Size does matter: Notes for the study of micro-

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© Estudios de Lingüística del Español 2018. The combining form micro- appears in 72 Diccionario de la lengua española entries as part of both terminology and general Spanish vocabulary. After reviewing studies on word formation and dictionary content regarding micro- and other similar elements, it can be observed that no agreement has been reached on its status as either a prefix or a compositional element. This study examines the history of micro- from its origin in classical Greek, its presence in Latin, and words emerging in Spanish with the element micro- from their earliest documentation up to the beginning of the 20th century. This process enables the outlining the genealogy of micro-, a very productive element in Greek, with evidence of use in Latin limited to a few Greek loanwords, of which the word microcosmos subsists through medieval Latin and remains as a practically isolated element in Spanish texts until the 17th century, when microscopio suddenly makes an appearance. At this point a lexicogenic pattern begins to develop. Ultimately reinforced in the last quarter of the nineteenth century by the creation of the word microbio, it becomes highly productive in modern Spanish, giving rise to specialized vocabulary in the fields of science, technology, and economics, with ever-increasing incursions into general language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-105
JournalEstudios de Linguistica del Espanola
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Combining form
  • Language of science
  • Microbio
  • Microscopio
  • Prefix


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