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arch- repr. ult. Gr. arkh(i)- chief, comb. form f. base of arkhós chief, arkhḗ rule, as in arkhággelos archangel, arkhidiā́konos archdeacon, arkhiepískopos archbishop, whence L. archangelus, archidiāconus, archiepiscopus, OF. arc(h)angele, arc(h)ediacre, arc(h)evesque. In OE. at first tr. by hēah HIGH, as in hēahenġel, but later adopted from L. as ærċe-, arċe-, erċe-, as in ærċebisċop, etc. The OE. forms gave ME. erche-, arche-, the latter coinciding with OF. arche-. From such comps. the prefix was generalized, and freely used in the senses ‘chief’, ‘principal’, ‘pre-eminent’, ‘extreme’. Cf. ARCHI-.
arch- • comb. form chief; principal: archbishop. ∎ preeminent of its kind: archenemy. ∎ (in unfavorable senses) out-and-out: arch-scoundrel.