You might ask now:

What does the "i" stand for?

Well, according to the following article http://www.iphonejd.com/iphone_jd/2009/01/the-i-in-iphone.html the "i" was originally meant to stand for "internet", but it was never fixed to the meaning of internet alone; it can also denote other things such as "Individual" "Instruct "Inform" "Inspire",...

Now, my question is:

How would be describe the 'i' in linguistic terms?

  1. As some new kind of productive affix?
  2. Or would you rather argue iPad, iPhone etc. to be compounds, where the first part of the compound was clipped, while the second part of the compound retained its form?
  3. Any other good ideas? :)
  • 6
    I would say this is just silly product naming. Jun 5, 2013 at 20:47
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    I'd agree; a form of branding. As to what it is, it's a prefix. Prefixes, like middle initials, don't have to stand for anything.
    – jlawler
    Jun 5, 2013 at 21:35
  • 4
    Well both i- and e- took on little lives of their own some time ago. i- predates the iPhone, going back to the iMac. At about that time many products or companies appeared with an e- prefix as well. I think Apple defended their i- trademark so you don't really see it for non-Apple things officially, but both are used colloquially or in jest. They do seem to be "alive" with a limited degree of productivity as affixes, but they've possibly not proved themselves enough to make it into a "real" dictionary. (Wiktionary might have entries.) Jun 6, 2013 at 4:18
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  • 3
    Both i and e- have the stress of compounds rather than prefixes. So I vote for compound.
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 5, 2015 at 22:22

2 Answers 2


I'd call this thing a prefixoid, i.e., an element with some but not all features of a prefix.


This seems like a standard prefix playing on the homophony with "high" and the acronym formations with internet/information. It modifies its base in a way similar to a diminutive, creating an hyponym with connotation. Here, probably, an approbative effect.

To be a compound, it would need a definite base for i which seems quite elusive.

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