Affixes  

What are affixes?

An affix is an element that is added to a base word or root to create a new or inflected form. The most common affixes are prefixes, which attach to the beginning of a base or root word, and suffixes, which attach to the end. We’ll briefly cover both of these here, but you can continue on to their individual sections to learn more.
There are also a number of other, less common affixes that are used in English, which we’ll look at further on.

Prefixes

A prefix is a group of letters that is added to the beginning of a root or base word to change its meaning in a sentence. Prefixes are never inflectional—that is, they do not change the grammatical function of a word without changing its basic meaning. Instead, prefixes are only ever derivational, serving to create new words with unique meanings.
Prefixes generally do not affect the spelling of the root word to which they are attached, but we do sometimes have to alter the prefix itself depending on the spelling of the word it precedes. For example, the prefix in- can change to ig- (before n-), il- (before l-), im- (before b-, m-, or p-), or ir- (before r-).
In addition, many prefixes are only able (or only tend) to attach to certain parts of speech. For example, the prefix un- (meaning “not”) generally only attaches to adjectives, as in unhappy or uncomfortable; when un- means “to do the opposite of,” it only attaches to verbs, as in uncork or unlock. Attaching un- to a noun, on the other hand, is usually not done—for instance, unbuilding or unsky are incorrect.
Let’s briefly look at some common prefixes one might encounter:
Prefix
Meaning
Usually attaches to
Example words
anti-
(Occasionally hyphenated; sometimes ant- before a vowel, especially a-)
1. Equal and opposite to.
2. Opposing; against; prejudicial to.
3. Counteracting; destroying; neutralizing.
4. Enemy of or rival to; false version of.
1. nouns, Greek roots
2. adjectives, nouns
3. adjectives, nouns
4. nouns
1. antarctic, anticatalyst, anticlimax, antidote, antihero, antimatter, antipodes, antithesis, antonym
2. antagonist, antiapartheid, anticolonial, anticorruption, antidiscrimination, antiestablishment, antigovernment, antisocial, anti-war
3. anti-aircraft, antibacterial, anticonvulsive, antidepressant, antifungal, antifreeze, antihistamine, antipyretic, antitoxin, antiviral
4. antichrist, antipope
auto-
(occasionally reduced to aut- before vowels)
1. Self; one’s own; of, regarding, or performed by the same person or thing.
2. Derived from automatic (sometimes hyphenated).
3. Derived from automobile (sometimes hyphenated).
1. nouns, adjectives, Latin and Greek roots
2. nouns, verbs
3. nouns
1. autarchy, autism, autobiography, autoclave, autocracy, autograph, autoimmune, automatic, automobile, automotive, autonomy, autopsy
2. autofocus, autocorrect, autopilot, autosave, autosuggest, auto-tune
3. autobus, autocross, automaker, auto-mechanic
bi-
(Very rarely, becomes bin- before vowels)
1. Two.
2. Having or involving two.
3. Occurring at intervals of two; less formally, occurring twice within that interval.
1. nouns, Latin roots (and, less often, verbs)
2. adjectives
3. adjectives, adverbs
1. biceps, bicycle, bifurcate, bipartisan, biped, bisect
2. bifocal, biconcave, biconvex, bilingual, binaural, binocular, bidirectional, bilateral, bipolar
3. biannual, bicentennial, bihourly, bimonthly, biweekly
co-
Occurs before roots beginning with vowels or the consonants h- and gn-; it is also used to form newer compound terms (which are often hyphenated).
This prefix is the common reduced form of com-, the original Latin prefix, which occurs before roots beginning with b-, m-, or p-. It also takes three other forms, depending on the letter it precedes:
  • col- before roots beginning with l-
  • cor- before roots beginning with r-
  • con- before roots beginning with consonants other than b-, h-, gn-, l-, m-, p- or r-
1. From the original prefix: together; together with; joint; jointly; mutually. Also used as an intensifier.
2. In newer terms, co- can indicate: joint(ly), mutual(ly), or together (with); partnership or equality; a subordinate or assistant; to the same degree or extent; or (in mathematics) the complement of an angle.
1. Latin roots
2. adjectives, nouns, verbs
1.
  • (co-): coagulate, coerce, coincide, cognate, cognizance
  • (com-): combat, combine, combust, commingle, commiserate, commit, compact, compare, complex
  • (col-): collaborate, collapse, colleague, collect, collide, collude
  • (con-): conceal, conceive, condemn, conduct, confer, confine, congress, congratulate, conjoin, connect, connive, conquer, conscience, constant, contact, contain, converge
  • (cor-): correct, correlate, correspond, corrode, corrupt
