The Prefix “Hyper”

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).