Spanish Suffixes

Most Are Cognates of Those We Use in English

Peligroso for a lesson on Spanish suffixes
Through the use of the suffix "-oso," "peligro," meaning "danger," becomes "peligroso," meaning "dangerous." The sign, seen in Spain, says, "Tobacco warns that the government is dangerous to health.". Nacho/Creative Commons.

One sure-fire way to boost your Spanish vocabulary is to take the words you already know and learn how to apply suffixes to them.

What Are Suffixes?

Suffixes are simply word endings that can be used to modify a word's meaning. We use suffixes in English all the time, and nearly all of them that we use in English have a Spanish equivalent. But Spanish has an even wider variety, and their usage isn't always as obvious as it would be in English.

Take a common word like manteca, for example. That's the word for lard, a much-used cooking ingredient in some Spanish-speaking countries. Add the ending -illa, a common ending, and it becomes mantequilla, or butter. Add the ending -ero, and it becomes mantequero, which can mean either a dairyman or a butter dish. Add the ending -ada, and it becomes mantecada, or buttered toast. Add -ado, and it becomes mantecado, or french ice cream.

Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to figure out what a word means simply by knowing the root word and the suffixes. But the suffixes may give enough clues that in context you can make an educated guess.

For the Spanish student, suffixes can roughly be classified as diminutives, augmentatives, pejoratives, English cognates, and miscellaneous. And one, the adverbial suffix, is in a class of its own.

The Adverbial Suffix

Probably the most common Spanish suffix is -mente, which is usually added to the feminine singular form of adjectives to turn them into adverbs, just as we add "-ly" in English. Thus simplemente is "simply," cariñosamente is "lovingly," rápidamente is "quickly," and so on.


These suffixes are extremely common and are used to make a word refer to something smaller, either literally or figuratively as in a form of endearment. Thus, un gato is a cat, but un gatito is a kitten. In English we sometimes do the same thing by adding "-y." The most common diminutive is -ito (or its feminine equivalent, -ita), sometimes expanded to -cito or, less commonly, -illo or even -zuelo. You can add one of these endings to many nouns and adjectives to arrive at a diminutive form.


  • perrito (doggy)
  • hermanito (little brother)
  • papelito (slip of paper)


Augmentatives are the opposite of diminutives and aren't used as much. Augmentative endings include -ote, -ota, -ón, -ona, -azo, and -aza. For examples, un arbolote is a large tree, and un hombrón is a big or tough dude.

Just as the diminutives sometimes are used to denote an endearing quality, the augmentatives can be used to convey a negative connotation. Whereas un perrito may be a cute puppy, un perrazo could be a big scary dog.

One augmentative, -ísimo, and its feminine and plural forms are used with adjectives to form a superlative. Bill Gates isn't just rich, he's riquísimo.


Pejoratives are added to words to indicate contempt or some form of undesirability. They include -aco, -aca, -acho, -acha, -ajo, -aja, -ote, -ota, -ucho, and -ucha. The precise translation often depends on the context. Examples include casucha, a house that's falling apart, and ricacho, referring to a person who is rich in some undesirable way, such as arrogant.

English Cognates

These suffixes are ones that are similar to suffixes in English and have a similar meaning. Nearly all of them have come to both languages by way of Greek or Latin. Most have an abstract meaning, or are used to change one part of speech into another.

Here are some of the more commonly used cognates along with an example of each:

  • -aje — -age — kilometraje (like mileage, but in kilometers)
  • -ancia — -ancy — discrepancia (discrepancy)
  • -arquía — -archy — monarquía (monarchy)
  • -ático — -atic — lunático (lunatic)
  • -ble — -ble — manejable (manageable)
  • -cida, cidio — -cide — insecticida (insecticide)
  • -ción — -tion — agravación (aggravation)
  • -cracia — -cracy — democracia (democracy)
  • -crata — -crat — burócrata (bureaucrat)
  • -dad — -ity — pomposidad (pomposity)
  • -esa, -iz, -isa — -ess — actriz (actress)
  • -fico, -fica — -fic — horrífico (horrific)
  • -filo, -filia — -file — bibliófilo (bibliophile)
  • -fobia — -phobia — claustrofobia (claustrophobia)
  • -fono — -phone — teléfono (telephone)
  • -icio, -icia — -ice — avaricia (avarice)
  • -ificar — -ify — dignificar (to dignify)
  • -ismo — -ism — budismo (Buddhism)
  • -dad — -ity — pomposidad (pomposity)
  • -ista — -ist — dentista (dentist)
  • -itis — -itis — flebitis (phlebitis)
  • -izo — -ish — rojizo (reddish)
  • -or, -ora — -er — pintor (painter)
  • -osa, -oso — -ous — maravilloso (marvelous)
  • -tud — -tude — latitud (latitude)

Miscellaneous Suffixes

Finally, there are suffixes that don't have a clear English equivalent. Here are some of the common ones along with an explanation of their meanings and an example of each:

  • -ada — similar to English suffix "-ful" or "-load" — cucharada, spoonful (from cuchara, spoon)
  • -ado, -ido — can indicate similarity to root word — dolorido, painful
  • -al — indicates a tree or grove — manzanal, apple tree
  • -anza — makes noun forms of some verbs — enseñanza, education
  • -ario — indicates profession or place — bibliotecario, librarian
  • -azo — a blow of the object of the root word — estacazo, a hit with a stick (from estaca, stake)
  • -dero — indicates instrument, means, or capacity — lavandero, laundry (from lavar, to clean)
  • -dor, -dora — indicates agent, machine or place; sometimes similar to "-er" — jugador, player; comedor, diner; calculadora, calculator
  • -dura — indicates the effect of an action — picadura, puncture (from picar, to pick)
  • -ear — common verb ending, often used with coined words — emailear, to email
  • -ense — indicates place of origin — estadounidense, of or from the United States, American
  • -ería — place where items are made or sold — zapatería, shoe store
  • -ero — variety of meanings relating to root word — sombrero, hat (from sombra, shade); vaquero, cowboy (from vaca, cow)
  • -és —indicates place of origin — holandés, Dutch
  • -eza — makes abstract nouns from adjectives — pureza, purity
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Suffixes." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Spanish Suffixes. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Suffixes." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).