2. co-author, codependent, codominant, co-driver, coexist, coeducation, co-manage, cooperate, co-pilot, cosine, cotangent, co-worker
de-
(sometimes hyphenated when followed by a vowel)
1. To reverse; to do or cause to be the opposite.
2. To extract, remove, or eliminate from; to be without.
3. Out of; away from; off.
4. To reduce; to lower; to move down from.
5. Thoroughly or completely (used as an intensifier).
1. nouns, verbs, Latin roots
2. nouns, verbs, Latin roots
3. nouns, verbs, Latin roots
4. nouns, Latin roots
5. verbs
1. decaffeinate, decelerate, decriminalize, decode, decommission, decompose, deconstruct, de-emphasize, desegregate, destabilize
2. debunk, decalcify, deglaze, de-ice, delouse, despair, dethrone
3. decamp, defect, deflect, deplane, detrain
4. declass, degrade, deject, demean, descend, detest
5. debrief, defraud, despoil
dis-
(becomes dif- when combining with Latin roots beginning f-)
1. Lacking; without; not.
2. To do or cause to be the opposite.
3. Apart; out of; away from; off.
4. To extract, cancel, remove, or release.
5. Indicating intensive force.
1. adjectives, nouns
2. verbs
3. verbs, Latin roots
4. nouns, verbs
5. verbs, Latin roots
1. disability, disadvantage, disbelief, disease, dishonest, disservice, dissimilar, distemper, distrust, disuse
2. disagree, disassociate, disavow, disbelieve, disconnect, discredit, disgrace, disprove
3. differ, difficulty, diffraction, diffuse, discard, discord, discharge, disembark, dispense
4. disbar, disbud, disburse, disenfranchise, disenchant, disentangle
5. disannul, disembowel, disturb
ex-
(always hyphenated)
Former.
nouns
ex-banker, ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-husband, ex-marine, ex-partner, ex-priest, ex-teacher, ex-wife
fore-
1. Before; earlier; previous in time.
2. In front of; at or near the front; before or previous in position or location.
1. verbs
2. nouns
1. forebear, forebode, forecast, foreclose, forego, forejudge, foresee, foreshadow, foretell, forewarn
2. forearm, forebrain, foredeck, forefather, forefinger, foreground, forehead, foreleg, foreman, foresail
mis-
(Mis- is in many ways identical to mal-, though mis- is much more likely to be paired with verbs.)
1. Bad; wrong; improper; imperfect; defective; abnormal.
2. Badly; wrongly; improperly; imperfectly; defectively; abnormally.
1. nouns
2. verbs
1. misadventure, misbalance, misconception, misconduct, misconnection, misdiagnosis, misdirection, misdeed, misgivings, mishap, misinformation, misperception, mismatch, mistrust
2. misadjust, misbehave, miscalculate, miscarry, miscast, miscommunicate, misconstrue, misdial, misdiagnose, mishear, misinform, misinterpret, mislabel, mislead, mistake, mismanage, misrepresent, misspell
non-
(Non- is often hyphenated according to the preference of the writer, but it is more commonly attached without a hyphen in American English.)
Indicating total negation, exclusion, failure, or deficiency.
adjectives, nouns
nonaggression, nonalcoholic, nonavailability, nonbeliever, nonchalant, noncombatant, non-cooperation, noncompliance, nondisclosure, noneducational, nonemergency, nonevent, nonexistent, nonfiction, nonfunctional, nonhazardous, nonhuman, noninfectious, nonlethal, nonpayment, nonprofit, nonsmoking, nonworker
out-
1. Surpassing; going beyond; excelling over others.
2. External to; outside; away from the center.
3. Indicating an emergence, protrusion, or issuing-forth.
4. Beyond what is normal, acceptable, or agreeable.
1. verbs
2. noun, verbs
3. nouns
4. adjectives, verbs
1. outargue, outclass, outdistance, outdo, outfox, outlast, outgrow, outgun, outmaneuver, outmatch, outnumber, outpace, outperform, outrank, outrun, outsmart, outshine
2. outback, outboard, outbound, outcast, outcross, outdate, outdoors, outfield, outfit, outgoing, outhouse, outlaw, outlier, outline, outpatient, outpost, outreach, outside, outsource
3. outburst, outcome, outcrop, outgrowth, outpouring
4. outlandish, outsized, outspoken, outstay
pre-
(Often hyphenated before other vowels, especially e-, though this is less common in American English. Always hyphenated before proper nouns and non-letters)
1. Before; in front of.
2. Earlier than or beforehand in time.
3. Before, in advance, or instead of the normal occurrence.
1 & 2. adjectives, nouns, verbs, Latin roots
3. verbs
1. preamble, precede, precinct, predate, preeminent, preface, prefer, prefix, prefrontal, prelude, preposition, preside, pretext
2. precept, precipitation, precocious, pre-date, predict, pre-emption, prehistory, preindustrial, prejudice, premature, premonition, prenatal, preparation, preproduction, prescience, preserve, preschool, preshow, presume, preview
