Suffixes : English Glossary

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Suffixes : English Glossary

Learning Prefixes and Suffixes

Knowing the Greek and Latin roots of several prefixes and suffixes (beginning and endings attached to words) can also help us determine the meaning of words. Ante, for instance, means before, and if we connect bellum with belligerant to figure out the connection with war, we'll know that antebellum refers to the period before war. (In the United States, the antebellum period is our history before the Civil War.)

Prefixes showing quantity
Meaning Prefixes in English Words
half semiannual, hemisphere
one unicycle, monarchy, monorail
two binary, bimonthly, dilemma, dichotomy
hundred century, centimeter, hectoliter
thousand millimeter, kilometer
Prefixes showing negation
without, no, not asexual, anonymous, illegal, immoral, invalid, irreverent, unskilled
not, absence of, opposing, against nonbreakable, antacid, antipathy, contradict
opposite to, complement to counterclockwise, counterweight
do the opposite of, remove, reduce dehorn, devitalize, devalue
do the opposite of, deprive of disestablish, disarm
wrongly, bad misjudge, misdeed
Prefixes showing time
before antecedent, forecast, precede, prologue
after postwar
again rewrite, redundant
Prefixes showing direction or position
above, over supervise, supererogatory
across, over transport, translate
below, under infrasonic, infrastructure, subterranean, hypodermic
in front of proceed, prefix
behind recede
out of erupt, explicit, ecstasy
into injection, immerse, encourage, empower
around circumnavigate, perimeter
with coexist, colloquy, communicate, consequence, correspond, sympathy, synchronize

Authority for this table: The Little, Brown Handbook by H. Ramsay Fowler and Jane E. Aaron, & Kay Limburg. 6th ed. HarperCollins: New York. 1995. By permission of Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc.

Suffixes, on the other hand, modify the meaning of a word and frequently determine its function within a sentence. Take the noun nation, for example. With suffixes, the word becomes the adjective national, the adverb nationally, and the verb nationalize.

See what words you can come up with that use the following suffixes.

  • Typical noun suffixes are -ence, -ance, -or, -er, -ment, -list, -ism, -ship, -ency, -sion, -tion, -ness, -hood, -dom
  • Typical verb suffixes are -en, -ify, -ize, -ate
  • Typical adjective suffixes are -able, -ible, -al, -tial, -tic, -ly, -ful, -ous, -tive, -less, -ish, -ulent
  • The adverb suffix is -ly (although not all words that end in -ly are adverbs—like friendly)

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