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Types of English Affixes: Derivational and Inflectional Prefixes and Suffixes

Types of English Affixes: Derivational and Inflectional Prefixes and Suffixes

An affix is a bound morpheme that attaches to another morpheme to form either a new word or a new form of the same word.

The two types of affixes in English are prefixes and suffixes.

Affixes may be derivational or inflectional. Derivational affixes create new words. Inflectional affixes create new forms of the same word.

Derivational

Derivational is an adjective that refers to the formation of a new word from another word through derivational affixes.

In English, both prefixes and suffixes are derivational.

Inflectional

Inflectional is an adjective that refers to the formation of a new form of the same word through inflectional affixes.

In English, only suffixes are inflectional.

Bases

Many morphemes that other sources list as prefixes or suffixes are actually bases. A base is a morpheme that forms the foundation of a word. A free base is a morpheme that can stand on its own as a word. A bound base must attach to another morpheme to create a word. Bound bases are often misidentified as prefixes or suffixes.

Base Meaning Example
Afterfollowing after, behind After + Glow = afterglow
Archruling, dominating, most extremean + Arch = anarch
Algpainan + Alg + ese + ic = analgesic
Astrstar Astr + al = astral
Autself Aut + ism = autism
Backbehind Back + Date = backdate
BilifeBi + ome = biome
Bynear to, next toBy + Pass = bypass
Cideact of killingHome + i + Cide = homicide
Circaround, surroundingCirm + um + Vent = circumvent
Cracyrule, government, powerDeme + o + Cracy = Democracy
Cratsomeone who has powerTechn + o + Crat = technocrat
Cry icy cold, chill, frostCry + ic = cryic
Crypthidden, secreten + Crypt + ion = encryption
Cyclecircle, wheelre + Cycle = recycle
DemepeopleDeme + o + Graph + ic + s = demographics
DeutersecondDeuter + i + um = deuterium
Downfrom higher/greater to lower/lesserDown + Town = downtown
Doxbelief, praisepara + Dox = paradox
Ecehouse, dwelling place, habitationEce + o + sy + St + em = ecosystem
Electrelectric, electricityElectr + ic = electric
Emebloodan + Eme + i + a = anemia
ExtraoutsideExtra + Curr + ic + ule + ar = extracurricular
Forebefore, in frontFore + Arm = forearm
Gammarriage, unionpoly + Game + y = polygamy
Gerelating to the earth or its surfaceGe + o + Loge + y = geology
Gon(e)anglePenta + Gone + al = pentagonal
Gyrecircle, ringGyre + oid = gyroid
HindafterHind + Sight = hindsight
HydrwaterHydr + ate = hydrate
Iatrhealing practicePede + Iatr + ic = pediatric
LogestudyCardi + o + Loge + y = cardiology
-logspeechdialog, monolog
Macrlong, abnormally large, on a large scaleMacr + on = macron
Micrsmall, little, petty, trivial, slightMicr + on = micron
MultmanyMult + Ang + le = multangle
Necrdead, deathNecr + osis = necrosis
Offnon-standard, awayOff + Set = offset
Onimmediate proximity, locativeOn + Go + ing = ongoing
Onymname, wordAut + Onym = autonym
Opeeyehyper + Ope + i + a hyperopia
Opssight examinationNecr + Ops + y = necropsy
Orthcorrecting or straighteningOrth + o + Pede + ic
Outbetter, faster, longer, fartherOut + er = outer
Overexcessive, aboveOver + ly = overly
PaleooldPaleo + Lith + ic = paleolithic
Pathfeeling, suffering, emotion; disorder, diseasePsych + o + Path + y = psychopathy
Ped(e)footPede + al = pedal
Pedechild Pede + Iatr + ic + i + an = pediatrician
PhilelovePyre + o + Phile = pyrophile
PhobefearXene + o + Phobe + i + a = xenophobia
Phonesoundhomo + Phone = homophone
PhotelightPhote + o + Graph = photograph
Phyteplant, to growepi + Phyte = epiphyte
Plegeparalysis, strikepara + Plege + i + a = paraplegia
Pod(e)footPode + i + um = podium
Protefirst, originalProte + on = proton
Pseudfalse, imitationPseud + Onym = pseudonym
PyrefirePyre + o + Techn + ic = pyrotechnic
Quasipartly, almost, appearing to be but not reallyquasi-religious
RetrbackwardsRetr + al = retral
Scopevisual examGastr + o + Scope + y = gastroscopy
Scribewritede + Scribe = describe
Scriptwritetran + Script = transcript
Sectcutbi + Sect = bisect
SelfselfOne + Self = oneself
Sociof companionship, of alliesSoci + al = social
Sophwisdom, knowledgeAnthrope + o + Soph + ic + anthroposophic
Stepfamily relation by remarriageStep + Mother = stepmother
Superabove, overSuper + Vise + or = supervisor
TomecutMast + ec + Tome + y = mastectomy
TrithreeTri + Cycle = tricycle
Trophnourishment, growtha + Troph + y = atrophy
TwitwoTwi + Light = twilight
Underbelow, beneath, lower in grade or dignity, lesser, insufficientUnder + ling = underling
Uneone, consisting of only oneUne + i + Verse + al = universal
Upgreater, higher, betterUp + Right = upright
VicedeputyVice + Rege + ent = viceregent
Warethings of the same type or materialHard + Ware = hardware
Wisein what manner or directionClock + Wise = clockwise
Withagainst, opposite, from, toward, by, nearWith + Hold = withhold

