Suffix Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

A suffix is one of the most important concepts to understand in language. Here is suffix’s meaning and how to understand it properly.

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If you speak English, you already know how to use suffixes. Even if you don’t know the exact definition of a suffix, you likely still use them every day in your speech. Almost any time you add a new connotation or modify a meaning to a new word, you are likely using a suffix to do so. 

This is what a suffix is, where the word suffix comes from, and how to understand its uses in your language. Suffixes are a common way to modify terms and make your speech much more flavorful, specific, and engaging. Read on to find out what suffixes are and how to use them every day! 

What Does Suffix Mean?

A suffix is a standard grammar and linguistics tool that alters the form of the words attached to it. According to the dictionary, a suffix (suf-fix) is a free morpheme or bound morpheme (group of letters) added to the end of a word to form a derivative. 

In many ways, a suffix changes the grammatical information of a comment. It can turn a noun into an adjective, an adjective into an adverb, and much more using simple spelling changes. They can be seen as adjective suffixes, noun suffixes, verb suffixes, and others. 

When a suffix is added to the stem of a word, it changes its semantics so it can work inside a new context. For example, the term “sad” is an adjective. When you add the suffix “-ly” to it, it becomes “sadly,” which is an adverb. 

To make a word derivative, you can add the suffix “-ing” to the end of it. The word “good” is an adjective, but when the suffix “-ness” is added to the end, it becomes “goodness,” which is a noun. 

Suffixes can also change a word into the past tense or present tense. They are one of the essential parts of the conjugation of verbs when used as verb endings. They also change the grammatical case of nouns, which helps define the word’s class. 

Here are some of the most common examples of suffixes in the English language today: 

  • -ness
  • -ly
  • -ish
  • -er
  • -al
  • -tion
  • -ism
  • -ed
  • -ful
  • -ment
  • -ist
  • -ive
  • -fy
  • -ible
  • -en
  • -ize
  • -ity
  • -ise
  • -wise
  • -sion
  • -ify
  • -ance
  • -ant
  • -ology
  • -hood
  • -ical
  • -ious
  • -ward

What Is the Etymology of the Word Suffix?

The word suffix (ˈsʌfɪks) has a reasonably typical etymology and origin. In Early Latin, the word originated as two words that were commonly attached; sub, which meant “subordinately,” and fīgere or figere, which meant “fasten” or “fix.” 

Over time, the word transferred into the compound Latin suffigere, which meant “fasten to the end.” In modern Latin, the past participle of suffīgere became the Modern Latin suffixum, which is the foundation for the American English and British English suffix. 

In Semitic languages, suffixes are also called afforamatives because they change the form of the word that they are modifying. While a suffix doesn’t technically create a different word, it changes the lexical information of the world at large. 

Through this, a suffix allows a term to be used in many more contexts. This grammatical behavior has been seen in many Romance languages, including English, Spanish, and Romanian and Synthetic languages, like Czech, German, and Finnish. 

Many Indo-European studies in language have shown that suffixes are some of the essential parts of modern language. They help create subject and tense agreement with a conversation and make a language’s lexicon more specific and diverse. 

What Is the Difference Between a Prefix and a Suffix?

One of the most common misconceptions in grammatical functions and word endings is the meaning of prefix when compared to suffix. Both of these are different kinds of case endings that can change the word’s tense, context, and form. While they retain a similar usage, the actual way they are used in the language differs. 

The main difference is where the group of letters is placed in the word. A suffix is placed at the end of the term, and a prefix is placed at the beginning of the word. For example, the “in-” in “indivisible” is the prefix of the word, and the “-ly” of the word “indivisibly” is the suffix. The “a-” in “atypical” is a prefix, and the “-ly” in “atypically” is the suffix. 

In many cases, the prefix of a word can change the affirmative or negative meaning. The definition of a word can often change entirely based on how a prefix is used in it. 

Knowing whether to use a prefix or a suffix has a lot to do with the construction of the word itself. Familiarizing yourself with common prefixes and suffixes can help you use words in their most proper forms and increase your ability to use your own vocabulary in new and convenient ways. 


Languages are constantly shifting. The English language is dramatically different than it was even 100 years ago, while differences and changes over the last 500 years are even more significant. However, suffixes have remained a critical and popular part of communication through all of the language changes over time. They aren’t even limited to English and often find significant usage in other languages altogether. 

If you are looking to find new ways to modify the words you already know, try attaching suffixes and endings to them. This will help you speak with more clarity, conciseness, and ease as you communicate your thoughts more naturally. In fact, almost anyone who speaks English likely already knows how to use suffixes masterfully, simply because suffixes are such an essential part of linguistics in our daily lives. 

To keep on expanding your understanding of the English Language, feel free to check out our blog here at The Word Counter!


  1. SUFFIX | Cambridge English Dictionary 
  2. Suffix definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  3. Suffix Definition & Meaning |