List of prefixes and suffixes with their meanings

a tan and mint green background. one side says "prefix," and the other says "suffix."

Ever wonder what those prefixes and suffixes we link up to words actually mean? Native English speakers use these letters that go before and after words all day long, usually without a thought to their definitions. But we do use them for a reason: they alter the meaning of the word.

For instance, if someone is being careless, a native English speaker would be quick to say, “Hey, stop acting carelessly,” without hesitating to recall that the suffix –ly means “in the matter of.”

But, oh those poor English learners. It takes time to memorize all of our prefixes and suffixes and learn which to attach to what word. (A unicycle is quite different from a tricycle, you know.) It also doesn’t help that English, being that it is the bastard child of multiple European languages, adopted its prefixes and suffixes from Latin, Greek, and Old French.

But, alas, here we are.

To brush up on your skills, below is a collection of prefixes and suffixes and their meanings.

Prefix Meaning Example
a- not atypical
anti- against antifascist
bi- two biannual
counter- against, opposite counterfeit
de- remove, reverse deregulate
dis- opposite, reverse, not disagree
extra- beyond, outside extraterrestrial
fore- before forefather
in- not invisible
inter- between intermingle
mal- bad maltreatment
mis- not, wrong miscomprehend
neo- new neoconservative
non- not nonstarter
over- excessive overspend
post- after postscript
pre- before precolonial
proto- first, primitive prototype
re- repeat reread
sub- under submarine
tele- distant teleport
trans- across transcontinental
tri- three tricycle
un- remove, reverse untie
uni- one unilateral

 

Suffix Meaning Example
-able capable of inflatable
-ant type of person assistant
-athon long-lasting marathon
-cide killing infanticide
-dom state of being freedom
-er doer of an action worker
-ery type of work bakery
-ess female of heiress
-esque reminiscent of picturesque
-ette small version of kitchenette
-fest indulgence in chatfest
-fy to make electrify
-hood state, quality childhood
-ible ability reliable
-ish a little squeamish
-ism condition or doctrine feminism
-ist type of person florist
-less without penniless
-ly in a manner of quickly
-ous full of joyous
-wash changing the appearance of whitewash

 

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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What is a homonym? (plus examples)

Homonyms are two words that are spelled the same and/or sound the same but have two different meanings.

An example is “bat.” A bat is the hunk of wood used to hit baseballs, and it is also the name of the arguably adorable winged creature of the night. These two words are spelled the same and sound the same.

bat

An example of a word that is spelled differently but sounds the same is “son” and “sun.” “Son” means a person’s child, while “sun” means that gigantic orange thing in the sky.

Here are more examples of homonyms that are both spelled the same and sound the same:

  • address: to speak to / location
  • arm: a part of the body / a part of a company
  • band: a musical group / a ring
  • bark: the outer part of a tree / the sound a dog makes
  • bright: very smart / filled with light
  • current:  up to date / the flow of water
  • die: to stop living / a cube labeled with numbers one through six
  • duck: a type of bird / to lower oneself
  • express: something done quickly / to show your thoughts
  • fly: a type of insect / to soar through the air
  • kind: a type of something / caring
  • lie: to recline / to not tell the truth
  • pound: a unit of weight / to beat
  • right: the correct answer / left’s opposite
  • rock: a type of music / a stone
  • rose: to have gotten up / a type of flower
  • spring: one of the seasons / coiled metal
  • tire: to become fatigued / a part of a wheel
  • well: the opposite of sick / a source for water in the ground

 

Here are more examples of homonyms that sound the same but are spelled differently:

