from an animal 

  • We are having our cat declawed so she will stop scratching people. 
The Prefix DE- declaw

decline – to refuse politely to accept or to do something

  • The governor declined to comment on the allegations. 

declutter –  to remove things that you do not use so that you have more space and can easily find things when you need them

  • I learned 10 ways to declutter my closet from this book. It’s really helpful. 

decode – to convert something written in code into normal language

  • My great-uncle helped decode German radio messages during World War II. 

decommission – to stop using a nuclear power station and take it apart safely

  • The country decommissioned eight of its last 10 nuclear power stations after the accident. 

decompose – to be destroyed gradually after death by natural processes 

  • After just a short time the body began to decompose

decompress –  to have air pressure return to normal: ALSO to calm down and relax 

  • After a busy week at work, I like to use Saturday to decompress and just relax. 

deconstruct –  to separate something into the parts from which it is made up and put them together again in a different way

  • My high school music teacher helped us deconstruct classic songs to find the parts that made them special. 

decontaminate – to remove harmful substances from a place or thing

  • After the nuclear power station accident, the area had to be decontaminated
The Prefix DE- decontaminated

decontrol – if a government decontrols something, it removes legal controls from it

  • Rent controls limit how much landlords can increase rental fees, while vacancy decontrol allows landlords to increase rents when a rental unit becomes vacant.

deconvert – to leave a particular religion, faith, or belief

  • Alan deconverted after he graduated from college. 

decrypt – to change information that is in code into ordinary language so that it can be understood by anyone

  • Computers can encrypt and decrypt sensitive information that is being sent over the Internet.

defame – to harm somebody by saying or writing bad or false things about them

  • The magazine claims it was not its intention to defame the politician. 

de-emphasize – to remove or reduce the emphasis from something; to make something less important

  • Climate change is causing countries to de-emphasize investments in the development of fossil fuels.

de-escalate – to decrease in intensity or magnitude

  • The police were called to de-escalate the situation which was becoming violent. 

defang – to remove the fangs from (something)

  • The snake was defanged by a veterinarian. 

Defang can also mean taking power away from a person, group, or country. If you remove their fangs you take away their power or effectiveness.
The court decision could defang federal environmental agencies.
(The decision by the court could take power away from federal environmental agencies)

de-feather – to remove the feathers from

  • The chickens are de-feathered before the meat comes to the supermarket. 

deflate – to let air or gas out of a tire, balloon, etc.; to become smaller because of air or gas coming out

  • I looked down and noticed the rear tire on my bicycle was deflated. I have to put air in the tire before I ride it. 

defog – to remove the condensation from a car’s windows so that you can see clearly

  • Using your car’s heater and opening the windows just a little bit can help you defog your windows even faster. 

defoliate – to destroy the leaves of trees or plants, especially with chemicals

  • Hungry gypsy moths can defoliate thousands of trees if their population is not controlled. 

deforest – to cut down and destroy all the trees in a place

  • People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and deforesting land.
The Prefix DE- deforesting

deform – to change or damage the usual or natural shape of something; to become changed in shape

  • The disease deformed his spine and made it difficult to walk.

defragment (also defrag – informal) – to organize where data is stored on a computer hard disk in the most efficient way, in order to reduce the time taken to access the data

  • My computer is getting slow, I think it might be time to defrag it again. 

defriend – ​to remove somebody from a list of friends or contacts on social media

  • After too many political posts and comments on social media, many of Carl’s connections defriended him. 

Unfriend is a more common way to say the same thing.

defrost – to remove frost or ice from something

  • That chicken has been in the freezer for a long time so make sure you defrost it before you cook it. 

defund – to stop providing money for something, especially something official

  • Some Americans are calling for the government to defund the police while others think that more police training is a better solution.

defuse – to stop a possibly dangerous or difficult situation from developing, especially by making people less angry or nervous

  • City officials are trying to defuse the anger in the city since the recent shooting. 

deglaze – to make a sauce by adding liquid to the cooking juices in a pan in which meat has been cooked

  • Add red wine to the pot and deglaze it, absorbing any liquid or small pieces of meat from the bottom of the pan. This will make a tasty sauce for your beef. 

degrade – ① to show or treat somebody in a way that makes them seem not worth any respect or not worth taking seriously

  • If you listen to the lyrics of the song it clearly degrades women. 

