Improve Your Vocabulary: Suffixes

Just as knowing your prefixes can really help you to understand many more words, so does a good understanding of suffixes.

Note: Troy and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include the popular vocabulary-improvement software Ultimate Vocabulary.*

What is a suffix? A suffix is a short word or "word fragment" that sits at the end of a word, and modifies the word's meaning; similar to a prefix at the front of a word.

Here are some of the more common suffixes (there are many more than just this, though!). Different suffixes apply to different classes of words, as you'll see below.

Prefix Meanings Examples
-acy state or quality privacy, accuracy
-al verbal action  arrival, recital 
quality or state ignorance, patience 
-dom state or condition, rank or status, domain, class of people kingdom, freedom
-er, -or person, animal or thing that does something teacher, heater
-ion verbal action demotion, audition
-ism action or its result, state or quality, system, principle or ideological movement, language peculiarity, pathological condition  baptism, cynicism, nepotism,colloquialism, autism
-ist adherent to a belief system, member of a profession, or one who uses something separatist, pharmacist, motorist 
-ity, -ty quality or condition agility, opacity, knotty 
-ment means or result of an action judgement, movement
-ness forming nouns from adjectives, state or condition darkness, shyness 
-logy subject of study or interest zoology, genealogy
-ory place for a particular function refectory, laboratory
-ship quality or condition, status, tenure of office, skill, collective individuals of a group friendship, scholarship, judgeship, leadership, readership 
-sion  forming nouns aggression, pension
-tion forming nouns of action, condition duration, elation
-ate forming verbs from nouns captivate, migrate
-en development or creation of a state enlighten, shorten
-ify, -fy making or producing emulsify, purify 
make, become, resemble, treat in a particular way, follow specified practice vaporise, Americanize, homogenise,  sympathise


able to be, due to be, subject to, relevant to, having quality to solvable, payable, miscible, quotable, amenable
-al relating to, of the kind of glacial, comical
-en made of, resembling woollen, golden
-esque  in the style of, resembling arabesque, statuesque
-ful full of cheerful, peaceful
forming adjectives from nouns Islamic, botanic, satirical
-ile forming adjectives and nouns imbecile, volatile 
characterised by, full of gracious, nauseous
-ish having qualities or characteristics of, somewhat childish, pinkish 
-ive tending to, having the nature of adhesive, expressive
-less not having, without tactless, sleepless
-ous characterised by, of the nature of amorous, pompous 
-y full of, having the quality of messy, foggy, sugary

Ultimate Vocabulary can also help you learn suffixes, with many useful features such as Flashcards and a built-in dictionary to show you how words are constructed, and the etymology of the words you're learning.

*Troy and I have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of the Ultimate Vocabulary software because we are happy to endorse that software.


Last modified on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 09:56
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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