Suffixes are word parts that are added to a root to create a word (e.g., “dent” + “-al” = “dental”) or to a root word to create a new word (e.g., “soft” + “ness” = “softness”). Suffixes often change a root word’s part of speech and sometimes they make a significant change in the meaning too. For example, the suffix “-less” changes a noun to an adjective and also changes the meaning a great deal. Compare “tooth” and “toothless,” for instance! Some suffixes add grammatical information to a root without changing the part of speech. The past tense marker “-ed” is an example of this type of suffix. “Talk” and “talked” are both still verbs despite the change in forms.

The suffixes listed below are very basic suffixes that, when added to a root word, change its part of speech. In this list are included a number of suffixes—“-y,” “-th,” “-ly,” and “-ful”—that come from Old English. As the suffixes become more specialized in their meaning, or if they tend to combine with more sophisticated words, they are more likely to derive from Latin or Greek.

Rudimentary suffixes:

suffixmeaningexample words
-ationLatin noun-forming suffix that means the act, process, or result ofeducation, translation, vacation
-ion (tion, sion) Latin noun-forming suffix that means the act, process, or result ofaction, permission, confusion
-er, -or, -arLatin noun-forming suffix that means a person or thing that doesdriver, actor, computer, liar
-ableLatin adjective-forming suffix that means capable of being, doing, or undergoingadorable, movable, drinkable
-abilityLatin noun-forming suffix that means ability to do, be, or undergocapability, reliability
-mentLatin noun-forming suffix that means act, process, or instance ofmovement, agreement, measurement
-fulOld English adjective-forming suffix that means full ofbeautiful, successful, useful
-nessOld English noun-forming suffix that means state or quality offitness, kindness, business
-th Old English adjective- and noun-forming suffix that means in the position in a series indicated by the base numberfourth, fifth, sixth
-y Old English adjective-forming suffix that means characterized by; full of; tending tochewy, itchy, lucky, messy
-anLatin adjective- and noun-forming suffix that means 
in adjectives: from (a place) or pertaining to or following (a figure or school of thought);
in nouns: person or thing from (a place) or associated with (an activity or school of thought).
American, European, historian
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See Word Parts I: basic roots

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