A List of 26 Common Suffixes in English

How knowing common suffixes can help you understand what words mean

Noun, verb, and adjective suffix examples listed on a chalkboard.
Illustration by Melissa Ling. ThoughtCo.

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 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 Suffix Meanings

Understanding the meanings of the common suffixes can help you figure out the meanings of new words you encounter. 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). In words ending in silent -e (such as use and adore), the final -e may be dropped when the suffix that's added begins with a vowel (as in usable and adorable). 

As with all spelling rules, there are exceptions. 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.

Also note that 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).

Common Suffixes in English

Think of the 26 common suffixes that follow as clues to the meanings of words, however, bear in mind that the meanings of words are best determined by studying the contexts in which they are used as well as the construction of the words themselves. 

Noun Suffixes:

Suffix Meaning Example
-acy state or quality privacy, fallacy, delicacy
-al act or process of refusal, recital, rebuttal
-ance, -ence state or quality of maintenance, eminence, assurance
-dom place or state of being freedom, kingdom, boredom
-er, -or one who trainer, protector, narrator
-ism doctrine, belief communism, narcissism, skepticism
-ist one who chemist, narcissist, plagiarist
-ity, -ty quality of inactivity, veracity, parity, serenity
-ment condition of argument, endorsement, punishment
-ness state of being heaviness, sadness, rudeness, testiness
-ship position held fellowship, ownership, kinship, internship
-sion, -tion state of being concession, transition, abbreviation

Verb Suffixes:

Suffix Meaning Example
-ate become regulate, eradicate, enunciate, repudiate
-en become enlighten, awaken, strengthen
-ify, -fy make or become terrify, satisfy, rectify, exemplify
-ize, -ise* become civilize, humanize, socialize, valorize

Adjective Suffixes:

Suffix Meaning Example
-able, -ible capable of being edible, presentable, abominable, credible
-al pertaining to regional, grammatical, emotional, coastal
-esque reminiscent of picturesque, statuesque, burlesque
-ful notable for fanciful, resentful, woeful, doubtful
-ic, -ical pertaining to musical, mythic, domestic, chiastic
-ious, -ous characterized by nutritious, portentous, studious
-ish having the quality of fiendish, childish, snobbish
-ive having the nature of creative, punitive, divisive, decisive
-less without endless, ageless, lawless, effortless
-y characterized by sleazy, hasty, greasy, nerdy, smelly

In American English, verbs end with -ize, versus British English, in which the spelling changes to -ise.

  • American English: finalize, realize, emphasize, standardize
  • British English: finalise, realise, emphasise, standardise
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "A List of 26 Common Suffixes in English." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/common-suffixes-in-english-1692725. Nordquist, Richard. (2021, February 16). A List of 26 Common Suffixes in English. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/common-suffixes-in-english-1692725 Nordquist, Richard. "A List of 26 Common Suffixes in English." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/common-suffixes-in-english-1692725 (accessed March 22, 2023).

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