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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Is It Handfull or Handful?

One of the ways we use the suffix –ful is to explain how much of something exists somewhere. Or, as my go-to dictionary, Merriam-Webster, puts it:

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 4.43.10 PM

This means in our question of “Is it handfull or handful?” the answer is handful with one L.

However, as you can see in the dictionary’s example, handful isn’t the only use of this suffix. Basically, anything that can hold something can get the –ful suffix.

For example:

roomful can hold people
bucketful can hold apples
eyeful can hold beautiful visions
oceanful can hold fish
glassful can hold juice
pocketful can hold tiny treasures
spaceshipful can hold aliens

 

 

You get the gist. Now here’s how they work in sentences:

The kitten held out a pawful of jewels to its human.
Frida unleashed a brainful of magical powers onto the bad guys.
The lizard discovered a desertful of hot sand and rocks to enjoy.

Now go forth and use your –ful suffix with vigor.

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-ization station

Realization. Industrialization. Immobilization. We use words ending in the suffix -ization so frequently that many native English speakers might not know what –ization even means and how adding it changes the meaning of a word.

-ization: action, process, or result of making
Merriam-Webster

When we add –ization to the words realize, industrial, and immobile (like we did at the beginning of this post), here’s how their meanings change:

realization: the action of realizing; the state of being realized
Merriam-Webster

Example: This house is the realization of years of planning and building.
In other words: Years of planning and building realized the end product of this house.

industrialization: to make industrial
Merriam-Webster

Example: The industrialization of countries is a major factor in improving economic viability.
In other words: Making countries industrialized is a major factor in improving economic viability.

immobilization: to make immobile
Merriam-Webster

Example: The immobilization of her broken leg aided in its healing.
In other words: Immobilizing her broken leg aided in its healing.

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List of –ization words

actualization maximization
alphabetization modernization
Americanization nationalization
brutalization normalization
capitalization optimization
categorization organization
colonization personalization
commercialization randomization
decentralization revitalization
deodorization sanitization
equalization symbolization
externalization summarization
fossilization terrorization
generalization traumatization
globalization unionization
hospitalization utilization
initialization vandalization
legalization vaporization
liberalization visualization
magnetization winterization

You can find a longer list of –ization words here.

Alternatives to –ization
Recently, I saw the word professionalization, and I thought, “What an ugly word.” Adding –ization to words often turns them into five syllable plus tongue twisters.

If you also feel that the suffix –ization lacks a certain elegance, there are ways to avoid adding it to the word you’d like to use. For instance, there are many times when you can rewrite a sentence so you simply use the root word.

Here are some examples:

Original: The popularization of vampire movies is astounding.
Rewrite: It’s astounding how popular vampire movies are.

Original: The revitalization of downtown is important.
Rewrite: It is important that we revitalize downtown.

Original: We must achieve optimization of our skills.
Rewrite: We must optimize our skills.

What do you think?
Do you like using –ization words? Or do you find them to be overly complicated? What are your methods to avoid using –ization words? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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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Piles of –philes

Lesson: learning the suffix -phile and other awesomeness

If you find this photo strangely attractive, you might just be a Russophile.

Bibliophile. Logophile. Discophile. These are three words that describe me. Lover of books. Lover of words. Lover of “gramophone records.” When you add the suffix –phile to the end of a word, that’s what it denotes, a “lover of <insert whatever you love here>.” (That’s not all –phile means, but the rest is all sciencey, so we’ll talk about that after the cooler stuff.)

Here are more –phile words. Which ones describe you? (All definitions are from Oxford English Dictionary Online.)

Anglophile: a supporter or admirer of England (or Britain), its people, customs, etc.

astrophile: a lover of the stars

audiophile: a devotee of high-fidelity reproduction of sound

bibliophile: a lover of books; a book-fancier

cinephile: a film lover or enthusiast; a film buff

discophile: an enthusiast for and collector of gramophone records

enophile: a lover of wine

Francophile: fond of or having great admiration for France or the French

hippophile: a lover of horses

Japanophile: a lover of Japan or the Japanese

logophile: a lover of words.

necrophile: a person affected by necrophilia; one who is fascinated by death or dead bodies

technophile: a person who likes or readily adopts technology

theophile: one who loves God

pedophile: an adult who is sexually attracted to children

Russophile: friendly to, or favoring, Russia (or the former Soviet Union), its people, customs

xenophile: fond of or attracted by foreign things or people

videophile: one who is very keen on watching television or video recordings

If you’re a necrophile who’s reading this post: Hey, how are you doing? I think it’s great that you are interested in learning more about grammar and vocabulary and linguistics and all the other neat stuff we talk about on Grammar Party. You know, I try not to judge. And if you’re a Russophile, I think that’s okay, too. I mean, the Cold War is over. And, I have to admit, I think it’s cool that Vladimir Putin takes all those shirtless photos of himself on horses, and he beats up sharks or whatever. You’re also welcome to join in the conversation. But this next part is where I might lose some of you. This is the sciencey part I mentioned earlier. (Don’t worry. There’s other great stuff at the end.)