  • berry / bury: a type of fruit / to cover in something
  • brake / break: to stop / to injure a bone or to rest
  • cereal / serial: a breakfast food / to do something repeatedly
  • eye / I: a body part / the opposite of you
  • groan / grown: an unhappy sound / to have become big
  • hear / here: to experience sound / opposite of there
  • hi / high: a greeting / up above
  • him / hymn: opposite of her / a type of song
  • feat / feet: an accomplishment / a body part and unit of measurement
  • flower / flour: a type of plant / an ingredient in baking
  • flew / flu: to have traveled through the air / a type of sickness
  • knight / night: a medieval soldier / the opposite of day
  • know / no: to understand / the opposite of yes
  • meet / meat: to be introduced / animal flesh
  • one / won: the number before two / the opposite of lost
  • pail / pale: a type of container / the opposite of dark
  • pair / pear: a couple / a type of fruit
  • rap / wrap: a type of music / to cover something
  • see / sea: to look at something / a big body of water
  • weak / week: not strong / seven days in a row

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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The difference between “peel” and “peal”

Two cartoon bananas and the words

What’s the difference between peel and peal? Peel can be used as both a noun and a verb, and peal can be used as a noun. It’s easy to get these two words confused, so read this post to learn the difference.

Definitions
peel (verb): to strip off an outer layer of
Example: Lawrence peeled the skin off of his apple.

peel (noun): the skin or rind of a fruit
Example: Becky threw her potato peels in the trash.

peal (noun): 1) the loud ringing of bells; 2) a loud sound or succession of sounds
Examples: 1) Gina heard the peal of the church bells from across town.
2) Ryan let out peals of laughter at his buddy’s lunchroom antics.

Etymology
Peel comes from the Latin word pilare, which means to remove the hair from. It came into English in the thirteenth century.

Peal is short for appeal, which in Middle English meant a summons to church service. It came into the English language in the fourteenth century.

Quiz:
Fill in the blanks with either peel or peal. The answers are below.

  1. Grace slipped on a banana _______ and broke her nose.
    2. Stan grew excited when he heard the _______ of the day’s last school bell.
    3. Grandma _______ed eight pears for the pie.
    4. ____s of loud sobs escaped from Sammy when he learned a dragon ate his cat.

 

Answers:
1. peel (noun) 2. peal 3. peel (verb) 4. peal

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Is “Everyone” Singular or Plural?

crowd of people on a beach

Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash

When considering the word everyone, it makes sense to think of many people in a group. The natural conclusion then is to believe everyone is plural. It’s not. Everyone is singular.

One way to think about it is that everyone refers to each individual in a group.

Take this example:

Everyone who is attending the Ice Creams of the World festival likes ice cream.

It would be odd for a person who loathes ice cream to go to a festival celebrating that dessert, so it’s safe to say each individual person in that group enjoys it.

Because everyone is singular, it takes a singular verb. Look again at our example sentence above. The verb in it is “likes,” which is singular and would be used with singular pronouns, such as “he” and “she.”

 

Here are more examples:

Everyone dances uniformly in ballet class.
Everyone under five eats free.
Everyone needs to file the form in triplicate.

Each sentence has a singular verb because everyone is a singular pronoun.

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May vs. Might

wish I may

In casual usage, people interchange may and might. However, there is a slight difference that is useful to know.

May means something is more likely to happen.
Might means something is less likely to happen.

Examples:
There may be food at the party.
There might be someone dressed in a killer whale costume at the party.

What’s a party without food? It’s very likely there would at least be hors d’oeuvres there; that’s why we use may. But, I know I have never been to a party where someone was dressed as a killer whale. It’s safe to say you’d be less likely to encounter that (unless you were going to a killer whale costume party), which is why we use might.

Think of degrees of likelihood. The closer the situation is to “will happen,” use may. The closer it is to “won’t happen,” use might.

Note that this does not apply to past tense. The past tense of may is might. Why? Because English loves to be confusing! So, if you are writing or speaking in the past tense, always use might.

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Quiz:

Choose may or might for each sentence.

1) I’m feeling lucky today. I _____ win the big jackpot.
2) I _____ eat a cookie today, just as I do every day.
3) There _____ be a huge asteroid careening toward Earth that will land on my front lawn.
4) Eight hundred higher-qualified candidates applied for the job, but Clyde _____ get the position.
5) Clyde is the only person who applied for the job. He _____ just get it!

Answers:
1) might 2) may 3) might 4) might 5) may

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

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