View Full Version : What does the prefix "Ur-" mean?

06-07-2004, 12:36 PM
Lately I have seen the prefix "ur-" preceeding lots of words, generally in the sort of hip, often free metro papers I pick up for the subway ride. I think I've seen it in magazines, too.

Of course, now I can't find any examples, but I think it is in the context of "Martha Stewart, ur-hostess" or "Ralph Nader, ur-candidate" but I am not sure. I made those two up.

Is anyone familiar with this term? I have tried various internet searches but with only two letters to go on, it is tough. I keep coming across Ur, some ancient civilization.

Anyhow, I figured maybe one of you might know?

06-07-2004, 12:37 PM
I think it's slang for "You Are". As in, You Are Hip. Editing to add that now after re-reading your post, I might be wrong..... I've never seen it in the context I think you're describing....?

06-07-2004, 12:37 PM
My first thought is it's the internet version of your. Perhaps?-

06-07-2004, 12:42 PM
maybe it will be acceptable in the near future to use Ur in place of your or you're in case you aren't sure which one to use.

Laura B
06-07-2004, 12:44 PM
Hi, Jen! The only thing I can think of in that context would be that they are shortening "uber."

OK, well, I looked it up in the OED, and it says it is a prefix denoting "primitive, original, earliest."

06-07-2004, 12:45 PM
Yes, before a noun it means "original". It's also used before an adjective to mean "very".

06-07-2004, 12:48 PM
Laura! That has got to be it!

Thank you...I think you all are right that ur has entered the internet vernacular as a sub for "you are".

06-07-2004, 12:50 PM
Originally posted by jphilg
Of course, now I can't find any examples, but I think it is in the context of "Martha Stewart, ur-hostess" or "Ralph Nader, ur-candidate" but I am not sure. I made those two up.

I would also love to know! I saw this in our newspaper this weekend (definitely NOT the free, hip, metro kind :p ) and thought it was an awkward typo for "un" until I read your post. I can't find the article now, but the usage was very similar to your examples and definitely not a version of "your" or "you are."

ETA: Laura and Canice solved the mystery while I was typing. Thanks!

06-07-2004, 01:07 PM
I like "uber" :p

The teenage slang thing would be "yer".

06-07-2004, 01:12 PM
This was from A Word A Day a few months ago - it's amazing, what you can learn on the 'net :)

urtext (UHR-tekst, OOR-) noun

The original or earliest version of a text, such as
a musical composition or literary work.

[From German ur- (earliest, original) + text, ultimately from Latin
texere (to weave). Yes, the words textile and text are derived from
the same root. Tissue, context, and texture are other words that share
the same origin.]

"... Shadows, The 1959 John Cassavetes urtext screened as part of
the 'Sundance Collection,' offering a potent reminder of American
independent film's explosive beginnings while underscoring the
infinite regression that has since taken hold."
Dennis Lim; Search And Rescue Operations; The Village Voice
(New York); Feb 5, 2002.

"Coupland is the author of Generation X, the urtext of slackerhood,
and has made a career of plumbing the minds of baby-busters, Xers,
or whatever you want to call them."
James Aley; Tales From Slacker Hell a New Novel Explores Bill Gates'
Aura; Fortune (New York); Sep 18, 1995.

"Snd urtext b4 9 2nite." Even though it appears like a word from texting,
a form of shorthand used in modern cellphone messaging, the word urtext has
nothing to do with it. In fact, the term has been around much before
cell-yell added to the urban pollution. It comes to us from German, with the
prefix ur- (earliest or original). For example, Ursprache = proto-language.

It's believed that Shakespeare's Hamlet was inspired by a play that existed
decades earlier. Now lost, this hypothetical play has been called the
Ur-Hamlet. Much evidence points its authorship to dramatist
Thomas Kyd (1558-1594). Shakespeare's Hamlet was first printed in 1603.

Tack the handy prefix ur- onto everyday words and you can get many useful
coinages such as ur-history, ur-source, ur-novelist. But remember, urgent
isn't a synonym for Adam.

Interestingly, Ur was also the name of an ancient Sumerian city in
Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Since Ur was the home of many early civilizations,
one could say Ur civilization was an ur-civilization.

06-07-2004, 01:24 PM
Interesting how "Ur" translated to "EAR" as in the word "early".

06-07-2004, 02:25 PM
Very Germanic. Goethe's first version of his play "Faust" was entitled "Urfaust." Anything with an ur- prefix means original.

06-07-2004, 02:27 PM

06-07-2004, 05:42 PM
One of the earliest "cities" on the planet was Ur, in Mesopotamia. It was the prototype, the first, the one from which all others sprang. So, when you see ur-whatever, what's being said is that that thing is the one that contains all of the qualities that define that thing, and anything else is just a variation.