②to make something become worse, especially in quality

  • The comic book is rare but it has been badly degraded so it lost much of its value. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that a comic book from 1962 called Amazing Fantasy (Issue #15) sold for $1.1 Million at an auction in 2011? It’s the first appearance of Spider-Man.
(Source)

degrease – to remove grease or oil from something

  • The company makes a great product to clean and degrease your car’s engine.

dehumidify – to take the monster out of the air 

  • I just bought a machine to dehumidify my office, it works well but it was quite expensive. 

dehydrate – to remove the water from something

  • Joggers have to be careful in the summer heat. They need to keep drinking water so they don’t dehydrate.

dehumanize – to make somebody lose their human qualities such as kindness, pity, etc.; to make people seem like objects rather than human beings

  • Hate speech dehumanizes individuals and communities.

de-ice – to remove the ice from something

  • In the winter, airports use special machines to de-ice the wings before takeoff. 

demagnetize (demagnetise – UK spelling) – to make something non-magnetic by removing its magnetic properties

  • Other recycling processes involve heating the e-waste to temperatures above 316ºC to demagnetize the magnets.

demean – to make people have less respect for somebody/something

  • I hate music that demeans women. 

demerge – to separate a company into smaller companies, usually into the companies that had previously been joined together; to be split in this way

  • The financial company plans to demerge the management section of its business.

demilitarize – to remove military forces from an area

  • The border between North and South Korea is a demilitarized zone. 

By Rishabh Tatiraju – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21452471

demineralize – to remove salts from water

  • Demineralizing the water can remove some helpful elements like calcium and fluoride.

demote – to move somebody/something to a lower position or rank, often as a punishment

  • After his third blunder, Peter was demoted back down to an assistant.

demotivate – to make somebody less keen to work or study

  • Repeated low test scores and failures can demotivate students and make them less likely to succeed in the future.

demystify – to make something easier to understand and less complicated by explaining it in a clear and simple way

  • He wrote a book to try and demystify technology but the older generation. 

deodorize – to remove or hide an unpleasant smell in a place

  • Dried or dehydrated flowers can help deodorize a smelly room.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the acronym DNA stands for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid? It uses the prefix DE- to tell us about ribose. (Ribose is a sugar) Deoxyribose means that one molecule of oxygen has been removed from the sugar. Deoxy = remove oxygen.

depoliticize – to remove political activity or influence from something

  • The governor wants to use the shooting to gain support among the voters. We need to depoliticize these kinds of tragedies. 

depopulate – to reduce the number of people living in a place

  • War often leaves vibrant towns and cities broken down and depopulated

deport – to force somebody to leave a country, usually because they have broken the law or because they have no legal right to be there

  • As soon as he finished his jail time he was deported back to his home country. 

depress – to make somebody sad and without enthusiasm or hope

  • A lot of the news today depresses me, but with a little research, I can find inspiring news on the internet to cheer me up. 

deprogram – to counteract the effects of previous programming or brainwashing, especially in an attempt to persuade (a person) to abandon allegiance to a cult

  • When people are indoctrinated into a cult, the hope is to deprogram them.

deregulate – to remove regulations

  • They have been caused to deregulate the banking industry for years. 

desalinate – to remove salt from seawater so that it can be used

  • It is now possible to desalinate seawater to make it safe for drinking using renewable energy. This will make it much easier for smaller countries you have a supply of fresh water. 

