Prefixes and Suffixes

The System of Affixation in English refers to the process of attaching a group of letters to a word in order to change its meaning, number, state, or form.

There are two primary types of affixation: Prefixes and Suffixes

Prefixes and Suffixes
Base wordAffixationWord
determinedpre + determinedpredetermined
playplay + erplayer
weeklybi + weeklybiweekly
followfollow + ingfollowing


A prefix is a small group of letters that are affixed at the beginning of the word.

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  • Subsidiary
  • Nonviolence
  • Intolerance

Functions of Prefix

Indicate presence or absence

amoralwithout morals
injectedput into
congenitalpresent from birth

Indicate position

hypodermicunder the skin
circumnavigateto sail around
antechambera chamber before another
Interstellarbetween stars

Indicate qualities, size, or number

thermometerheat measuring instrument
macrocosmbig world or universe
polyglotsomeone who speaks many languages

Indicates time, frequency, or order

post datedlater than the stipulated date
redodo again

Types of Prefixes

Negative Prefixes

un-notuncomfortable, unbearable, unforgivable
in-notincomplete, indecisive, independent
dis-opposite ofdisinterested, disproportionate, displeasure
ir-notirresponsive, irresponsible, irrevocable
il-notillogical, illegitimate, illegible
im-notimprobable, impossible, impenetrable
non-notnonviolent, nonchalant, non-invasive
mis-wrong/wronglymisinterpret, misunderstand, miscalculation
mis-hatemisogynist, misogamist, misanthrope
mal-bad/ badlymalfunction, malevolent, malediction, malnutrition
anti-againstantinational, antibacterial, antibiotics
de-down, reducedescend, decry, deject, demote, decline
a-without, notasocial, amorphous, abiotic, atrophy
dis-apart, off, awaydisband, disturb, disburse, dismiss
dys-baddystopia, dysfunctional, dyslexia

Prefixes of Size

semi-halfsemicircle, semiconductor, semi-active, semicolon
equi-equalequidistant, equivalent, equisonant
micro-small, tinymicroscope, microorganism, microcosm, micromanage
macro-bigmacroeconomics, macrocosm, macrolevel
mega-bigmegalomaniac, megapolis, megapixel
mini-smallminimum, minicomputer, miniature
maxi-bigmaximum, maximal, maxim

Prefixes of Position or Location

inter-betweeninterstellar, intermediate, interval, intervene
super-over, abovesuperfluous, supersede, superintendent, supervisor
trans-acrosstransfer, transport, transgress, transmit
ex-outexterior, external, extraneous, extract
in-/ im-insideinternal, induce, imbibe, impregnate, influence
sub-, suc-, sus-undersubterranean, susceptible, submit, submarine
sur-oversurface, surfeit, surrender, survive, surcharge
circum-aroundcircumspect, circumnavigate, circumscribe, circumvent
peri-aroundperimeter, periscope, perimortem
per-throughpercolate, pervade, perfect, perforated, perceive
infra-belowinfrared, infravision, infrarealism
ab-awayabduct, abstain, abjure, abdicate
contra-againstcontravene, contradict, contralto, contrast
de-downdescend, decline, demote, decrease
dia-acrossdiagonal, diaphanous, diachronic, diagnosis
hyper-overhypertrophy, hyperactivity, hyperbole, hypertension
hypo-underhypothermia, hypothyroid
ob-againstobloquy, obnoxious, object, obfuscate
pro-forprologue, provide, protect, project, procreate
syn-, sym-togethersynthesis, syndicate, sympathy
ultra-beyondultraviolet, ultramodern, ultra-royalist, ultrasonic
under-underunderground, underachiever, underestimate
meta-beyondmetastasis, metabolize, metamorphic, metaphysics
mid-betweenmidterm, middle, midday
by-nearbypass, bygone, by-product
epi-uponepidermis, epilogue, epitaph
post-backpostern, posterior

Prefixes of time and sequence

pre-beforeprevent, prepare, predict, premonition, prelude
ante-beforeantediluvian, antebellum
prime-firstprimary, primordial, prima donna, primate, primeval
post-afterposterity, posthumous, postlude, post-marital
retro-beforeretrogression, retroflex, retrospect
pro-beforeprogenitor, proceed, prologue, prophecy, prophylactic
re-againrecur, recount, rethink
fore-beforeforetell, forestall, foresight
after-afterafter-effects, afterthought
chron-timechronology, chronicle

Prefixes of numbers and amount

mono-onemonotheism, monologue, monochromatic, monarch
uni-oneuniverse, unitary, union, unanimous, unity
bi-twobicentennial, biannual, bicycle, bigamous, bipolar
du-, di-twoduo, dual, dicotyledon, dichromatic
tri-threetrident, tricolor, triumvirate, trifecta, trilogy, tripod
quad-fourquadruple, quadruplets, quadrilateral
tetra-fourtetrapods, tetrameter
penta-fivepentagram, pentacle, pentagon
quint-fivequintuplets, quintal
hex-sixhexagon, hexadecimal, hexameter
sex-sixsextuplets, sextet
sept-sevenseptuagenarian, septuplets
hept-sevenheptagonal, heptathlon
octa-eightoctagon, October, octopus, octuplets
nov-ninenovena, November
dec-tendecade, decimal, decathlon
hendeca-elevenhendecacolic, hendecagonal
dodeca-twelvedodecahedron, dodecaphony
cent-hundredcentury, century, centipede
hector-thousandhector, hectogram
mega-millionmegaton, megahertz
multi-manymultimillionaire, multipurpose
poly-manypolynomial, polygon, polymath