3. preadmit, preapprove, preassign, prebook, preclean, precondition, predestine, predetermine, preoccupy, preorder, prepay, pre-position
pro-
1. Supporting; promoting; in favor of.
2. Forward; forth; toward the point.
3. In place or on behalf of; acting or substituting for.
4. Beforehand; in advance; prior to.
5. In front; before.
1. nouns (usually hyphenated, but not always)
2, 3, 4 & 5. Greek and Latin roots (less commonly, adjectives, nouns, and verbs)
1. pro-American, pro-Britain, pro-Catholic, pro-choice, pro-life, pro-peace, pro-revolution, prowar
2. problem, proceed, proclaim, procreate, procrastination, profess, profound, program, progress, project, prolong, promote, propel, prosecute, protest, proverb
3. proconsul, procure, pronoun, proper, prorate, proportion
4. proactive, prognosis, prohibit, prophet, proscribe
5. proboscis, profane, pronominal, prologue, protect
re-
(This prefix becomes red- before Latin roots beginning with vowels. It is hyphenated when paired with English roots if the resultant spelling would be the same as an existing word; it may also be hyphenated before English roots beginning with vowels, especially e-, but this is often up to the discretion of the writer and is not usually done in American English.)
1. Once more; again (in the same manner, direction, etc.).
2. Once more; again (with the aim of improving, fixing, or substituting).
3. Anew; restored to the original place, condition, etc.
4. Against; back or in reverse; opposite; in response to.
5. Used as an intensive with Latin root verbs.
verbs, Latin roots
1. reaffirm, reappear, reboot, recognize, recopy, re-cover, recur, re-dress, redecorate, redeploy, redesign, rediscover, reelect, reenact, reenter, rehearse, rehire, relearn, rehydrate, relive, reload, reregister, re-sign, restart, retry, reunite
2. reapply, reapportion, rebrand, recalculate, rekindle, relabel, relocate, remarry, reschedule, reseal, rethink, retry
3. reacquire, readjust, realign, rebuild, recapture, receive, regain, rehabilitate, renew, replace, restore
4. react, rebel, rebuff, recant, recede, reciprocate, recite, recoil, redact, redeem, redress, refer, regress, reject, relate, remove, resign, respond, return
5. redolent, refine, regard, regret, relieve, remedy, repent
semi-
1. Half.
2. Incompletely; partially; partly; somewhat, almost, or resembling.
3. Occurring twice within a certain period of time.
1 & 2. adjectives, nouns
3. adjectives
1. semicircle, semicolon, semicylinder, semidiameter, semidome, semifinal, semioval, semiovate
2. semiarticulate, semiautomatic, semiconductor, semiconscious, semidarkness, semidetached, semidry, semiformal, semiliterate, semiofficial, semipermanent, semiprofessional, semiserious, semiretired, semitransparent, semivowel
3. semiannual, semimonthly, semiweekly
trans-
(usually becomes tran- before roots beginning with s-)
1. Across; beyond; through; on the other side.
2. Completely change or alter.
1. adjectives, verbs, Latin roots
2. nouns, verbs, Latin roots
1. transaction, transatlantic, transcend, transfer, transfix, transfuse, transgenerational, transgress, transient, translucent, transmit, transnational, transpacific, transparent, transplant, transport
2. transcribe, transduce, transfigure, transform, transgender, translate, transliterate, transmute, transubstantiate
un- (1)
Hyphenated before proper nouns and adjectives.
1. Not.
2. Used to form certain negative adjectival phrases.
3. Opposite of or contrary to; lacking or absent.
1. adjectives (not counting nouns formed from prefixed adjectives)
2. past-participle adjectives + prepositions
3. nouns
1. unable, unaccompanied, un-American, unbelievable, unbiased, un-British, uncertain, unclear, undue, unemployed, unending, unfamiliar, unforeseen, ungraceful, unguided, unhappy, unhealthy, uninformed, unjust, unkind, unknowing, unlawful, unlikely, unlucky, unmanned, unpersuaded, unprofessional, unrated, unreasonable, unscathed, unsolved, untried, untrustworthy, unwise, unwritten
2. unasked-for, uncalled-for, undreamed-of, un-get-at-able, unheard-of
3. unbelief, unconcern, uninterest, unmilitary, unrest, untruth
un- (2)
1. To reverse, erase, or undo an action or effect.
2. To deprive of, extract, or remove.
3. To free, remove, or release from.
4. Used as an intensifier with existing verbs that have the same meaning.
1. verbs
2. nouns
3. nouns
4. verbs
1. unbend, unbind, unbolt, unclog, uncoil, uncork, undo, undress, unfasten, unfold, unfurl, unhook, unload, unlock, unplug, unscrew, unscramble, unseal, unsheathe, unravel, unroll, untangle, unwind
2. unbalance, uncloak, unfrock, unhorse, unman, unmask, unseat, unveil
3. unburden, unbox, uncage, uncrate, unearth, unharness, unhitch, unleash, unwrap unyoke
4. unloose, unravel

