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What is a Suffix?

A suffix is a letter or group of letters that are found at the end of a base word or root. They often signify part of speech and can add meaning. There are two types of suffixes:

  • Derivational suffixes

    This type of suffix creates a new word with a different meaning. As its names implies, the derivational suffix makes a new word that is “derived” from the base word or root. For example, the addition of ship to friend, creates a new word, friendship.

  • Inflectional suffixes

    This type of suffix indicates the grammatical form of a word. For example, adding an “s” to the end of a noun indicates more than one. Adding an “ed” to the end of a verb, indicates past tense. Many nouns and verbs can be altered using a suffix and many adjective can be changed to adverbs by adding the suffix, ly.

Most Common Suffixes

The following 20 suffixes are commonly used; representing approximately 93%.

Rank Suffix Meaning Examples
1 s, es plural boys & boxes
2 ed past-tense verb loved & liked
3 ing present participle verb running & jumping
4 ly resembling; similar to quietly & loudly
5 er, or person connected with farmer & professor
6 ion, tion,
ation & ition
act or process direction & narration
7 ible, able capable of,
worthy of being
likeable & comfortable
8 al, ial having characteristics of denial & spinal
9 y characteristics by funny & silly
10 ness state or quality of: condition happiness, & goodness
11 ity, ty state of activity & honesty
12 ment action or process enjoyment & experiment
13 ic having characteristics of poetic & historic
14 ous, eous
& ious
possessing the
qualities of
religious & virtuous
15 en made of wooden & enliven
16 er comparative; more better & smaller
17 ive, ative,
& itive
adjective form of a noun attentive & affirmative
18 ful full of joyful & cheerful
19 less without; not having hopeless & careless
20 est comparative; most smartest & biggest

Fry, E.B., Ph.D. & Kress, J.E., Ed.D. (2006). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 5th Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

A suffix is a letter or group of letters that come at the end of a word and have meaning. A derivational suffix is a type of suffix that creates a new word; the new word is derived from the base word, e.g., adding -er to the word teach creates a new word teacher. Meanings [...]