Infix Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Audrey Hepburn - infixation
In the film version of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle (played by Audrey Hepburn, dubbed by Marni Nixon) sings "Aow, wouldn't it be loverly? / Aow, so loverly sittin' abso-bloomin'-lutely still" (from the song "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" by Lerner and Loewe). (Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

An infix is a word element (a type of affix) that can be inserted within the base form of a word (rather than at its beginning or end) to create a new word or intensify meaning. Also called an integrated adjective.

The process of inserting an infix is called infixation. The most common type of infix in English grammar is the expletive, as in "fan-bloody-tastic." Rarely used in formal writing, expletive infixation can sometimes be heard in colloquial language and slang.

Examples and Observations

  • "Abso-Bleedin'-Lutely"
    (Quincy Jones, song in the film Walk, Don't Run, 1966)
  • "Well, I can guaran-damn-tee ya. Dannie's not playin'."
    (Rick Reilly, Shanks for Nothing. Doubleday, 2006)
  • "[A]s the term suggests, [an infix] is an affix which is incorporated inside another word. It is possible to see the general principle at work in certain expressions, occasionally used in fortuitous or aggravating circumstances by emotionally aroused English speakers: Hallebloodylujah! . . .. In the movie Wish You Were Here, the main character expresses her aggravation (at another character's trying to contact her) by screaming Tell him I've gone to Singabloodypore!"
    (George Yule, The Study of Language, 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2006)
  • "English has no true infixes, but the plural suffix -s behaves something like an infix in unusual plurals like passers-by and mothers-in-law."
    (R.L. Trask, The Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar, 2000)
  • "Prince William's former nanny [Tiggy Pettifer] has spoken of her joy at the engagement between the Prince and Kate Middleton, describing their union as 'fan-flaming-tastic.'"
    (Roya Nikkhah, "Prince William's Nanny Says Engagement Is 'Fan-Flaming-Tastic.'" The Telegraph [UK], Nov. 21, 2010)

Expletive Infixation

"Native speakers of English have intuitions about where in a word the infix is inserted.

Consider where your favorite expletive infix goes in these words:

fantastic, education, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Stillaguamish, emancipation, absolutely, hydrangea

Most speakers agree on these patterns, though there are some dialectal variations. You likely found that the infix is inserted at the following points:

fan-***-tastic, edu-***-cation, Massa-***-chusetts, Phila-***-delphia, Stilla-***-guamish, emanci-***-pation, abso-***-lutely, hy-***-drangea

The infix gets inserted before the syllable that receives the most stress. And it cannot be inserted anywhere else in the word." (Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Wadsworth, 2010)

The Integrated Adjective

"This linguistic phenomenon is also known as the integrated adjective. In fact, a poem of that name by John O'Grady (aka Nino Culotta) was published in the eponymously titled A Book About Australia, in which numerous examples of the integrated adjective appear: me-bloody-self, kanga-bloody-roos, forty-bloody-seven, good e-bloody-nough." (Ruth Wajnryb, Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language. Free Press, 2005)

Pronunciation: IN-fix

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Nordquist, Richard. "Infix Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Jun. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/infix-words-and-grammar-1691167. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, June 29). Infix Definition and Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/infix-words-and-grammar-1691167 Nordquist, Richard. "Infix Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/infix-words-and-grammar-1691167 (accessed November 22, 2017).