Suffixes

A suffix is a group of letters that is added onto the end of a base or root word to change its meaning. Unlike prefixes, which can only be derivational (forming a new word with a unique meaning), suffixes can be either derivational or inflectional (meaning that the grammatical function of the word is changed, but its basic meaning is not).

Inflectional Suffixes

Inflectional suffixes can be applied to nouns (to form plurals), adjectives and adverbs (to form comparatives and superlatives), and verbs (to indicate tense and grammatical person). In some cases, the same suffix may be used with different parts of speech to create different types of inflection. For example:
Suffix
Part of Speech Inflected
Grammatical Function
Example Words
“-s”
Verbs
Forms the third-person singular for most verbs.
hear→hears
run→runs
think→thinks
write→writes
“-s”
Nouns
Changes most nouns from singular to plural.
bank→banks
car→cars
pizza→pizzas
toy→toys
wire→wires
“-es”
Verbs
Forms the third-person singular for verbs ending in a sibilant sound (/s/, /z/, /ʧ/, or /ʃ/) created by the endings “-ss,” “-z,” “-x,” “-sh,” “-ch,” or “-tch,” as well as verbs ending in a consonant + O.
approach→approaches
catch→catches
do→does
go→goes
hush→hushes
pass→passes
quiz→quizzes
“-es”
Nouns
Forms the plural for nouns ending in a sibilant sound (/s/, /z/, /ʧ/, or /ʃ/) as created by the endings “-ss,” “-z,” “-x,” “-sh,” “-ch,” or “-tch.”
coach→coaches
watch→watches
dish→dishes
box→boxes
bus→buses
kiss→kisses
waltz→waltzes
“-ed”
Verbs
Forms the past simple tense and past participle of most verbs.
ask→asked
burn→burned
dare→dared
hope→hoped
open→opened
talk→talked
walk→walked
“-en”
Verbs
Forms the past participle of some irregular verbs.
be→been
drive→driven
eat→eaten
give→given
got→gotten
sink→sunken
write→written
“-en”
Nouns
Changes certain irregular nouns from singular to plural.
ox→oxen
child→children
brother→brethren
“-ing”
Verbs
Forms the present participle of verbs (as well as the gerund form.)
build→building
care→caring
hear→hearing
pass→passing
read→reading
see→seeing
wear→wearing
“-er”
Adjectives and Adverbs
Forms the comparative degree for many adjectives and adverbs.
big→bigger
fast→faster*
happy→happier
high→higher*
sad→sadder
slow→slower*
“-est”
Adjectives and Adverbs
Forms the superlative degree for many adjectives and adverbs.
big→biggest
fast→fastest*
happy→happiest
high→highest*
sad→saddest
slow→slowest*
(*These words function either as adjectives or adverbs, depending on their use. Those without an asterisk only function as adjectives.)