Other meaning of –phile

The suffix –phile is also used in biology and chemistry. This is how the Oxford English Dictionary describes it: forming nouns and adjectives with the sense “(a thing) having an affinity for a certain substance or class of substances, a particular kind of environment, etc., denoted by the first element.”

For example, the word halophile means (according to the OED) “an organism which grows in or can tolerate saline conditions.” Likewise, acidophile means (also according to the OED) “of a cell or cellular component: staining readily with an acid dye.” Yeah, sciencey stuff. But you get the drift.

-philia and –philic

The suffixes –philia and –philic are related to –phile. Philia is actually also a noun which means “amity, affection, friendship; fondness, liking,” coming from the ancient Greek word for “friendship.” (Thanks again to the OED for that one.) When you add –philia as a suffix, it means “love of <something.>” So, for instance, logophilia means “love of words.” And horolophilia means “a love of timepieces.” (Horloge is French for clock.) And, since we seem to be on some kind of roll with this one, necrophilia means “a love of dead bodies.”

Meanwhile, the suffix –philic means “liking/loving.” You can add it to the end of a word to make an adjective. As an example, for our friends of the dead, we could say, “He has necrophilic desires.” Okay, that’s enough with that talk. You get the idea.

Feel free to comment about while kind of –phile you are. And, as always, if you want more word nerdy stuff, you can follow me on twitter with the handle @GrammarParty. Happy trails.

Simply dashing part three: the hyphen

Welcome back for our final installment from the horizontal language department. Previously we discussed the em dash and the en dash. Today we will learn about the shortest in the dash-like family, the hyphen.

Hyphen basics
Hyphens link:

  • a prefix or a suffix to a word; and
  • two or more words together

Hyphens linking prefixes and suffixes
One of the most difficult questions when it comes to this topic is whether to hyphenate. In general, there is a movement away from hyphenation when it comes to prefixes and suffixes.

Think about the words bicycle and misinformed. If we added a hyphen before these prefixes, the words would look like this: bi-cycle and mis-informed. However, due to the trend away from hyphenation, these words now look wrong to us with their hyphens.

Still, there are times when we include hyphens with prefixes and suffixes. Today, one of the hyphen’s main purposes is to help with ease of reading. A general rule is to hyphenate when a lack of a hyphen would cause confusion or when it is not a familiar word without the hyphen.

For example, think of the word recreation. Recreation, without the hyphen, means exercise or play. Re-creation, with the hyphen, means to create something again. The words have two different meanings depending on whether you use a hyphen. The same idea goes with recover and re-cover.

For the second part of the rule, let’s consider my obsession with collecting R2D2 figurines. (Stay with me.) If someone broke into my apartment and stole all of my R2D2 toys, I would be R2D2-less. However, I would not be R2D2less because, well, that word just looks strange. Think also about someone who just quit smoking. They would now be tobacco-free. They wouldn’t be tobaccofree. In both these instances, you need the hyphen because these words are not familiar without them.

Unfortunately, there are few definitive rules when it comes to using hyphens with prefixes and suffixes. However, The Chicago Manual of Style’s chapter seven has a handy list of hyphenated and unhyphenated words.

Hyphens linking two or more words together
This use of hyphens thankfully has more definitive rules.

1. Compound modifiers with nouns: Compound modifiers are two or more words that work together to describe a noun. Think about half-full jar (Half-full is the compound modifier.) and closed-lipped smile (Closed-lipped is the compound modifier.). When these come before a noun, they are usually always hyphenated.

Here are more examples:

red-and-white dress
seven-year-old boy
three-time champion
well-read man
thirty-year reign
second-best option

However, if your modifier includes a word ending in –ly, it does not take a hyphen, such as in these examples:

highly paid executive
amazingly hilarious movie
humorously dull person
finally pursued goal

2. Omission of part of a hyphenated expression: This also has to do with compound modifiers. Let’s start with an example. Say you have a five-year plan (Note the hyphen.) and a ten-year plan. (Five-year and ten-year are the compound modifiers.) If you wanted to write about both of these plans at the same time, you could write my five-year plan and my ten-year plan. Or you could combine the two to write my five- and ten-year plans. Here, we took out the first year, but we still need the hyphen.

Here are more examples:

twenty- and thirty-year payment plans
first- and second-year students
Minneapolis- or St. Paul-bound passengers
fur- and gut-covered man

Final note
As you can tell, the rules (and sometimes the lack thereof) for hyphens are complicated. I have touched on basics here, but there are many exceptions depending on the word. I recommend further investigation if you are researching a specific case. Like I mentioned before, chapter seven of The Chicago Manual of Style breaks down case-by-case scenarios in better detail. You can also try that old trick of checking the dictionary.