Grammar

Grammar Prefixes and Suffixes

by VIDYANAND

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System of Affixation in English

In English, fixing a group of letters to a word to change its meaning, number, state or form is known as the System of Affixation

Base wordAffixationWord
determinedpre + determinedpredetermined
playplay + erplayer
weeklybi + weeklybiweekly
followfollow + ingfollowing

There are two primary types of affixation:

  • Prefix
  • Suffix

Prefix

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

  • Subsidiary 
  • Nonviolence 
  • Intolerance 

They perform the following functions:

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 thanthe stipulated date
redodo again
primaryfirst

Types of Prefixes

Negative Prefixes

PrefixMeaningUsage
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

PrefixMeaningUsage
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 
maxibigmaximum, maximal, maxim
hemi-halfhemisphere 

Prefixes of Position or Location

PrefixMeaningUsage
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-, susundersubterranean, 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, diachronical, 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, metabolise, metamorphic, metaphysics
mid-betweenmidterm, middle, midday
by-nearbypass, bygone, by-product 
epi-uponepidermis, epilogue, epitaph
post-backpostern, posterior

Prefixes of time and sequence

PrefixMeaningUsage
pre-beforeprevent, prepare, predict, premonition, prelude
ante-beforeantediluvian, antebellum
prime-firstprimary, primordial, prima donna, primate, primeval
post-afterposterity, posthumous, postlude, post marital 
retro-before retrogression, 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

PrefixMeaningUsage
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, tricolour, 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
triskaideka-thirteentriskaidekaphobia 
cent-hundredcentury, century, centipede 
hector-thousandhector, hectogram
kilo-thousandkilogram
mega-millionmegaton, megahertz
giga-billiongigabyte
multi-manymultimillionaire, multipurpose
poly-manypolynomial, polygon, polymath

Miscellaneous Prefixes

PrefixMeaningUsage
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
pseudo-fakepseudonym 
neo-, nov-newneologism, novelty
amo-, ami-loveamorous, amicable, amiable
aqua-wateraqueduct, aquatic

Suffix

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

They perform the following functions:

  • 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

SuffixUsageExample
-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, -tionprocess ofexpansion, determination, connection
-oryplacedormitory, reformatory, laboratory 
-orium, -ariumplacesanitarium, aquarium, crematorium
-maniamadnessmonomania, bibliomania, egomania
-phobiafearhydrophobia, cynophobia, mysophobia
-urestatecomposure, exposure, leisure 
-mentstateabandonment, refinement, entertainment
-nessstatehappiness, completeness, fullness

Suffixes of Verbs

SuffixUsageExample
-ableto makeenable, disable
-ateLatin origin verbsrecreate, abate, mediate
-edsimple past or participle formkilled, toyed, booked
-enverbs formed from adjectivesbroken, frozen, sunken
-eractions that have 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 

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

Suffixes of Adverbs

SuffixMeaningUsage
-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 which 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
prefixrootsuffix
   
re--generat--ion
prefixrootsuffix
   
sub--tract--ion
prefixrootsuffix
  • 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 the 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
prefixbase word
  
non-violent
prefixbase word
  
un-moved
prefixbase word
  • In the above examples, done, violent and moved can function as independent words.

