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Netiquette IQ Blog Of 118/17 - A List of 26 Common Suffixes in English


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A List of 26 Common Suffixes in English
Expand Your Vocabulary by Studying 26 Common Suffixes 

Updated March 15, 2017
A suffix is a letter or a group of letters attached to the end of a word to form a new word or to change the grammatical function (or part of speech) of the original word. For example, the verb read is made into the noun reader by adding the suffix -er. Similarly, read is made into the adjective readable by adding the suffix -able.
Understanding the meanings of the common suffixes can help you figure out the meanings of new words you encounter.
But as you work on building your vocabulary, you should keep a few points in mind:
  •  In some cases, the spelling of a root or base word changes when a suffix is added. For example, in words ending in y preceded by a consonant (such as the noun beauty and the adjective ugly), the y may change to an i when a suffix is added (as in the adjective beautiful and the noun ugliness). Also, in words ending in silent -e (such as use and adore), the final -e may be dropped before a suffix that begins with a vowel (as in usable and adorable). As with all spelling rules, there are exceptions of course.
     
  •  Not all suffixes can be added to all roots. For example, the adjective beautiful is formed by adding the suffix -ful to the noun beauty, and the noun ugliness is formed by adding the suffix -ness  to the adjective ugly. But you won't find *ugliful in your dictionary—or in standard English. (Throughout this website, an asterisk in front of a construction shows that it's considered nonstandard or ungrammatical.)
     
  •  A suffix may have more than one meaning. With adjectives and adverbs, for instance, the -er suffix usually conveys the comparative meaning of "more" (as in the adjectives kinder and longer). But in some cases the -er ending can also refer to someone who performs a particular action (such as a dancer or builder) or to someone who lives in a particular place (such as a New Yorker or a Dubliner).
Don't be put off by these variations, qualifications, and exceptions. Just think of these common suffixes as clues to the meanings of words. As in a detective story, sometimes the clues are clear and fairly obvious. Other times they can be puzzling or misleading. In any case, keep in mind that the meanings of words are best determined by studying the contexts in which they are used as well as the parts of the words themselves.

The table below defines and illustrates 26 common suffixes.
Common Suffixes in English
 
Noun Suffixes
Suffix
Meaning
Example
-acy
state or quality
privacy, fallacy, delicacy
-al
act or process of
refusal, recital, rebuttal 
-ance, -ence 
state or quality of
maintenance, eminence, assurance  
-dom
place or state of being 
freedom, kingdom, boredom
-er, -or
one who
trainer, protector, narrator
-ism
doctrine, belief
communism, narcissism, scepticism
-ist
one who
chemist, narcissist, plagiarist
-ity, -ty
quality of
inactivity, veracity, parity, serenity
-ment
condition of
argument, endorsement, punishment  
-ness
state of being
heaviness, sadness, rudeness, testiness 
-ship
position held
fellowship, ownership, kinship, internship
-sion, -tion
state of being



Verb Suffixes
-ate
become
regulate, eradicate, enunciate, repudiate 
-en
become
enlighten, awaken, strengthen
-ify, -fy
make or become
terrify, satisfy, rectify, exemplify
-ize, -ise*
become
civilize, humanize, socialize, valorize



Adjective Suffixes
-able, -ible
capable of being
edible, presentable, abominable, credible 
-al
pertaining to
regional, grammatical, emotional, coastal
-esque
reminiscent of
picturesque, statuesque, burlesque
-ful
notable for
fanciful, resentful, woeful, doubtful
-ic, -ical
pertaining to
musical, mythic, domestic, chiastic
-ious, -ous
characterized by
nutritious, portentous, studious 
-ish
having the quality of
fiendish, childish, snobbish
-ive
having the nature of
creative, punitive, divisive, decisive 
-less
without
endless, ageless, lawless, effortless
-y
characterized by
sleazy, hasty, greasy, nerdy, smelly

* "Many verbs that end in -ize can also end in -ise (such as finalize/finalise or realize/realise); both endings are acceptable, although -ise is more common in British English."
(Charlotte Buxton, Oxford A-Z of Better Spelling. Oxford University Press, 2009)
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