Fun Fact: The island of Aruba has a large desalination plant, with a total capacity of 11.1 million US gallons (42,000 m3) per day.
(Source)

descale – to remove the scale (= the hard white material left on pipes, etc. by water when it is heated) from something

Part of Donovan’s job is to descale the pipes in the city’s water system. 

descend – to come or go down from a higher to a lower level

  • We spent about two hours at the top of Mount Fuji watching the sunrise. After that, we descended and took a bus back to Tokyo. 

desensitize – to make somebody/something less aware of something as a problem by making them become used to it

  • Violent TV shows and video games are desensitizing some people to violence. 

deselect – to remove something from the list of possible choices on a computer menu

  • If you don’t need Wi-Fi on the plane please deselect that option on your e-ticket so you will not be charged. 

destabilize –  to make a system, country, government, etc. become less well established or successful

  • The attacks were meant to destabilize the country. 

dethrone – to remove a king or queen from power; to remove somebody from a position of authority or power

  • Stranger Things season 4 could soon dethrone Squid Game as the biggest Netflix series ever.

detox – to stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs; to attempt to remove harmful substances from your body by only eating and drinking certain things

  • This is a fancy facility where the rich can come to detox and get healthy again. 

Fun Fact: Paracelsus in Switzerland is the world’s most expensive rehab center. It costs $370,000 a month for treatment.

devalue –  to reduce in value when it is exchanged for the money of another country; to reduce the value of money in this way

  • Without proper maintenance and upkeep, you can seriously devalue your home. This can cause a huge loss of money when you sell it later.

deworm – to cause an animal to excrete any worms in the digestive tract by the administration of drugs

  • Deworming your dog regularly is a great way to keep them healthy.

The prefix DE- (Nouns)

decomposition – the process of being destroyed gradually after death by natural processes

  • The decomposition of fruit and vegetable food waste turns it into great fertilizer.

decompression – a reduction in air pressure; the act of reducing the pressure of the air

  • There was a sudden decompression in the cabin of the airplane. Luckily all the passengers were safe.

Did You Know? – Decompression sickness refers to injuries caused by a rapid decrease in the pressure that surrounds you, of either air or water. It occurs most commonly in scuba or deep-sea divers.
(Source)

deconstruction – the act of separating something into the parts from which it is made up and putting them together again in a different way

  • Deconstruction of the old airport terminal will begin in May.

decontamination – the process of removing harmful substances from a place or thing

They have started decontamination of the area surrounding the power plant.

decontrol – the act of removing legal controls from something

  • There is a belief that businesses will perform much better in an environment of government decontrol.

decryption – the process of changing information that is in code into ordinary language so that it can be understood by anyone

  • Social media platforms must protect against system flaws that could allow the decryption of their users’ private data.

de-escalation – a decrease in scope, extension, or severity

The local police need more de-escalation training.

defamation – the act of damaging somebody’s reputation by saying or writing bad or false things about them

  • Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have been in a long court case with each accusing the other of defamation.

In The News – Johnny Depp Wins Defamation Case, Ex-Wife Amber Heard To Pay $15 Million
(Source)

deflation – the action of air being removed from something OR (economics) a reduction in the amount of money in a country’s economy so that prices fall or remain the same

  • After the war, the country entered a time of high unemployment and deflation.

defoliant – a chemical that removes the leaves from plants, sometimes used as a weapon in war

  • Agent Orange was a defoliant during the Vietnam War to remove the jungle leaves that were hiding the enemy.

defoliation – the act of destroying the leaves of trees or plants, especially with chemicals

  • The defoliation caused by Agent Orange was massive. 

deforestation – the act of cutting down or burning the trees in an area

  • Deforestation is a huge problem in the Amazon rainforest.

deformation – the process or result of changing or damaging the usual or natural shape of something

  • Scientists think that the deformations on the moon were caused by asteroid impacts.