Derivational Suffixes

While there is only a limited number of inflectional suffixes, there is a huge amount of derivational suffixes. These can create a word with a new meaning that belongs to the same part of speech, but, in many cases, derivational suffixes end up changing the part of speech of the word altogether.
We’ll look at a lot more of these in the section on Suffixes, but let’s look at some common ones here.

Suffixes that form nouns

Suffixes that form nouns most often attach to verbs, but some attach to adjectives or even other nouns. For example:
Suffix
Suffix meaning
Attaches to
Example words
“-al”
An action or process.
Verbs
approve→approval
betray→betrayal
bury→burial
deny→denial
dispose→disposal
propose→proposal
renew→renewal
reverse→reversal
“-er”
A person or thing performing or capable of a particular action.
Verbs
bake→baker
compose→composer
defend→defender
employ→employer
interview→interviewer
keep→keeper
teach→teacher
write→writer
“-hood”
1. A state, quality, or condition.
2. A group sharing a state, quality, or condition.
Nouns
adult→adulthood
boy→boyhood
brother→brotherhood
child→childhood
father→fatherhood
girl→girlhood
knight→knighthood
man→manhood
mother→motherhood
parent→parenthood
sister→sisterhood
woman→womanhood
“-ication”
A state, condition, action, process, or practice, or the result thereof.
Verbs ending in “-fy”
amplify→amplification
clarify→clarification
dignify→dignification
falsify→falsifiication
glorify→glorification
identify→identification
justify→justification
modify→modification
quantify→quantification
simplify→simplification
unify→unification
“-ism”
1. An action, process, or practice.
2. A state, condition, or quality.
3. A doctrine, theory, or set of guiding principles.
1. Verbs
2 & 3. Adjectives
active→activism
antagonize→antagonism
baptize→baptism
criticize→criticism
colloquial→colloquialism
conservative→conservatism
exorcize→exorciism
feminine→feminism
liberal→liberalism
metabolize→metabolism
modern→modernism
pacific→pacifism
“-ment”
An action or process, or the result thereof.
Verbs
adjust→adjustment
bereave→bereavement
contain→containment
disappoint→disappointment
employ→employment
fulfill→fulfillment
judge→judgment
move→movement
place→placement
resent→resentment
treat→treatment
“-ness”
A state, condition, trait, or measurement thereof.
Adjectives
alert→alertness
cold→coldness
dark→darkness
exact→exactness
fierce→fierceness
happy→happiness
kind→kindness
like→likeness
selfish→selfishness
useful→usefulness
“-tion”
A state, condition, action, process, or practice, or the result thereof.
Verbs
act→action
affect→affection
communicate→communication
complete→completion
direct→direction
educate→education
evolve→evolution
inscribe→inscription
interrupt→interruption
misconceive→misconception
resolve→resolution
subscribe→subscription
translate→translation

Suffixes that form verbs

Derivational suffixes that create verbs attach to nouns and adjectives:
Suffix
Suffix meaning
Attaches to
Example words
“-en”
1. To become or cause to become.
2. To come or cause to have.
1. Adjectives
2. Nouns
black→blacken
broad→broaden
cheap→cheapen
fright→frighten
hard→harden
heart→hearten
length→lengthen
red→redden
sharp→sharpen
sick→sicken
strength→strengthen
“-ify”
To make or cause to become.
Adjectives, nouns
ample→amplify
beauty→beautify
clear→clarify
diverse→diversify
dignity→dignify
glory→glorify
just→justify
pure→purify
null→nullify
simple→simplify
type→typify
“-ize”
To become or cause to become; to do or make that to which the suffix is attached.
Adjectives, nouns
accessory→accessorize
apology→apologize
capital→capitalize
civil→civilize
economy→economize
empathy→empathize
fertile→fertilize
industrial→industrialize
legal→legalize
human→humanize
standard→standardize
theory→theorize
union→unionize

