There are examples like наддать пару and поддать пару (not my favorite Russian words, but still they both exist).

They have the same meaning, at least that is what gramota.ru suggests: наддать, meaning 1 and поддать, meaning 3.

At the same time, prefixes над- and под- have exactly opposite meanings, at least as long as they refer to the position in space (над- stands for above, под- stands for under).

How come that adding prefixes with opposite meaning to the same stem results in the words with the same meaning?

  • 3
    Another interesting example - поднажать featuring both на- (though not над-) and под- prefixes.
    – Artemix
    Aug 13, 2013 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


These prefixes were originally used in meaning "add to the top" and "add to the bottom", respectively.

The latter prefix later obtained metaphoric meaning "do a little" (literally, "do something in quality/quantity under the normal": подкрась, подштопай, подлатай). However, it's still used in its original meaning in some words with distinct localization: надставка / подставка etc.

As the words in your example do not assume distinct localization, they are almost synonymous ("increase the effort"), but the latter word hints a little increase while the first one hints a significant increase.

Compare: надбавь / подбавь, наддуй / поддуй.

  • I agree and I like your explanation, with the only exception of two last examples, where you use a different prefix: "на-" instead of "над-".
    – Olga
    Jul 9, 2012 at 12:11
  • Plus "add to the top" and "add to the bottom" are not probably the original meanings of the prefixes, but of the verbs.
    – Olga
    Jul 9, 2012 at 12:14
  • 1
    @olga: -дл- is unstable in this position so надложи / наложи and надлей / налей have merged. But these words had been used in Russian with над- and Dahl mentions them.
    – Quassnoi
    Jul 9, 2012 at 12:22
  • I didn't realize that you were talking about diachrony, I meant that currently it is two different prefixes.
    – Olga
    Jul 9, 2012 at 12:23
  • Compare: "насыпь-ка" and "надсыпь-ка"
    – Olga
    Jul 9, 2012 at 12:24

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