Fun Fact: More than 9,000 visible craters pockmark the moon, thanks to a barrage of impacts from meteors, asteroids and comets over billions of years, according to the International Astronomical Union.
(Source)

dehumidifier – an electrical machine for removing water from the air

  • In July and August, my dehumidifier works overtime!

dehydration – ​the condition of having lost too much water from your body

During the summer months, it’s important to drink water even if you’re not thirsty. This way you won’t suffer from dehydration

de-icer – a substance that is put on a surface to remove ice or to stop it from forming

  • Road salt is used as a de-icer in cities where winter driving conditions are made dangerous by ice and snow on the roads.

demineralization – the process of removing salts from water

First, we collect a large amount of salt water, the next step is demineralization.

demonetize – to demote (published content, or its creator) so that it is no longer eligible to earn money for its publisher

  • YouTube can demonetize any content that does not comply with its guidelines.

demotivation – ​the feeling of being less keen to work or study

An uncomfortable work environment can cause demotivation among employees.

deodorant – a substance that people put on their bodies to prevent or hide unpleasant smells

  • It’s hot today, so remember to put on deodorant.

depopulation – a reduction in the number of people living in a place

  • The current trend of remote working is causing depopulation in some big cities. People don’t want to pay high rent if they don’t need to live close to their office.

Did You Know? – They estimate that 1 in 4 Americans over 26% of the American workforce will be working remotely through 2021. They also estimate that 22% of the workforce (36.2 Million Americans) will work remotely by 2025.
(Source)

deportation – the act of forcing somebody to leave a country, usually because they have broken the law or because they have no legal right to be there

  • Steve’s trouble with the law resulted in his deportation from Argentina.

deportee – ​a person who has been deported or is going to be deported

  • Steve is now a deportee and he must leave the country by Friday.

deregulation – the process of making a trade, business activity, etc. free from rules and controls

  • There has been a call for deregulation of the retail fuel industry.

desalination – the process of removing salt from seawater (a synonym of demineralizing)

  • The new desalination plant will provide 80 new jobs to local residents.

destabilization – ​the act of making a system, country, government, etc. become less well established or successful; the fact of being like this

  • The war is causing widespread destabilization across the country.

detox – the process of removing harmful substances from your body by only eating and drinking particular things

  • I’m in the middle of a 14-day detox.

devaluation – (finance) a reduction in the value of the money of one country when it is exchanged for the money of another country

  • The war will cause a significant devaluation of the country’s currency.

The prefix DE- (Adjectives and Adverbs)

decaffeinated – (of coffee or tea) with most or all of the caffeine removed

  • I only drink decaffeinated coffee after 3 PM. Too much caffeine keeps me awake.

defamatory – (of speech or writing) intended to harm somebody by saying or writing bad or false things about them

  • The allegations that were made are false and defamatory.

deflationary – causing or affected by a reduction in the amount of money in a country’s economy so that prices fall or remain the same

  • Higher taxes have a deflationary effect.

deformed – not having the usual or natural shape because of having developed wrongly or being damaged

The machine automatically separates damaged or deformed pieces of fruit.

degrading – treating somebody as if they have no value, so that they lose their self-respect and the respect of other people

  • This prison is known for its degrading treatment of prisoners.

dehydrated – ① (especially of food) having had the water removed, in order to preserve it

  • Fruit that is dehydrated and vacuum-packed will last for a very long time.

② having lost too much water from your body

The Prefix DE- dehydrated
  • You look dehydrated. Please have some of my water.

demeaning – putting somebody in a position that does not give them the respect that they should have

  • I need a job but this work is demeaning.

demotivated – feeling less keen to work or study

  • My hot and humid dorm room is so uncomfortable. I’m completely demotivated here. I think I will go to the library to study.

demotivating – ​making somebody less keen to work or study

  • This poster is funny but also demotivating. It’s telling us not to try.

deregulatory – intended to free a trade, a business activity, etc. from rules and controls; connected with this process

  • A new deregulatory committee has been created to find ways to attract new business to the city.

Printable Prefix DE- PDF

Download your printable PDF list of all the Prefix DE- words from this post below. (It’s FREE!)↓

I would like to thank the following websites for their help when writing this post.

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