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Common Suffixes and their Meanings

Common Suffixes and their Meanings

Author: Sydney Bauer

Suffixes are attached to the end of words and have an important impact on a word's meaning. Some suffixes can change the grammatical function of vocabulary by transforming a noun into an adjective or forming verbs from nouns. With many examples of common suffixes and their meanings, you will see how suffixes can show grammatical tenses, plural nouns, and comparisons in comparative and superlative forms. Become an expert in recognizing word parts that can combine and pull apart to create new meaning.

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Common Suffixes and Their Meanings


A suffix is a meaningful unit of letters attached to the end of a word.

Suffixes have the power to change the meaning or even grammatical function of a word! Knowing the meaning behind suffixes can help you identify what part of speech the word is.


Some suffixes indicate verb tense. These are the most common and recognizable suffixes because everyone uses them all the time.

  • –s /–es = present tense suffixes: She does what she likes!
  • –ed = past tense suffix: I lived here! I needed to paint
  • –en = used with past participle and perfect tenses (appears with forms of the verbs “will” and “have”): I will have eaten by then. Where have those bats been?
  • –ing = progressive tense suffix (appears with forms of the verb “be”): I’m living here!

Suffixes can show plurals by adding –s or –ies to the end of a noun:

  • vine + -s = vines
  • family + -ies = families

Suffixes can be used to show comparisons (comparative and superlative forms):

  • Comparative Suffix: –er
    • Taller = tall (adjective) + –er 
  • Superlative Suffix: –est
    • Tallest = tall (adjective) + –est 


Suffixes can often change a word’s function from one part of speech to another, as well as indicate the part of speech.

–sion /–tion

  • forms nouns
    • Take the verbs Act, Complete, Persuade, and Invade.
    • To create the noun form, or make these words function as nouns in a sentence, we only need to add the –sion/ -tion suffixes to the end of the words: acTION, compleTION, persuaSION, invaSION.


  • forms verbs
    • Meaning A: “the making of” or “the process of making into”
      • Notify: the process of making notification
    • Meaning B: “expressing a sense of cause”
      • Horrify: to cause horror
    • Meaning C: making a state or condition defined by an adjective
      • Amplify: in this case, our adjective is “ample” and we add –ify to create our verb Amplify

–ive /–ative /–itive

  • forms adjectives from nouns
    • Meaning A: having the characteristics or nature of the noun this suffix is attached
      • Corrosive = Corrosion (noun) + –ive (having the nature of) = having the nature of corrosion/the process of corroding
    • Meaning B: tending to …
      • Talkative = Talk (noun) + –ative (tending to) = tends to talk often


  • Forms verbs from adjectives and nouns
    • Meaning: to create, increase, or develop
      • Widen = Wide (adjective) + –en (increase) = increase wideness
      • Heighten = Height (noun) + –en (increase) = increase height


As I said earlier, suffixes can help you understand what a word means and what part of speech it is functioning as. The following is a list of common suffixes, their meanings, and examples. When the multiple meanings of a suffix need specific clarification, an example word directly follows each of the multiple meanings (instead of appearing at the end). 

–able /–ible: can be done, capable of: comfortable, livable, noticeable

–age: action (leverage); result of action (wreckage); a number of (baggage, percentage); cost of use (postage) a place (village)

–er /–ier: designating persons from the occupation usually by the object involved (plumber), group (New Yorker), or characteristic (runner)

–ology: the study of..: Psychology (the study of the psyche), Theology (the study of the nature of God [theos])

–less: without: Heartless, Homeless, Hatless,

–oid: resembling (asteroid) or characterized by (paranoid)

–ose /–ous /–ious /–eous: full of, tending to have: verbose (full of words, more than needed); boisterous (full of noise, cheer); obnoxious (full of unpleasantness); curvaceous (tending to have curves or to be full of curves); Nervous System (full of nerves, tending to have nerves)

–ic /–tic: having the characteristics of: terrific, fantastic, sulfuric, economic

–ness: the state or condition of: happiness, kindness, freshness

Often combined with –ly ending adverbs: friendly + ness = friendliness; lovely + ness = lovliness

–ism: action, result of an action, movement, state or condition: Fascism, Racism, Naturalism, Modernism, Rheumatism, Nepotism, Favoritism

–ist: a person who practices or is concerned with something: activist, optometrist, ventriloquist

–ize: to render, to make, to convert into...: tenderize, symbolize, prioritize, fantasize

–ian: of or relating to...: Presbyterian, Unitarian, American, Canadian,

–ician: expresses occupation or specific skill set in...: technician, electrician, politician, musician


Common Suffixes and Their Meanings