Synonyms of ultra- in English:
There is on occasion a small degree of confusion over these two Germanic words, not least because both begin with the same letter, both are short, both are used only as prefixes, and both confer a kind of mittel-European sophistication, not warranted if they are employed in error, on the user. Über, with the diacritic firmly in place, suggests 'over-' or 'bigger'—so an Übermensch, taken from the German, is a kind of superman. It is generally complimentary, although the first line of the German national anthem, Deutschland über alles, has an unpleasant connotation if, wrongly, it is taken to mean 'Germany Supreme.' (It in fact reflects Germans’ supposed affection for Germany Above All Others, which is rather different.) The shorter prefix ur- denotes origin and originality—Leonardo da Vinci designed, for example, what might be described as an ur-tank and an ur-helicopter. Confusion over the use of the two words can thus be easily avoided; but the overuse of them as prefixes can lead to accusations of pretentiousness. Far better than the other use of ur—which, like er, suggests an unwonted hesitancy at the beginning of a sentence.Simon Winchester
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