Miscellaneous Prefixes

alb-whitealbino, albinism
ambi-bothambidextrous, ambivalent, ambiguous
amphi-bothamphibian, amphitheatre
bio-lifebiology, biohazard, biosphere
auto-selfautomated, autonomous, autocrat
co-, com-, con-together, jointco-dependent, companion, congregation
en-, em-make, becomeengender, empower, endanger
eu-goodeuthanasia, eulogy, euphemism
cario-heartcardiovascular, cardiogram
hydr-waterhydrogen, hydraulic, hydrophobia
ig-badignominy, ignoble, ignorant
bene-goodbenevolent, benediction, benign
bon-goodbon voyage, bonhomie, bonafide
homo-samehomonym, homophone, homeopathy
pan-allpanacea, pan Asiatic, panorama
neo-, nov-newneologism, novelty
amo-, amiloveamorous, amicable, amiable
aqua-wateraqueduct, aquatic


A suffix is a group of letters that are fixed to the end of a root word or a base word.

Functions of Suffix

Change the part of speech of the word

meaning (n)meaningful (adj)
beautiful (adj)beautifully (adv)
subject (n)subjecting (v)

Indicate whether the number is singular or plural

girl (singular noun)girls (plural noun)
stratum (singular noun )strata (plural noun)
lifts (singular verb)lift (plural verb)

Indicate the tense of the verb

hopped (past)hopping (continuous)
steal (past)stolen (past participle)

Indicate the gender of a noun

host (masculine)hostess (feminine)
steward (masculine)stewardess (feminine)
executor (masculine)executrix (feminine)

Types of Suffixes

Noun Suffixes

-alstaterefusal, betrayal, perusal
-ance, -ence, -ancy, -encyquality or statemilitancy, performance
-tionconditioncondition, relation
-iceconditionmalice, novice, justice
-er/-ordoerpainter, trainer, actor
-graphrecordtelegraph, phonograph, polygraph
-ismbeliefHinduism, communism, fascism
-istdoerpacifist, pianist, altruist
-iansomeone who doesGandhian, guardian, politician
-ingname of an activityreading, gardening, sleeping
-itystatecontinuity, annuity
-logythe studygeology, neurology
-shipstate offriendship, kinship, sportsmanship
-sion, -tionthe process ofexpansion, determination, connection
-oryplacedormitory, reformatory, laboratory
-orium, -ariumplacesanitarium, aquarium, crematorium
-maniamadnessmonomania, bibliomania, egomani
-phobiafearhydrophobia, cynophobia, mysophobia
-urestatecomposure, exposure, leisure
-mentstateabandonment, refinement, entertainment
-nessstatehappiness, completeness, fullness

Suffixes of Verbs


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-ableto makeenable, disable
-ateLatin origin verbsrecreate, abate, mediate
-edsimple past or participle formkilled, toyed, booked
-enverbs formed from adjectivesbroken, frozen, sunken
-eractions that have a repetitive qualityblabber, snicker, mutter
-fydomagnify, specify, rectify
-ingaction in continuationhearing, yearning, making
-iseto make/dorevolutionise, apologise, despise
-ishbecome or doflourish, banish, demolish
-ntto doprevent, augment, content
-s, -essimple present tense formcriticises, runs, laughs

Suffixes of Adjectives

-able, -iblehaving the quality offlexible, available, eatable
-alrelated toventral, global, musical
-antdoingdependent, buoyant, resilient
-ichaving the qualityterrific, generic, specific
-esquelike, having the qualitystatuesque, picturesque
-er, -estcomparative and superlative qualitiesfatter, tallest
-osefull ofverbose, grandiose
-fulfull ofbeautiful, boastful, grateful
-ingparticiple form of an adjectiveinteresting, frustrating, sleeping
-istichaving the qualityrealistic, artistic, surrealistic
-ivehaving the nature ofpensive, aggressive, massive
-ous, -iousfull ofgaseous, spacious, gracious

Suffixes of Adverbs

-ablywith a qualitycomfortably, admirably, disagreeably
-iblywith a qualityaudibly, horribly, negligibly
-sshows time or placebackwards, always, forwards
-wiseshows manner or positionclockwise, otherwise, lengthwise

Root Words and Base Words

The root word and the base words are the parts that contain the primary meaning of the word. Prefixes and suffixes are added to root and base words to create new words and ideas.

Root Word

  • A root word cannot stand on its own as an independent word.
  • It needs the addition of the prefix or the suffix for the completion of its meaning.
  • For example, let us consider the words amphibian, regeneration and subtraction.

amphi- -bi- -an
prefix root suffix

re- -generat- -ion
prefix root suffix

sub- -tract- -ion
prefix root suffix

  • In the above cases, the roots -bi-, -generat- and -tract- cannot stand alone as individual words.
  • They are therefore known as root words.

Base Word

  • A base word, unlike a root word, can stand on its own like an independent word.
  • It does not need the addition of a prefix or suffix in order to function as a stand-alone word.
  • For example, let us consider the words redone, nonviolent and unmoved.

re- done
prefix base word

non- violent
prefix base word

un- moved
prefix base word

In the above examples, done, violent, and moved can function as independent words.

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Also, Read

Types of Figures of Speech

Figures of Speech

Subject Verb Agreement

Subject Verb Agreement

Degrees of Comparison

Degrees of Comparison

Time and Tense

Time and Tense

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