Connecting Vowels

A connecting vowel is a <e>, <i>, <o>, or <u> that joins together two morphemes. For example:

  • Corn + e + al = corneal
  • Sign + i + Fy = signify
  • Ge + o + Graph + y = geography
  • Vace + u + um = vacuum

Prefixes

A prefix is a bound morpheme that attaches to the beginning of another morpheme to form either a new word or a new form of the same word.

Prefixes are types of affixes.

All prefixes in English are derivational, meaning the affixes create new words.

A connecting vowel often follows a prefix.

Prefix Meaning Example
a-predicative adjective with progressive aspectawake, afloat, atremble
a-/an-not, withoutacyclic, asexual, atonal, atheist, anemic
amb-/am-/an-bothambidextrous, ambitendency, amputate
amph-around, two, both, on both sidesamphiaster, amphitheatre, amphibian
an-/ana-up, againstanacardiaceous, anode, analog
ante-beforeantenatal, antechamber, antedate
ant-against, oppositeanticlimax, anti-freeze, antiviral, antagonist, antivenom
ap-/apo-away from, detachedaphelion, apogee, apomorphine
be-equipped with, covered with, beset withbedeviled, becalm, bedazzle, bewitch
bi-twobicycle, biped
cis-on this side ofcislunar, cisgender
co-/col-/com-/con-/cor-together, with, jointcoworker, coordinator, cooperation, cohabit, colleague, commingle, confederation, correlation
contra-/contr-oppositecontradict, contraindication, contralateral
counter-against, in opposition tocounteract, counterpart, counterfeit
de-reverse action, get rid ofdebug, de-emphasize
de-downdepress, descend
demi-halfdemigod, demiquaver
di-twodigraph, dicotyledon, digamy, dioxide
dia-throughdialysis, diameter
di-/dif-/dis-apartdiffer, dissect, divide
dis-not, opposite of, reverse actiondisagree, disloyal, disconnect, disinformation
el-/em-/en-inellipsis, emphasis, energetic
em-/en-to make into, to put into, to get intoempower, enmesh
ep-/epi-upon, at, close upon, in additionephemeron, epicentre, epidermis
ex-formerex-wife, ex-husband, ex-boss, ex-colleague, ex-friend
ex-out ofexit, expel, explode, exploit, explore, export
heter/o-differentheterosexual, heteronym
hemi-halfhemimorphic, hemisphere
hom/o-samehomogenous, homologous
hyper-excess, above, overhyperthermia
hyp/o-deficient, under or below something, lowhypothermia, hypotonia, hyponatremia, hypothermia
il-/im-/in-/ir-not, opposite ofillicit, impossible, inexact, irregular
in-in, intoinsert, include
infra-below, beneathinfrared
inter-among, betweeninternet, intercede, international
intra-inside, withinintravenous
is/o-equalisochromatic, isotherm
