A List of 26 Common Suffixes in English

Expand Your Vocabulary by Studying 26 Common Suffixes

Common suffixes

A suffix is a letter or a group of letters attached to the end of a word to form a new word or to change the grammatical function (or part of speech) of the original word. For example, the verb read is made into the noun reader by adding the suffix -er. Similarly, read is made into the adjective readable by adding the suffix -able.

Understanding the meanings of the common suffixes can help you figure out the meanings of new words you encounter.

But as you work on building your vocabulary, you should keep a few points in mind:

  •  In some cases, the spelling of a root or base word changes when a suffix is added. For example, in words ending in y preceded by a consonant (such as the noun beauty and the adjective ugly), the y may change to an i when a suffix is added (as in the adjective beautiful and the noun ugliness). Also, in words ending in silent -e (such as use and adore), the final -e may be dropped before a suffix that begins with a vowel (as in usable and adorable). As with all spelling rules, there are exceptions of course.
     
  •  Not all suffixes can be added to all roots. For example, the adjective beautiful is formed by adding the suffix -ful to the noun beauty, and the noun ugliness is formed by adding the suffix -ness  to the adjective ugly. But you won't find *ugliful in your dictionary—or in standard English. (Throughout this website, an asterisk in front of a construction shows that it's considered nonstandard or ungrammatical.)
     
  •  A suffix may have more than one meaning. With adjectives and adverbs, for instance, the -er suffix usually conveys the comparative meaning of "more" (as in the adjectives kinder and longer). But in some cases the -er ending can also refer to someone who performs a particular action (such as a dancer or builder) or to someone who lives in a particular place (such as a New Yorker or a Dubliner).

    Don't be put off by these variations, qualifications, and exceptions. Just think of these common suffixes as clues to the meanings of words. As in a detective story, sometimes the clues are clear and fairly obvious. Other times they can be puzzling or misleading. In any case, keep in mind that the meanings of words are best determined by studying the contexts in which they are used as well as the parts of the words themselves. 

    The table below defines and illustrates 26 common suffixes.

    Common Suffixes in English
     

    Noun Suffixes
    SuffixMeaningExample
    -acystate or qualityprivacy, fallacy, delicacy
    -alact or process ofrefusal, recital, rebuttal 
    -ance, -ence state or quality ofmaintenance, eminence, assurance  
    -domplace or state of being freedom, kingdom, boredom
    -er, -orone whotrainer, protector, narrator
    -ismdoctrine, beliefcommunism, narcissism, scepticism
    -istone whochemist, narcissist, plagiarist
    -ity, -tyquality ofinactivity, veracity, parity, serenity
    -mentcondition ofargument, endorsement, punishment  
    -nessstate of beingheaviness, sadness, rudeness, testiness 
    -shipposition heldfellowship, ownership, kinship, internship
    -sion, -tionstate of beingconcession, transition, abbreviation
       
    Verb Suffixes
    -atebecomeregulate, eradicate, enunciate, repudiate 
    -enbecomeenlighten, awaken, strengthen
    -ify, -fymake or becometerrify, satisfy, rectify, exemplify
    -ize, -ise*becomecivilize, humanize, socialize, valorize
       
    Adjective Suffixes
    -able, -iblecapable of beingedible, presentable, abominable, credible 
    -alpertaining toregional, grammatical, emotional, coastal
    -esquereminiscent ofpicturesque, statuesque, burlesque
    -fulnotable forfanciful, resentful, woeful, doubtful
    -ic, -icalpertaining tomusical, mythic, domestic, chiastic
    -ious, -ouscharacterized bynutritious, portentous, studious 
    -ishhaving the quality offiendish, childish, snobbish
    -ivehaving the nature ofcreative, punitive, divisive, decisive 
    -lesswithoutendless, ageless, lawless, effortless
    -ycharacterized bysleazy, hasty, greasy, nerdy, smelly


    * "Many verbs that end in -ize can also end in -ise (such as finalize/finalise or realize/realise); both endings are acceptable, although -ise is more common in British English."
    (Charlotte Buxton, Oxford A-Z of Better Spelling. Oxford University Press, 2009)