Suffixes that form adjectives

Derivational suffixes that create adjectives usually attach to nouns; much less often, they attach to verbs. For example:
Suffix
Suffix meaning
Attaches to
Example words
“-able”
Possible; capable of; suitable for.
Verbs
adore→adorable
break→breakable
debate→debatable
do→doable
excite→excitable
live→livable
manage→manageable
read→readable
stop→stoppable
“-al”
Having the characteristics of or relating to.
Nouns
artifice→artificial
bride→bridal
brute→brutal
center→central
emotion→emotional
form→formal
logic→logical
music→musical
politics→political
space→spatial
tide→tidal
“-ful”
1. Full of; characterized by.
2. Tending or able to.
1. Nouns
2. Verbs
beauty→beautiful
care→careful
delight→delightful
forget→forgetful
grace→graceful
joy→joyful
law→lawful
mourn→mournful
play→playful
respect→respectful
waste→wasteful
“-ic”
Having the characteristics of or relating to.
Nouns
acid→acidic
base→basic
comedy→comedic
galaxy→galactic
hero→heroic
irony→ironic
magnet→magnetic
myth→mythic
nostalgia→nostalgic
poetry→poetic
rhythm→rhythmic
system→systemic
“-ish”
1. Typical of, similar to, or related to.
2. Of or associated with (a particular nationality, region, or language).
3. Inclined to or preoccupied with.
Nouns
book→bookish
boy→boyish
Britain→British
child→childish
clown→clownish
Denmark→Danish
fiend→fiendish
girl→girlish
nightmare→nightmarish
prude→prudish
self→selfish
Spain→Spanish
Sweden→Swedish
“-less”
Lacking; deprived of; without.
Nouns
aim→aimless
blame→blameless
color→colorless
doubt→doubtless
home→homeless
hope→hopeless
limit→limitless
need→needless
point→pointless
rest→restless
self→selfless
time→timeless
use→useless
“-ous”
Possessing; characterized by; full of.
Nouns
advantage→advantageous
caution→cautious
disaster→disastrous
fame→famous
glamor→glamorous
joy→joyous
malice→malicious
nutrition→nutritious
religion→religious
pretense→pretentious
poison→poisonous
suspicion→suspicious
“-y”
1. Characterized by; consisting or having the quality of; filled with.
2. Tending or inclined to.
1. Nouns
2. Verbs
bulk→bulky
class→classy
dream→dreamy
ease→easy
leak→leaky
mess→messy
rain→rainy
rope→ropy
shine→shiny
smell→smelly
wimp→wimpy

Suffixes that form adverbs

By far the most common and well-known suffix that creates adverbs by attaching to adjectives is “-ly.” However, there are two others derivational suffixes that form adverbs: “-ways/-wise” and “-ward.” For example:
Suffix
Suffix meaning
Attaches to
Example words
“-ly”
1. In a certain or specified manner.
2. At that interval of time.
1. Adjectives
2. Nouns (units of time)
abrupt→abruptly
calm→calmly
day→daily
double→doubly
easy→easily
extreme→extremely
full→fully
happy→happily
lucky→luckily
month→monthly
probable→probably
quiet→quietly
right→rightly
smart→smartly
true→truly
whole→wholly
year→yearly
“-ways/-wise”
(“-wise” is much more common, especially in American English, except with the root side, which almost always becomes sideways)
1. In a specified manner, direction, or position.
2. With reference or in regard to. (sometimes hyphenated)
Nouns, adjectives
clock→clockwise
business→businesswise
edge→edgewise (occasionally: edgeways)
health→health-wise
length→lengthwise (occasionally: lengthways)
like→likewise
other→otherwise
side→sideways
weather→weather-wise
“-ward”
In a specified direction or position.
Nouns, adjectives, adverbs
back→backward
down→downward
east→eastward
fore→forward
front→frontward
home→homeward
north→northward
on→onward
south→southward
to→toward
west→westward

Other Affixes

While prefixes and suffixes are by far the most common types of affixes in English, there are a few others that appear less often: interfixes, simulfixes, circumfixes, infixes, and suprafixes. Some of these are like prefixes and suffixes, in that they attach a new letter or letters to an existing base word or root to create a new term; others function by changing a letter within a word, or by changing the pronunciation of a word.