mal-badlymalnourish, maladjusted
maxi-very long, very largemaxi-skirt
mega-/megalo-great, largemegastar, megalopolis
meta-after, along with, beyond, among, behindmetabolism, metaphysics
mid-middlemidstream, midlife
mini-smallminimarket, mini-room, minivan
mis-wrong, astraymisinformation, misguide, misfortune
mon/o-sole, onlymonogamy, monotone, monosyllabic
neo-newneolithic, neoether
non-notnonexistent, noncompete
omni-allomnipotent, omnipresent, omnivore
pan-all, worldwidepan-African, pandemic, panorama
para-beside, beyondparallel, paraplegic, parasail
per-through, completely, wrongly, exceedinglypermeate, permute
peri-around, near or adjacentperihelion, periphrase
pleo-/pleio-morepleonasm, pleiotypic
poly-manypolygon, polyhedron
post-after, behindpostposition, post-election, post-graduation, post-war, postfix, postpone, postscript
pre-beforepreposition, prevent, previous, pre-election, pre-enter, pre-select, predict, prepare, preview
preter-beyond, past, more thanpreternatural
pro-for, forward, in favor ofpropulsion, propound, proponent
pro-for, substitute, deputyproconsul, pronoun
pro-beforeprocambium
pros-towardprosthesis, proselyte, prosodemic
re-again, backredo, revisit, rerun, reorganize
semi-halfsemicircle
sub-/sup-below, undersubmarine, subterranean, suburban, support
supra-above, oversuprarenal
sur-above, oversurreal, surrender, surplus
sy-/syl-/sym-/syn-together, withsyllable, symbol, synthesis, system
tel/e-at a distancetelegraph, telephone, telescope, television
trans-across, overtransatlantic, transverse, transform
uber-a lot, greatuberchic, ubergeek, ubersexual, uberwealthy
ultr/a-beyondultramagnetic, ultrasonic, ultraviolet
un-not, against, opposite of, reverse action, deprive of, release fromundesirable, undo, unequal, unexpected, unhappy, unlock, unnecessary, untie

Suffixes

A suffix is a bound morpheme that attaches to the end of another morpheme to form either a new word or a new form of the same word.

Suffixes are types of affixes.

Suffixes in English may be derivational, meaning the suffixes create new words, or inflectional, meaning the suffixes create new forms of the same word.

Inflectional Suffix Meaning Example
-s/-esthird person singular presenteats, washes
-edsimple past, regular past participlecalled, smiled
-enirregular past participleeaten, written
-ingpresent participlemarking, arguing, writing
-s/-espluralcats, dogs, watches, axes
-‘s/-‘*possessiveHeather’s, daughters’
-ercomparativefaster, prettier
-estsuperlativefastest, prettiest

*The possessive ‘s and is technically a clitic, not a suffix.

