Prefixes and suffixes

Prefixes and suffixes are sets of letters that are added to the beginning or end of another word. They are not words in their own right and cannot stand on their own in a sentence: if they are printed on their own they have a hyphen before or after them.

Prefixes

Prefixes are added to the beginning of an existing word in order to create a new word with a different meaning. For example:

wordprefixnew word

happy

un-unhappy
culturalmulti-multicultural
workover-overwork
spacecyber-cyberspace
marketsuper-supermarket

Suffixes

Suffixes are added to the end of an existing word. For example:

wordsuffixnew word
child-ishchildish
work-erworker
taste-lesstasteless
idol-ize/-iseidolize/idolise
like-ablelikeable

The addition of a suffix often changes a word from one word class to another. In the table above, the verb like becomes the adjective likeable, the noun idol becomes the verb idolize, and the noun child becomes the adjective childish.

Word creation with prefixes and suffixes

Some prefixes and suffixes are part of our living language, in that people regularly use them to create new words for modern products, concepts, or situations. For example:

wordprefix or suffixnew word
securitybio-biosecurity
clutterde-declutter
mediamulti-multimedia
email-eremailer

 

Email is an example of a word that was itself formed from a new prefix, e-, which stands for electronic. This modern prefix has formed an ever-growing number of other Internet-related words, including e-book, e-cash, e-commerce, and e-tailer.

You can read more about prefixes and suffixes on the OxfordWords blog. Here you will find guidelines, examples, and tips for using prefixes and suffixes correctly.

 

Back to grammar

More from the OxfordWords blog

 

Who’s confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and similar suffixes?

 

Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?

 

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Grammar and usage