Interfixes

An interfix (also known as a linking element) is a single letter (usually a vowel, and especially O) that doesn’t have specific meaning in itself, but instead acts as a connector between different words, roots, or word-forming elements.
For example:
  • arachnophobia (O replaces “-id” from arachnid)
  • discography (O attaches to the word disc)
  • egotism (T attaches to the word ego)
  • embryonic (N attaches to the word embryo)
  • filmography (O attaches to the word film)
  • hallucinogen (O replaces “-ation” from hallucination)
  • herbicide (I attaches to the word herb)
  • ionosphere (O attaches to the word ion)
  • kleptomania (O replaces “-es” from the Greek root kleptes)
  • lobotomy (O replaces “-e” from lobe)
  • pesticide (I attaches to the word pest)
  • speedometer (O attaches to the word speed)
  • tracheotomy (O replaces “-a” from trachea)
There are also a number of informal, colloquial, or humorous terms that writers sometimes coin by using an interfix with a noun and familiar ending to mimic the structure of standard words. For example:
  • applause-o-meter (mimics words like speedometer)
  • blogosphere (mimics words like atmosphere)
  • rodenticide (mimics words like pesticide)
  • germophobia/germaphobia (mimics words like arachnophobia)
  • smell-o-vision (mimics the word television)

Simulfixes

A simulfix is a letter or group of letters that changes within a word (rather than being added to it) to indicate a shift in grammatical meaning. The most common of these occur in nouns that have irregular plural forms or verbs with irregular conjugations. For example:
Irregular Nouns
Irregular Verbs
man→men
woman→women
mouse→mice
goose→geese
louse→lice
tooth→teeth
foot→feet
knife→knives
wolf→wolves
leaf→leaves
thief→thieves
swim→swam→swum
sing→sang→sung
see→saw→seen
run→ran
grow→grew
ride→rode
sit→sat
get→got→gotten
give→gave
drive→drove→driven
think→thought

Circumfixes

Circumfixes are word elements that appear at both the end and beginning of a base word, usually forming transitive verbs. There are only a few words that could be said to feature circumfixes in English:
  • enlighten
  • enliven
  • embolden
  • evaporate

Infixes

Infixes are words or word elements that appear within a base word, usually separated by hyphens. There are no “true” infixes in English; instead, they are all formed colloquially in speech and writing, typically for the sake of adding emphasis to a word.
Most commonly, infixes are used with words that have more than two syllables, and they usually consist of expletives (curse words) or minced oaths (euphemistic expressions meant to represent expletives without using the actual words).
For example:
  • abso-bloody-lutely
  • fan-frickin’-tastic
  • un-stinkin’-believable

Suprafix

A suprafix (sometimes called a superfix) is unique among affixes in that it refers to a change in a word’s pronunciation to indicate a difference in grammatical function and meaning, rather than a change in spelling. The name comes from the term suprasegmental, which refers to speech sounds like stress and pitch rather than those related to the pronunciation of letters.
Most often, suprafixes occur with words that can function as either a noun or a verb. For example:
Word
Noun
Verb
contest
con·test
(/ˈkɑn.tɛst/)
con·test
(/kənˈtɛst/)
desert
des·ert
(/ˈdɛz.ərt/)
de·sert
(/dɪˈzɜrt/)
increase
in·crease
(/ˈɪn.kris/)
in·crease
(/ɪnˈkris/)
object
ob·ject
(/ˈɑb.ʤɛkt/)
ob·ject
(/əbˈʤɛkt/)
permit
per·mit
(/ˈpɜr.mɪt/)
per·mit
(/ˈpɜr.mɪt/)
present
pres·ent
(/ˈprɛz.ənt/
pre·sent
(/prɪˈzɛnt/)
project
proj·ect
(/ˈprɑʤ.ɛkt/)
pro·ject
(/prəˈʤɛkt/)
rebel
reb·el
(/ˈrɛb.əl/)
re·bel
(/rɪˈbɛl/)
record
rec·ord
(/ˈrɛk.ərd/)
re·cord
(/rəˈkɔrd/)
refuse
ref·use
(/ˈrɛf.juz/)
re·fuse
(/rɪˈfjuz/)
subject
sub·ject
(/ˈsʌb.ʤɛkt/)
sub·ject
(/səbˈʤɛkt/)
Quiz

1. Which type of affix appears at the beginning of a word?





2. Which type of affix appears in the middle of a word?





3. Which type of affix can be inflectional?





4. To which part of a word do circumfixes attach?







5. Which type of affix changes the pronunciation of a word, rather than the spelling?





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