Derivational Suffix Meaning Example
-ableable to beagreeable, excitable, likeable, portable, preventable
-acpertaining tocardiac, hemophiliac, maniac
-ade act, action or process, productaccolade, blockade, cavalcade, promenade
-ageaction or processpassage, pilgrimage, voyage
-aholic/-oholicone with an obsession forworkaholic, shopaholic, alcoholic
-alrelating tobacterial, theatrical, natural
-anrelating to, belonging toItalian, urban, African, American, suburban
-ancestate or quality ofbrilliance, defiance, annoyance
-anta person whoapplicant, immigrant, servant
-antinclined to, tending tobrilliant, defiant, vigilant
-arof or relating to, beinglunar, molecular, solar
-ara person whobeggar, burglar, liar
-arda person who does an actioncoward, drunkard, sluggard, wizard
-aryof or relating toliterary, military, budgetary
-atestate or quality ofaffectionate, desolate, obstinate
-atemakes the word a verbactivate, evaporate, medicate
-culediminutive, making something smallcapsule, miniscule, molecule, ridicule
-domcondition of, state, realmboredom, freedom, wisdom
-eereceiver, performernominee, employee, devotee
-eerassociated with/engaged inauctioneer, engineer, volunteer
-encestate or condition, actionabsence, dependence, negligence
-ence + ycondition or qualityclemency, dependency, efficiency
-entinclined to performing/causing, or one who performs/causescompetent, correspondent, absorbent
-eraction or processflutter, ponder, stutter
-era person who does an actionannouncer, barber, teacher
-ernstate or quality ofeastern, northern, western
-eserelating to a placeChinese, Congolese, Vietnamese
-esquein the style ofKafkaesque, grotesque, burlesque
-essfemaleactress, heiress, lioness
-et + icrelating toathletic, energetic, poetic
-ettediminutive, make something smallercigarette, diskette, kitchenette
-fulfull ofhelpful, thankful, cheerful
-fymake, cause makes the word a verbamplify, falsify, terrify
-hoodstate, condition, or qualitychildhood, neighborhood, motherhood
-i + alrelating tocelestial, editorial, martial
-i + anrelating toMartian, utopian, pediatrician
-i + asisdiseased conditionelephantiasis, psoriasis
-ibleable to beaudible, plausible, legible
-icrelating to, characterized byanalytic/al, comic/al, organic
-ilerelating to, capable ofagile, docile, volatile
-i + lyin what mannersloppily, steadily, zanily
-inerelating tocanine, feminine, masculine
-ingmaterialsbedding, frosting, roofing
-ionaction or processcelebration, completion, navigation
-ionstate or qualityattention, caution, confusion, fascination
-i + oushaving the qualities of, full ofambitious, cautious, gracious
-ishrelating to, characteristicapish, brutish, childish
-ismstate or qualityaltruism, despotism, heroism
-ista person, one who does an actionartist, linguist, pianist
-iteresident of, follower, product ofsuburbanite, luddite, dynamite
-itisinflammationappendicitis, tonsillitis
-i + tystate, condition, or qualityabnormality, civility, necessity
-iveinclined to, quality of, that whichattractive, expensive, repulsive
-izecause, treat, becomeantagonize, authorize, popularize
-lesswithoutfearless, helpless, homeless
-letversion ofbooklet, droplet, inlet
-likeresembling, characteristicchildlike, homelike, lifelike
-lingyounger or inferiorduckling, underling
-lyin what mannerbadly, courageously, happily
-mentaction, resultmovement, placement, shipment
-nessstate or qualitykindness, shyness, weakness
-o + idresemblinghumanoid, tabloid, hemorrhoid
-omatumor, swellingcarcinoma, osteoma, hematoma
-ora person whoinventor, legislator, translator
-or + yrelating toarmory, dormitory, laboratory
-osisprocess, diseased conditiondiagnosis, prognosis, neurosis, psychosis
-ousfull ofhazardous, humorous, wondrous
-shipstate or condition of, skill ofauthorship, citizenship, friendship
-somecharacterized by, group ofcumbersome, quarrelsome, foursome
-thstate or qualitydepth, length, strength
-tystate, condition or qualityability, honesty, loyalty
-ule + arrelating to or resemblingcellular, circular, muscular
-u + ousstate or quality ofarduous, tumultuous, virtuous
-ureaction, conditionclosure, erasure, failure
-wardspecifies directionbackward, eastward, homeward
-ymade up of, characterizedbrainy, fruity, geeky, gooey nerdy

Morpheme Database

See also my morpheme database, which is a work in progress, for more bases, prefixes, and suffixes in the English language. I update my database as I work on my own word studies. Please feel free to contact me if you find an error.

Affixes are bound morphemes that attach to the stem of a word to form either a new word or a new form of the same word. Prefixes and suffixes are the two types of affixes in the English language.

This post was originally published on October 19, 2011 and updated on April 24, 2023.

See Teach a Student to Read and Linguist-Educator Exchange for more information about morphemes in the English language.

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