Common Root Words

         
-acr-, -ac- sharp, tip, bitteracropolis, acronym, acrid, acerbic, acid, acne, acme
-ami-, -amo-love, friendshipamity, amicable, amiable, amorous, paramour, enamoured
-anim-life, mindanimate, animal, unanimous, equanimous, pusillanimous
-anthrop-man, mankindanthropology, misanthrope, anthropomorphic
-agog-leaddemagogy, pedagogy, synagogue 
-alt-highaltitude, altar, altiloquent
-alter-otheralter ego, alternative
-apt-, -ept-abilityaptitude, apt, adept, inept
-arch-rulemonarch, oligarch , autarchy, anarchy
-avi-fly, birdavian, aviation
-bell-war, fightrebel, bellicose, belligerent
-burs-purse, moneyreimburse, disburse, bursary
-cap-, – cept-seizecapture, intercept
-cap-headcapital, decapitate
-carn-fleshcarnal, carnage, carnivorous
-cede-, -cess-goincessant, accede, recede 
-cide-killsuicide, homicide, regicide, parricide, insecticide, pesticide
-clin-, -cliv-slopeincline, recline, acclivity, declivity
-corp-bodycorpuscles, corporation, incorporation
-crat-, -cracy-rulerdemocrat, bureaucrat, theocracy
-cred-beliefcredibility, credit, credulous
-culp-fault, guiltculpable, culprit
-dic-speakdictation, dictator, dictionary
-doc-teachdocument, doctrine
-dol-sadnessdolour, condolence, doleful
-duc-leadabduct, induct, ductile
-ego-selfegocentric, egoist, egomaniac
-equ-equalequal, equality, equity
-fac-, -fic-to dofactory, factory, fiction, manufacture 
-fal-falsefallacy, fallible, false
-fid-, -fed-faithfidelity, confederation, infidel
-flu-, -flux-flowfluvial, fluent, influx
-fort-luckfortuity, fortune
-fort-strengthfort, fortitude, fortify
-gen-birthgeneration, genre, generate, genome, genetic
-grad-stepgradual, grade
-graph-writegraphic, graphology, biography
-grat-pleasegrateful, gratitude
-grav-, -griev-serious, sadgrave, grieve, aggravate
-greg-crowdgregarious, congregation, segregation
-gress-goprogress, ingress, egress, congress
Root Word Usage
-helio-, -heli-sunhelium, heliocentric
-hol-wholeholistic, holocaust
-ject-, -jet-throwjettison, eject, inject
-journ-dayjournal, journey, adjourn
-jud-, -jur-lawjudge, judicial, jury, abjure
-loc-, -loq-speakelocution, colloquial, loquacious 
-log-, -logy-study, word, signbiology, zoology, neologism, logo
-luc-lighttranslucent, lucid, pellucid
-man-handmanual, manufacture, manuscript
-magn-largemagnanimous, magnificent, magnum
-mit-, -mis-let, allowadmit, permission, intermittent 
-med-, -mid-middlemedieval, Mediterranean, middle, midday
-nom-, -nym-nameanonymous, pseudonym
-nox-, -noc-night, harmfulequinox, nocturnal, noxious, obnoxious, innocuous
-path-feelsympathy, empathy, antipathy
-phil-lovephilosopher, bibliophile
-photo-lightphotograph, photosynthesis
-scribe-, -script-writescript, scribe, scribble, scripture
-sent-, -sense-feelsentimental, sensational, sensible
-soph-wisdomsophisticated, philosophy
-terr-landterritory, territorial, terrestrial, terrain, terracotta
-vis-, -vid-sightvisual, video
-vac-emptyvacuum, vacation, vacant
-vol-flyvolatile, volley
-zoo-animalzoology, zoophile, zoo

How to Use the Affixation System

  • Thorough knowledge of the English affixation system helps us in guessing the meaning of the word purely by the means of its PrefixRootSuffix structure.
  • Because of the limitations of our memory, it is not easy to mug up a large number of words at a time.
  • We may find it difficult to associate the meaning of the word with its structure.
WordMeaning
innocuousharmless
unanimoustogether in agreement
translucentallowing light to pass

With the knowledge of the affixation system, we can guess the meaning of the given word.

PrefixRootSuffixMeaning
 in-  noc-  -uous  not harmful
(not)(harmful)(having the quality of) 
  uni-  -anim-  -ous with a single mind (unitedly)
(one)(war)(belonging to) 
  trans  luc  -ent light passing across
(talk)(light)(quality of) 

In this manner, we can guess the meanings of the words solely by the virtue of their roots.  Thus, in order to have a rich vocabulary, students should learn the Prefix-Root-Suffix method.

It is an interesting way to expand your vocabulary with a little effort. Students who are well-versed with the affixation system find it easier to tackle difficult words and are more confident about their word usage.

It will definitely give you an edge over the others when it comes to vocabulary.