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Suffixes Word endings

Suffixes, along with prefixes and word roots, are a useful way to build vocabulary. This page explains what suffixes are and gives examples of some common suffixes. At the end there are some exercises to help you practise.


What are suffixes?

As noted in the section on vocabulary building, suffixes are word components which are added to the end of a word. They usually change the word form rather than the meaning. For example, adding -ity to the word similar creates the word similarity and changes the word from an adjective to a noun.

  • similar (adj) + -ity (suffix) → similarity (n)

    • There are, however, some suffixes which change the meaning of a word. Examples are -ful and -less, which make the word positive or negative respectively. For example:

      • thought (n) + -ful (suffix) → thoughtful (positive adjective)
      • thought (n) + -less (suffix) → thoughtless (negative adjective)

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          Common suffixes

          The following table shows some common suffixes, along with some example words. As the majority of these suffixes simply change the word form, the meaning of the suffix is not given unless it changes or contributes to the meaning of the word in some way.


          TypeSuffixMeaningExamples
          adjective-able, -iblecapable of, worthy ofcomfortable, likable, enjoyable, predictable, terrible, sensible, incredible, visible, believeable, incredible
          -(i)alpersonal, refusal, regional, proposal, fatal, cordial, territorial, spatial, social
          -antsignificant, pleasant
          -enmade ofwooden
          -entobedient, independent
          -ermore higher, stronger
          -estmost biggest, brightest
          -fulfull ofcareful, beautiful, wonderful, colourful
          -ic(al)relating tolinguistic, energetic, historic, caustic, volcanic, comical, historical, magical, logical
          -ishfiendish, childish, selfish, boyish
          -(at)ive, -itivecreative, supportive, argumentative, festive, responsive, positive, negative, inventive
          -lesswithout careless, fearless, endless, fruitless, worthless, powerless, bottomless, relentless, selfless
          -(e)ous, -iousfull ofjoyous, nutritious, portentous, pretentious, curious, furious, prosperous
          -ycharacterized byhappy, sleazy, pudgy, funny, foggy, risky, milky, crazy, shiny
          adverb-lyquickly, easily, happily, majestically, nonchalantly, literally, barely, carefully, abruptly
          -wardin the direction offorward, homeward, northward
          noun-acyprivacy, occupancy, democracy, buoyancy, saliency, literacy, secretly, politely, rapidly
          -ageresult of an action marriage, pilgrimage
          -alrehearsal
          -ance, -enceappearance, endurance, maintenance, independence, dominance, coincidence
          -aryplace for, collection ofglossary, library
          -domplace or state of being freedom, kingdom, wisdom, fiefdom, boredom, martyrdom
          -hoodneighborhood, falsehood, childhood
          -(s)ion, -tionconcession, transition, action, erosion, vision, invitation, conclusion, condemnation
          -ismdoctrine, belief communism, socialism, pragmatism, realism, feudalism, racism, Catholicism, Buddhism, capitalism
          -(i)tycreativity, infinity, veracity, honesty, clarity, laxity, sanity, vanity, rigidity, velocity, curiosity, responsibility
          -mentrequirement, enjoyment, argument, judgment, apartment, contentment, resentment, basement
          -nesskindness, heaviness, happiness, openness, harshness, cleanliness, carelessness
          -ologystudy of biology, mineralogy, ecology
          -(e)spluralbooks, boxes, hotels, amendments, wishes, prefixes
          -shipart or skill of, group of leadership, citizenship, ownership, companionship, friendship
          -ureaction, result closure, pleasure
          noun (person)-arysecretary, dignitary
          -(e)er, -orworker, teacher, actor, mentor, engineer, pioneer
          -eethe subject of an actiontrainee, interviewee, employee
          -ianlibrarian, technician
          -istchemist, socialist, biologist, publicist, realist, romanticist, pragmatist
          verb-atecomplicate, agitate, eradicate, placate, demonstrate, procrastinate, ruminate
          -enenlighten, tighten, frighten, brighten, dampen, fasten, heighten, loosen, straighten
          -(i)fysimplify, terrify, verify, clarify, dignify, rectify, magnify, classify
          -ize, -iseplagiarise, chastise, italicise, romanticize hypnotize, fertilize, civilize, rationalize, criticize, categorize, polarize, modernize,
          verb form-edpastwalked, jumped, helped
          -ingpresentwalking, jumping, helping
          -(e)spresentlooks, kisses


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          Checklist

          The following checklist summarises the information on this page. Use it to check your understanding.


          Area OK Comments
          I know what suffixes are.
          I understand the suffixes generally change the word form, not the meaning of a word.
          I know some common suffixes.



Next section

Read more about word roots in the next section.




Previous section

Read the previous article about prefixes.








Exercises & Activities Some ways to practise this area of EAP

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Author: Sheldon Smith. Last modified: 26 August 2018.


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